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Congress is a frat party with pricy booze


A decade or so ago I was asked by a representative of the U.S. State Department to meet with a Turkish legislator and explain our system of government to the visitor to the city where I then worked. The man’s English was excellent, so there were few communication problems.

Newspaper editors are often asked by the State Department to meet with visiting dignitaries, so the request was normal. I remember telling the visitor that we were fortunate to have some good men and women representing us in Little Rock and Washington.

I wish I could take some of the comments back, being unable to remember when I was so disappointed with our Congress.

I was embarrassed when announcement was made that an agreement — sort of — had been reached to prevent the nation from plunging over the fiscal cliff. Of course, they managed to mess things up so we are confronted with another fiscal cliff in a few months.

The Senate approved an agreement to raise taxes on people who make a lot of money. If you have to ask how much, it won’t impact you.

I’m not an expert on the fiscal cliff, but I do specialize in putting things off until the last minute and not getting everything done that I was supposed to get done. That may sound like our elected officials in Washington.

I went to college with some individuals who would skip class for a semester, then cram the night before a final test just to pass a class in which they would have gotten an “A” if they had just showed up in the first place.

Washington, D.C., isn’t like college, you say? Perhaps you are right. In Washington the “students” get paid when they skip class.

But it sure sounds like college: You can sleep late, stay out late drinking and hanging out with friends, and have little, if any, real responsibility. And, in Congress you drink expensive liquor — with a lobbyist picking up the tab — instead of beer.

What could go possibly wrong?

Those proposed spending cuts will be delayed two months, just to name one. Congress also included corporate tax breaks and other arcane provisions into the final bill after all that talk about cutting expenses.

Those tax breaks will cost approximately $77 billion:

— Section 322 of the bill allows banks and manufacturers to defer taxes when they engage in a special type of financial transactions known as “active financing.” That break now costs $9 billion annually, for companies to create jobs overseas.

— The NASCAR loophole, er, tax break allows anyone who builds a racetrack to receive a tax benefit through accelerated depreciation. It cost roughly $43 million the past two years and will be extended a third year.

— Section 209 of the fiscal cliff bill authorizes the Internal Revenue Service to share its files with private companies that operate for-profit prisons in an effort to reduce fraud among prisoners who file tax returns. That makes sense.

— Section 406 continues the $2 a ton subsidy for coal produced on Indian reservations. It must be “clean coal” since it is in the clean-energy provisions in the bill.

I’ll put off sending a retraction letter to the Turkish legislator since the Arkansas General Assembly goes into session this month.

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Larry Fugate is a veteran journalist and former editor of The Pine Bluff Commercial. He can be reached by e-mail at fugatel@sbcglobal.net or at (870) 329-7010.