TaxVox's First Annual Lump of Coal Awards
Congress and the President have finally left town. But they left quite a legacy. Here are our nominees for the five biggest fiscal losers of 2007.
The AMT Patch: Sure, Congress finally agreed to keep 20 million middle-class families off the AMT for one more year. But it never paid for the $50 billion temporary fix and ignored proposals to permanently resolve the mess. Just wait until next year, when they do it all again.
The Energy Bill: An ugly amalgam of subsidies for just about anyone who could afford a lobbyist. Some of the most egregious tax incentives were dropped at the last minute, but Big Oil rescued a $1 billion give-away that should have been repealed, and Big Corn got yet more dough for ethanol.
The Omnibus Spending Bill: $555 billion. More than 3,000 pages. Read by nobody in its entirety. Tax Vox awaits the unpleasant surprises and unanticipated consequences to come. For now, though, our favorite provision may be $38.5 billion in loan guaranties for nuclear power plants, clean coal, and other favored technologies. Anybody else remember the Synfuels Corporation?
Iraq War funding: It is not about whether you support the war or not. It is about whether we, or our grandchildren, should pay for it. Amid its partisan rancor, Washington couldn't resolve that question so it did what it almost always does: It left the tab—$600 billion and counting—to the grandkids.
Paygo: Democrats may have meant it when they reinstated budget rules that would have required Congress to pay for new tax cuts and entitlement spending. Or it may just have been cynical gamesmanship. Senate Republicans, once a bulwark against fiscal irresponsibility, have now embraced big deficits and political gridlock as their ticket back to power. How has it happened that Democrat Charlie Rangel is now among the Capital's leading voices for fiscal sanity?
Never fear. They'll all be back soon.