The Right Opinion

Corporate Jets and Tax Breaks

By Jonah Goldberg · Jul. 1, 2011

President Obama’s core message in his Wednesday press conference, his first since March, could be found in his advice to Republicans. “You go talk to your constituents and ask them, ‘Are you willing to compromise your kids’ safety so some corporate-jet owner can get a tax break?‘”

This was just one of six shots the president took at corporate-jet owners. A novice might be forgiven for thinking that the president really doesn’t like corporate jets or that the Republicans cared so much about the darn things that they had proposed crossing out “arms” in the Second Amendment and replacing it with “corporate jets.” Where’s Charlton Heston to proclaim, “From my cold dead hands you can have my Learjet 85…”?

A novice might also think that tax status of corporate jets is of disproportionate significance in how to move this country toward a balanced budget.

But the novice would be wrong. For starters, Obama’s most recent budget calls for adding $9.5 trillion in new debt over the next decade. If you got rid of the “accelerated depreciation” of corporate jets, Reuters economics columnist James Pethokoukis calculates, it would save a whopping .03 percent of that total.

Sadly, the room was full of journalists who do not consider themselves novices but who nonetheless let Obama get away with this demagogic dishonesty. No one asked the president why he suddenly cares so much about getting rid of a tax break he himself was for before he was against it. Indeed, no one asked why, if it is such an affront to the liberal conscience, it was part of Obama’s stimulus bill, which was passed without any Republican votes in the House and only three in the Senate (which means Nancy Pelosi voted for special tax breaks for corporate jets and the GOP didn’t).

More broadly, no one threw a flag on his claim that “every single observer who’s not an elected official, who’s not a politician,” agrees with him on the burning need to raise taxes as part of any budget deal. This is a good example of Obama’s most grating tic, his need to claim that all reasonable and serious people agree with him and anyone who disagrees must be doing so for base or ideological motives.

No one queried why he talks about the need to raise taxes on “millionaires and billionaires” but the fine print of his proposals defines millionaires and billionaires as people who make $200,000 a year as individuals or $250,000 as joint-filing couples. Jay Duckson at Central Business Jets tells the Wall Street Journal that the starting price for a private jet is $10 million dollars. Annual upkeep and fuel is about $500,000. You do the math.

This points to what is most offensive about Obama’s focus-grouped class warfare rhetoric: the total incoherence of the underlying policies.

The day before his press conference, Obama was in Bettendorf, Iowa at the Alcoa Davenport Works plant to highlight his economic vision for manufacturing. “Alcoa is showing us the future we can build here in eastern Iowa and across the country,” he proclaimed.

“The idea is to create jobs now, and to make sure America stays on the cutting edge of manufacturing for years to come,” Obama declared.

The factory Obama visited, however, isn’t a generic aluminum plant. It is, according to Alcoa, the “premier aerospace supply plant and is today the hub of Alcoa’s $3 billion aerospace business.”

That includes the general aviation industry, which is centered in Wichita, Kan., where they make private jets “right here in America” as Obama likes to say. The upshot: Obama says that Alcoa must lose business among American customers to repeal a tax break Obama and the Democrats supported because Republicans want to balance the budget.

To be fair, Alcoa’s biggest customers aren’t manufacturers of private jets but the big manufacturers of commercial jets – you know, like Boeing. Well, that company is being told by Obama’s union-hack-packed National Labor Relations Board that it cannot open a new manufacturing plant in South Carolina, because to do so would offend Obama’s beloved unions in Washington State.

The point isn’t that there’s no merit to any of Obama’s positions (personally, I’m all for clearing the junk out of the tax code). The point is that at this point merit simply has nothing to do with the positions Obama takes.

© 2011 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

9 Comments

Charles D. Carter, RA said:

Because of the current state of the economy, both parties, Republican and Democrat, are looking for a scapegoat to blame for the economic stae we are in instead of facing reality and attacking the real problems facing all Americans. We are told Social Security is in trouble while we give millions of dollars to Pakistan, a country that knowingly hid Bin Laden and has to be bribed to be friendly. We are told Medicare is a problem and we pay 75% of NATO's defense budget because our allies cannot be bothered to pay money for their own defense. We are told that we need to give big oil tax incentives while they record record profits and gasoline hovers around 4 dollars a gallon. We have difficulty helping rebuild after storms like Katrina leaving our own infrastructure ripe for yet another catastrophe while we rebuild Iraq. We are still fighting 2 wars in Pakistan and Afghanistan to the tune of millions of dollars a day with no exit strategy in sight - why? We pay unwed mothers to have out of wedlock children without any limitation to number of offspring allowed, thereby setting up a new cottage industry wherein, a woman with 6 kids can earn a six figuire income for doing nothing other than reproduce. We have removed the helping hand welfare was intended to be and created a legacy for these women and their children they have no incentive to become independent. President Obama lambastes corporate jet owners while the First Lady takes her ontourage of nearly 100 people on every presidental junket costing the taxpayers millions every time they fly. We dole out unsecured stimulus money to companies supposedly too big to fail and homes are being foreclosed on at record levels. Overall, the stimulus money idea is a failure and has not created the jobs promised by recipiants of the money. Government grants have provided funding for items too bizzare and too numerous to describe here, whose results are nebulous, and whose return on investment for the common good are minimal. Government waste is thought to be cured with cutbacks in staff but when you continue to do the same thing over and over expecting different results, then the definition of insanity fits the way they do business. And so, if corporate jets are a problem, then we really are in trouble thinking that going after their owners will solve all our ills.

Friday, July 1, 2011 at 10:01 AM

MNIce in Minnesota said:

So typical of the Democrats - pan other people for what they themselves do. Did anybody notice that Mr. Obama is CEO of the world's largest "business", the United States Federal government, and he is a frequent flier in the world's largest corporate jet - Air Force One is an executive model Boeing 747?Maybe it's time for him to leave his corporate jet in the hanger, stay at home and read a few basic textbooks on economics and "Constitutional Law for Dummies". I know, I know - he supposedly taught Constitutional Law at an Ivy League university. But as Ronald Reagan pointed out, "The trouble with liberals isn't what they don't know, it's what they know that ain't so."

Friday, July 1, 2011 at 10:47 AM

J Henry Jr said:

Obummer is nothing more than a leftist hack who knows he can get away with saying anything he wants because the MSM is a criminal organization that should be prosecuted under the RICO statutes, but won't be because most republicans are still afraid of them.If republicans would just get it through their thick skulls that the MSM can't do any more damage to them than what they already do, we could start knocking them down.

Friday, July 1, 2011 at 11:14 AM

Mike McGinn in People's Republic of Maryland said:

And who rides around in the most expensive "corporate jet" in the world? Yes, our beloved president on Air Force One. Just cancelling a couple of trips in that thing would probably save as much as Obama thinks he'll reap from sticking it to those greedy corporate executives.

Friday, July 1, 2011 at 1:29 PM

Richard Ryan said:

J Henry Jr; you`ve gone and stole my thunder again!No one could say it better than you have.Obama is the lying-est b#$%@*d that has ever been a resident of the White House, or any other house for that matter.Every time he gets on TV it makes my stomach churn.He is nothing less than a Chavez type dictator.It`s time for a revolution!Richard RyanLamar,Missouri - Birthplace of Harry S Truman

Friday, July 1, 2011 at 2:07 PM

Ct-Tom in NC said:

Thanks, folks. I was beginning to think that I was the only person who found it galling that our President feels the need to make "policy" speeches several times a week from far-flung locations only accessed by firing up AF-1 and the other large aircraft and fighters that must fly with it.Does anyone audit this stuff? I am wondering what all of his thinly-veiled politicking has cost us.

Sunday, July 3, 2011 at 10:03 AM

enemaofthestatistquo said:

I know it is a small thing, but I wonder how much of a tax break would be realized if our President & our Governors were to forgo the practice of signing new Laws a scratch at a time, with a mountain of fountain pens on the desk, then to be awarded to each and every living legislator, as though signing another Law to burden our lives is a commemorative historical moment. Both parties do it, I've seen videos of all the POTUS since TV, & recently, Gov. Cuomo D-NY & Gov. Walker R-WI. And while I'm on the subject of Budgetary restraint, can we dispense with rersignation/retirement ceremonies for Cabinet Secretaries, where trapped government clerks, & party hacks listen to bad speeches and then the employees go back to work, while the Secretary & the Hacks have an obscenely priced catered luncheon.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011 at 8:52 PM

G Dub45 in Lee's Summit, MO said:

. . . I've got an idea: How about if the next time O'Butthead decides to give a Press Conference - nobody comes ?The J@c#@$$ does nothing but lie. By having empty seats before him it will offer him more room for mirrors. By having no one ask him penetrating questions ( now when was the last time THAT happened ? ), he will better hear the echo of his own voice.Sounds like a Win-Win situation to me.G Dub of Lee's Summit, MO - - - just down the road from R Ryan of Lamar, MO

Wednesday, July 6, 2011 at 9:50 AM

Dan said:

People, get a clue. The tax break at issue in the negotiations is a 1987 provision of the tax code that allows corporate jets to be depreciated over a five-year period rather than the seven-year period required for commercial aviation. This is not something Barack Obama created, not something Barack Obama has ever supported, and not anything that has anything to do with the stimulus bill. It is, instead, a small but real subsidy that distorts the economy at the margin by encouraging large firms to invest in corporate jets rather than paying for commercial airfare.Sorry to disappoint so many of you but it helps if you know what you are talking about.

Saturday, July 23, 2011 at 9:29 AM