Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Opinion

Racing away with the cash

This was a thing of fife and drum beauty: Republicans and Democrats putting aside their petty, partisan disharmony to come together as comrades-in-chicanery for the good of their pals.

Cue the amber waves of greed.

It was probably a tip-off that the bipartisan vote in Washington last week to avoid tumbling off the fiscal cliff included some smoke-filled-room mischief when one of the yes votes came from Sarasota Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan.

After all, Buchanan is so scruples-challenged he practically made the capital's list of the most compromised members of Congress before he was even sworn into office. You can't deny he is a man of ambition.

Tucked into the fiscal cliff vote were an estimated $46 billion in big, fat, juicy pork projects for special interests. But it's still early yet. There's a lot more counting still to be done. Altogether now: "Woo pig sooie!"

Among the vital national concerns to benefit were employers in American Samoa who received $62 million in tax credits to help StarKist Tuna; rum-makers who received $222 million in tax rebates; filmmakers who got $248 million in tax credits; and algae growers who produce biofuels who got $59 million in tax credits. Really now, everyone knows the bedroom of the average 14-year-old boy would produce enough algae to power up Amtrak.

And then there was the $78 million in tax subsidies that went to those poor, struggling, impoverished, destitute folks who own NASCAR racetracks, which as we all know is one of the most economically depressed businesses in America.

Indeed, the single biggest beneficiary of the $78 million hand-out is the barely-making-ends-meet France family, which owns Daytona International Speedway and a majority of NASCAR racetracks around the country. If anybody needs a spare can of that taxpayer-underwritten StarKist Tuna, it's the Joad Family of Left Turns.

Buchanan voted to pour the $46 billion into the pockets of tuna corporations, movie moguls and those street urchins at NASCAR. So, too, did Florida's senior Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Daddy Warbucks.

Both men insisted they were only trying to help the average Joe. And they certainly did, if you define the average Joe as the France family, with a net worth of $3 billion overseeing the No. 1 spectator sport in the country, which pulls in $3 billion in sponsorship money along with a $560 million-a-year television deal.

If you're looking for someone to blame for the $46 billion in gifts, take your pick. Both parties participated in the giveaway and have benefitted from the generosity of special interests. Both Nelson and Buchanan have received thousands of dollars in contributions from NASCAR.

And while the fiscal cliff vote was supposed to protect Bush era tax cuts for the middle class, is anyone shocked to learn $46 billion was earmarked to lather up special interest projects?

The late columnist Mike Royko once mused that Chicago's official motto should have been changed to "Ubi Est Mea" or "Where's Mine?" It would just as well be the perfect substitute to "E Pluribus Unum."

Where's yours, you might well be asking yourself. You're so cute.

Your slice of the Potomac windfall wound up in American Samoa, Beverly Hills, Daytona Beach and an algae bloom to be named later.

While the moguls got their Potomac swag, Congress expects you to be thrilled to death you're not playing more in taxes and shut up.

Apparently few elected officials paused to think about how loopy it appears to be blabbing away about perhaps slashing programs like Social Security or Medicare while voting to beef up that critical rum cartel with $222 million in tax rebates. Cheers.

New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie said it best when he observed it's this sort of legislative largess that causes so many people to have such a low opinion of Congress — except, of course, for all those beleaguered average Joes.

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