Friday, April 20, 2018
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.

Comments
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has wasted months as a politically motivated scam masquerading as a high-minded effort to ask voters to improve the state’s fundamental document. The commission on Monday added amendments to the Nove...
Published: 04/16/18
Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Florida regulators have done far too little to make voter-approved medical marijuana widely available for patients suffering from chronic illnesses. A circuit court judge in Tallahassee ruled last week there is a price for that obstruction, finding t...
Published: 04/15/18
Updated: 04/16/18
Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Any movement on modernizing local transportation is welcome, even small steps like the million dollars the state recently approved to design a Tampa Bay regional transit plan.But the region won’t make any progress on transportation, its single most p...
Published: 04/13/18
Updated: 04/18/18

Editorial: Fight harder on citrus greening

A new report by scientists advising the federal government finds no breakthrough discovery for managing citrus greening, a chronic disease killing Florida’s citrus industry. This should be a wake-up call to bring greater resources to the fight.The re...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18

Editorial: Floridians should focus more on health

A new snapshot of the nation’s health shows a mixed picture for Florida and the challenges that residents and the health care community face in improving the quality of life.Americans are living longer, exercising more and doing better at managing th...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18