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After President Barack Obama’s veto threat last week ended discussion of a $450 billion package of tax breaks mostly benefiting businesses, the House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a smaller bill, H.R. 5771, that would extend most of the tax cuts for one year at a cost of $42 billion.
A new report from Citizens for Tax Justice explains that while the President deserves credit for stopping a much bigger corporate giveaway, even the $42 billion bill is an absurd waste of money from a Congress that has been unable to find a way to fund basic public investments like highways and bridges.
Here are just a few of the problems with H.R. 5771:
■ Most of the tax breaks fail to achieve any desirable policy goals. For example, they include bonus depreciation breaks for investments in equipment that the Congressional Research Service have found to be a “relatively ineffective tool for stimulating the economy, a tax credit for research defined so loosely that it includes the work soft drink companies put into developing new flavors, and a tax break that allows General Electric to do financial business offshore without paying U.S. taxes on the profits.
■ The tax breaks cannot possibly be effective in encouraging businesses to do anything because they are almost entirely retroactive. The tax breaks actually expired at the end of 2013 and this bill will extend them (almost entirely retroactively) through 2014. These tax provisions are supposedly justified as incentives for companies to do things Congress thinks are desirable, like investing in equipment or research, but that justification makes no sense when tax breaks are provided to businesses for things they have done in the past.
■ The bill increases the deficit by $42 billion to provide tax breaks that mostly benefit businesses, even after members of Congress have refused to enact any measure that helps working people unless the costs are offset. The measures that Congress refused to enact without offsets include everything from creating jobs by funding highway projects to extending emergency unemployment benefits.