Not long ago, I wrote a post about Oklahoma GOP Senator Tom Coburn, right after he published an op-ed in the Times. I gave him props (I think!) for being a Republican who's willing to engage the revenue debate but I still disparaged his lack of specificity about which loopholes and tax expenditures he'd eliminate.
Well, boy, was I wrong. Mitt Romney may be terrified of getting specific. But not Coburn. I had been unaware, until his aides emailed me, that the senator had produced this rather voluminous 63-page study of tax giveaways that, he believes, might all be candidates for elimination. Whether you agree or don't, it's a fascinating document if, as you read through it, you imagine all those conversations (many in "quiet rooms," no doubt!) between lobbyists and lawmakers, all those checks written, all those scotch and sodas and steaks and mulligans and four-foot gimmees that must have gone into the making of this mess.
Some of them are plain silly. The fishing tackle boxes industry gets a break that manufacturers of other types of fishing equipment do not. I counted four different kinds of ethanol credits.
But others don't seem silly at all to me. They generate local economic activity. For example, under something called the New Markets Tax Credit, which is supposed to work to the benefit of low-income areas, the following projects were undertaken:
*$19.9 million for a multiplex movie cinema and retail development;
* $8 million for a hockey arena;
* $5 million for 3D digital products and software application sales;
* $1.1 million for a cable television station;
* $15.7 million for a performing arts venue and school;
* $2.2 million for the ―development of enhanced streetscapes;‖
* $4.9 million for an 86 Room Fairfield Inn & Suites;
* $3.75 million for the historic rehabilitation of a ―vacant hotel;‖
* $9.8 million for a movie studio and entertainment venue;
* $4.5 million for architecture studios;
* $10.7 million for a historic rehabilitation of the headquarters of a global entertainment and
convention venue management company; and
* $31 million for two ―historic theater rehabilitations.
Now, we'd have to know more about the details of each of these, of course, but none is inherently problematic and there's a good chance that most of them are very positive.
But anyway, Coburn has been on the case, and I am delighted to correct the record.
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