It’s Nice to Have Friends in High Places

As you surely know, Congress is in the process of considering something it calls “tax reform” that will mostly result in making things a little harder on working and middle-class people so things will be a little easier for high-income folks. The Curmudgeon guesses this is some people’s idea of “tax reform.”

But he’ll leave the merits of the current congressional effort for another time, assuming he can find the will – or the stomach – to do so.

Instead, today he’d like to touch just briefly on one aspect of what passes for tax reform when you’re a Republican in the U.S. Congress.

Republicans don’t like non-profit organizations, most likely because they have no respect for anyone who’s not trying to get rich, so they’re doing everything they can to stick it to them. One of those things is to take away their ability to sell tax-free bonds to do things like build hospitals, university classroom buildings, county nursing homes, and other liberal things like that. Another thing Congress is trying to do is make it much harder, and in many instances impossible, for local governments to use those same tax-free bonds to help companies come to their towns or expand their presence and other liberal things like that.

Here’s where the friends in high places comes in.

Joe Barton is a member of the House, a Republican representing a district in Texas. Barton used to be a pretty powerful guy as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and while he’s no longer chairman, he still knows how to throw around his weight and get things done in Washington.

Always thinking about the real needs of his constituents

The latest: in exchange for his vote on the latest tax “reform” bill Barton demanded that the provision that limits private sector access to tax-free financing through the sale of bonds include an exception.

What exception?

So glad you asked.

The city of Arlington, Texas is planning to finance as much as $500 million of the $1 billion cost of a major project in that city.

What project?

So glad you asked.

A project to build a new facility for the Texas Rangers.

No, not for him.

No, not the law enforcement agency.

The baseball team. The $500 million in financing would be to build a new, $1 billion stadium for the Texas Rangers baseball team.

Barton is a sly devil, though: he masked his true intentions by proposing legislative language to get the deed done.

That language, as reported by the online publication Roll Call.

… his amendment provides for an exemption for any professional stadium bond “approved by voter referendum of the applicable governmental unit, and the construction of the facility with respect to which began, before November 2, 2017.”

Which is as clear as mud to any ordinary people.

The proposed exemption wouldn’t help a hospital trying to build or expand.

It wouldn’t help a college or university seeking to build new laboratories.

And it wouldn’t help a town seeking to tear down an abandoned building and prepare the site for the expansion of an existing company or the arrival of a new one or to build a shelter for homeless people or a new headquarters for the Cub Scouts or…well, you get the idea.

No, it would only be good to help the Texas Rangers baseball team.

“Brother can you spare a dime?”

A team, by the way, owned by a fellow named Ray Davis who’s worth $2.5 billion.

Isn’t it nice when government can offer handouts to billionaires?

All of which proves two things.

First, that members of Congress know no shame when it comes to distorting the law for their own benefit.

And second, that it’s nice to have friends in high places.

 

 

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