I have this romantic, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" hope for Congress.
In this dream I picture congressmen and women debating and voting based on what they perceive to be right. It's a dream where principles and philosophies guide them. But this isn't just a dream -- it's a pipe dream.
In reality, Congress is full of wheeling and dealing. I'll vote for that if you give me this. The fiscal cliff compromise bill is the latest example of this kind of politicking. The legislation was supposed to be about spending and taxes and in some ways it was. But the 150-page bill contains a slew of tax breaks and credits for various industries including Hollywood and NASCAR.
Here are a few examples:
• Movie producers can save up to $430 million if they film in the United States under a rule allowing them to expense $15 million in total costs for their project.
• A seven-year recovery period for certain motorsports racing track facilities has been extended so NASCAR can save $70 million there.
• Algae growers are going to receive a $59 million credit to produce cellulosic biofuel.
• Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands will see $222 million in excise taxes returned to them for rum produced there.
• Railroad operators could receive as much as $331 million in tax credits to help maintain tracks they own or lease.
None of these have anything to do with the congressionally created fiscal cliff. But it's all part of federal law showcasing the favor-for-favor type of politics that exists in America.
Another example is the Hurricane Sandy relief bill. On the surface it sounds noble. In reality, the bill is anything but. Much like the fiscal cliff law, it too is filled with special projects. Most of them have nothing to do with Hurricane Sandy relief, like:
• $8 million so the Department of Homeland Security and Justice Department can purchase new vehicles and equipment.
• $41 million earmarked in the bill to fix up military bases, including Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (Hurricane Sandy didn't strike Cuba).
• Perhaps the biggest doozy -- almost $11 billion for future transportation needs (not needs created by the storm).
Even relief bills that appeal to the emotions are riddled with unnecessary projects.
Of course, this is all going on while the nation really needs to start cutting spending. Instead of putting the needs of the nation first, politicians are funneling money into projects benefiting themselves and their districts.
They don't even make any attempts to hide it because it's no secret the American government spends more money than it receives in revenues.
Nor is it a secret that Americans want a larger, more expensive government than we are willing to pay for. We're asking for Saks Fifth Avenue government for Walmart prices.
The politicians are more than happy to oblige.