The Constitution gives Congress the power to levy taxes. But the greater power in government is the power to forgive taxes. That is where the real money is.
While Congress and President Obama placed the spotlight on raising taxes in the fiscal cliff, $40 billion in tax breaks for the well-connected were quietly slipped through.
On Aug. 2, long before the New Year's Eve showdown, the Senate Finance Committee voted 19-5 to grant or renew 75 tax breaks for groups ranging from rum distillers to filmmakers. Those breaks were then slipped into the fiscal cliff bill.
The 19 senators who voted for the fat cats included Sen. Jay Rockefeller. According to the Wall Street Journal, the list of goodies included:
* $78 million for an accelerated tax write-off for the owners of the Michigan International Speedway, home of a NASCAR race.
* $62 million for a tax credit for businesses in America Samoa, including a StarKist tuna cannery.
* $222 million for a rum tax rebate for distillers in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
* $222 million for accelerated tax breaks for businesses located on Indian reservations.
* $59 million for producers of algae-based fuel.
Producers of sludge, biodiesel and renewable diesel will receive $1 for every gallon of fuel they produce, at a cost of $2.2 billion.
"The U.S. is experiencing a natural gas and oil drilling boom, but Congress still thinks algae and wind will power the future," the Wall Street Journal said in an editorial.
The Washington Post reported that the fiscal cliff bill includes treating coal mined from Indian reservations as an "alternative energy source."
In opposing the bill, Reps. David McKinley and Shelley Moore Capito, both R-W.Va., voted against corporate welfare while Rep. Nick Joe Rahall, and Sens. Rockefeller and Joe Manchin, all D-W.Va., supported corporate welfare.
A memorable difference.