Pork is being served in Washington again. Big juicy slices to the lobbyists with the deepest wallets and the campaign contributors who write the biggest reelection-campaign checks. It is the way of the swamp. It is the currency of the Washington Beltway. It explains how people get so rich in politics.
The two massive spending bills now circulating through Congress with a combined price tag north of $5 trillion are filled with earmarks and thank-you gifts to big donors and the Gucci Gulch lobbyists. That’s why the bills have thousands of pages — to bring home the bacon.
We still don’t know even half of what is in this bill because, as Rep. Richard Neal, the head of the House Ways and Means Committee, admits, he wants to “hold off on the (details of the bill) until we are at the altar.”
By this, he means pretty much what then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said before the vote on the Affordable Care Act some 10 years ago: We will read the bill after we pass it.
But here’s what we do know so far about some of the gems inserted into the bill.
A tax break for musicians will allow them to deduct “the cost of qualified sound recording productions” by up to $150,000 each taxable year. Bruce Springsteen and Barbra Streisand, take note.
Want an electric bike? Congress will give you a 15% refundable tax credit if you purchase one.
Union members will be able to deduct their union dues from their income.
The Davis-Bacon Act, which forces federal contractors to pay higher union wages on their projects, will be extended to bonds used to pay for water, sewage and highway projects.
There is a raft of provisions subsidizing electric vehicles. They include a $7,500 credit for buying electric cars, though the break would be even larger if the final assembly of those cars is done at domestic factories where workers are unionized. A new, separate break for buying used electric vehicles is also proposed at $2,500. So you get a tax break when you buy a Tesla and then when you sell it!
The wind and solar industries will get billions more in handouts from taxpayers. We are told how efficient renewable energy is, yet we have to give them higher and higher subsidies each year.
And how about this one to help the Democratic congressional critters trying to pass this bill: exempting “local news journalists” from the employer side of the payroll tax. That’s really Democrats delivering for their political base! So every other worker has to pay the payroll tax except the media?
Over the past couple of decades, taxpayer groups and heroic senators such as Jim DeMint of South Carolina and the late Tom Coburn of Oklahoma worked to end these pork-barrel items in spending bills. There was a prohibition against “earmarks,” but Democrats have ended that so they can reinstate “pay-to-play” politics.
By injecting all these slabs of pork into the tax code, we will have reversed all the gains from bipartisan tax reform under President Ronald Reagan. Back then, the goal was to lower tax rates and get rid of all the tax breaks so that the tax system was pro-growth and simple but made everyone pay their fair share. President Joe Biden keeps saying this bill will make the rich pay their fair share — unless the rich people are contributors to the politicians. Then they get tax goody bags from Congress.
Coburn used to say that pork spending was the “gateway drug” to multibillion-dollar spending bills. He was spot on, but now the addiction is so advanced that we are talking about trillion-dollar, not billion-dollar, atrocities.
Stephen Moore is a senior fellow at FreedomWorks. He is also a co-founder of the Committee to Unleash Prosperity and a Washington Examiner columnist.