By Emily Miller
President Obama flies everywhere on a tricked-out, luxury Boeing 747, but he wants everyone else flying coach. A master of class warfare, Mr. Obama has fixated for years on the tax break for private planes as a convenient distraction from the real debt crisis facing the nation.
Mr. Obama didn’t get a big enough tax hike in his New Year’s deal with Congress, so he’s going to the wall to grab more revenue in negotiations over the sequestration and budget. The chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Dave Camp, opposes the White House plan.
“Washington has a spending problem, and Americans don’t want to pay more in taxes to feed more spending,” the Michigan Republican told The Washington Times. “They want tax reform that bails them out of the Obama economy. Comprehensive tax reform that closes loopholes and lowers rates can create the economic climate that spurs the job creation that American families need and want.”
The administration wants the public to think that Washington’s annual trillion-dollar fiscal imbalance is caused by corporate tax loopholes.
As White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday, “It’s not fair to say that oil and gas companies or corporate jet owners or others who enjoy benefits — hedge fund managers — through the loopholes in our tax code should be held harmless while we ask senior citizens to pay more.” He added that Mr. Obama “doesn’t believe that reflects the ‘balanced approach’ we need to take.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell ridiculed the notion that tiny tax breaks are the problem. “Even if the president got the additional tax increases he’s asked for, we still wouldn’t even come close to solving the problem,” said the Kentucky Republican. “We certainly won’t get there by wasting time on poll-tested P.R. gimmicks that will hardly bring in any revenue.”
According to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, the corporate jet tax expenditure is a loss of $3 billion over 10 years, and the oil companies’ exemption would be $25 billion. Giving the president these tax hikes would keep the federal government open for less than a full day.
When Mr. Obama flies, he uses two matching planes, each with 4,000 square feet of floor space on three levels. Of course, the president cannot fly commercial for safety and logistical reasons, but corporations have similar concerns. Shareholders don’t want their CEOs wasting hours waiting in lines if it can be avoided.
The president is counting on envy and the hope that the public will hate the rich and successful enough to favor imposing the private-jet tax so he can have a few more bucks to spread around on high-speed rail and windmills.
Congressional Republicans have tried unsuccessfully to get the White House to engage on a plan to simplify the tax code by removing enough of the preferences that the rates for everyone can be lowered. Mr. Obama doesn’t want that, he wants more money to come to Washington, and he wants to tinker with the tax code in a way that lets him decide who wins and who loses.
That’s not the sort of plan that’s going to allow our economy to take off again. Enough with the public relations gimmicks, the administration needs to get serious about addressing the debt crisis.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.