President Obama’s call during a press conference yesterday to end a tax breaks for private jet owners has been met with derision and confusion by many the right, with most Republicans lawmakers dismissing it out of hand as just another tax hike. “Republicans weren’t having it,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
On MSNBC this afternoon, Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) dismissed ending the tax break as just “code for much broader, large tax increases,” saying that the jet tax break is “not the issue we’re debating here.” Watch it:
Sen. Marco Rubo (R-FL) meanwhile, told the National Review that Obama was suggesting corporate jet owners earn too much money. “[D]on’t go around telling people that the reason you are not doing well is because some rich guy is in a corporate jet or some oil company is making too much money,” he said. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) spokesperson defended the tax break without really addressing the issue on its merits, quipping to reporters, “Interesting that he keeps pointing to corporate planes and oil/gas.”
Conservative media outlets took up the same line, dismissing Obama’s call as an empty “metaphor” and the “latest class warfare catchphrase.” The Wall Street Journal wrote a gleefully condescending blog post yesterday called, “Note To Obama: $250,000-a-Year Earners Can’t Afford Jets,” in which it sought to educate Obama about taxes. The only problem? The author assumed Obama was referring to the Bush cuts — he was not and the esteemed paper was forced to run a correction at the bottom of the story
But not only are Rubio, Crapo and the rest defending a tax loophole for the most fortunate Americans, they’re completely misunderstanding it. As hard as it to believe, the private jet tax break is no “metaphor” or “code” for people making too much money — it is an actual loophole in the tax code that applies to private jets and not commercial ones. The provision, created in 1987, allows corporate jets to be depreciated over a five-year period rather than the seven-year period required for commercial ones. It has been defended and supported by Republicans since.
The more sophisticated conservative defense of special tax breaks private corporate jets, advanced by the Hertiage Foundation, among others, is that it was created by the stimulus package. As ThinkProgress’ Matt Yglesias explained, this myth too is bunk.
While closing the loophole wouldn’t raise enough money to solve the deficit problem by any means, it points to the absurdity of much of the spending in the tax code and would surely be a step in the right direction. The conservative response to ending it, meanwhile, speaks to the priorities of their tax cut “theology” — fewer taxes for the wealthy above all else.