Jacob Sullum

The whole point of Obama's rants against corporate jets, of course, is to shame Republicans into going along with tax increases by portraying them as fat cats' lapdogs, salivating at the thought of balancing the budget on the backs of uneducated, untreated food-poisoning victims who don't even know whether the sun will come out tomorrow because the government can't afford to pay for meteorologists anymore. Still, he's right that there's no reason to assume corporate aircraft degrade faster than commercial aircraft. For that matter, why pretend that planes fall apart after seven years, when they actually last for decades?

Congress wrote those depreciation schedules into law in 1986, leaving it to the Treasury Department to adjust them as appropriate. Two years later, Congress revoked that authority, presumably due to some well-placed lobbying.

Yet on three separate occasions, Obama himself has championed even faster depreciation for business aircraft in the name of stimulating the economy. The most recent law, signed by Obama in December, allows businesses to write off the entire cost of planes purchased between Sept. 8, 2010, and Dec. 31, 2011, in the first year.

Aircraft manufacturers, whose special treatment accounts for something like 0.03 percent of all tax breaks, are understandably dismayed at their quick transformation from engines of job creation into accomplices of corporate villains. Ed Bolen, president of the National Business Aviation Association, complains that "the president has inexplicably chosen to vilify and mischaracterize business aviation -- an industry that is critical for citizens, companies and communities across the U.S., and one that can play a central role in the economic recovery he says he wants to promote."

Everyone who benefits from a tax break has a justification for his. But if Obama were serious about tax reform, he would not only reject such special pleading, he would renounce the use of the tax code for economic and social engineering, which creates the "egregious loopholes" that suddenly bother him.

 


Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
 
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Jacob Sullum's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.
 
©Creators Syndicate