Hollywood Gets the Reel Deal in Cliff Bill
January 02, 2013 - Wednesday
Some folks have a tradition of eating pork on New Year's Day--but in Congress, they prefer passing pork. As part of the sweeping, 150-page tax deal reached yesterday, members proved they were just as intent on avoiding financial responsibility as they were the fiscal cliff. It seems the bill that was supposed to extend our tax rates also extended billions of dollars to the Democrats' closest pals. Today, while 77.1% of households watch their taxes skyrocket, the President's friends are toasting the goodies tucked away in the bill's fine print. The Democrats' belated Christmas presents included $430 million in tax perks for Hollywood, $331 million for railroad operators, $222 million for Puerto Rico and Virgin Island rum producers, $70 million for NASCAR, $59 million for algae growers, $4 million for electric motorcycle makers, and even $15 million for asparagus growers. If this is what President Obama calls a "step in the broader effort to strengthen our economy," Americans had better buckle up.
Unfortunately, the billions in liberal back-scratching are probably the least of voters' concerns in Congress's new compromise. Without any real spending cuts or entitlement reform, this deal doesn't begin to address the country's fiscal problems--and, in many cases, may actually exacerbate them.
For starters, the legislation takes direct aim at married couples, saddling many of these homes with hundreds of dollars of new penalties. Though details are not clear yet, in effect, the deal leaves joint tax filers with less than twice the standard deduction for individuals. It's a ridiculous proposition, especially since the family the greatest generator of human capital--and thus, one of the biggest engines of economic growth. Discouraging marriage only creates more government dependence (something FRC's Ken Blackwell and Henry Potrykus explain at length in their new op-ed).
On top of the tax hikes for individuals and couples making more than $400,000 and $450,000, the middle class (which the President promised to spare) will see a chunk of their paychecks disappear. The Social Security tax jumped by 2%, and that means Americans can expect to take home anywhere from $50 to $189 less each month. Add that to the wave of ObamaCare taxes starting in 2013, and suddenly, the legislation doesn't seem like such a good deal after all.
Of course, members like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) cheered the bargain as a "happy start to the New Year." Like some Republicans, she believes the bill's $25.1 billion in spending cuts is something to be proud of. And it would be--if Congress hadn't increased spending by $330 billion in the same bill.
Obviously, President Obama has no intention of addressing Washington's out-of-control spending. And by voting for this package, 346 members of the House and Senate are giving the green light to finance his liberal agenda and stick taxpayers and their children with the bill. That's a nice how-do-you-do for the next Congress, which is not only inheriting the debt crisis, but the messy negotiations over the military's budget. Under Tuesday's compromise, leaders tried to avoid another fight by kicking the sequestration can two months down the road, ensuring that the headaches of this deal linger long after the Congress that passed it.
Pizza Company Shows Domino's Effect of Mandate
The House and Senate weren't the only ones working long holiday hours--so were the courts. Of the more than 40 lawsuits against the President's contraception mandate, two plaintiffs made headlines over the Christmas break, including mega-retailer Hobby Lobby. Owned by the devoutly Christian Green family, Hobby Lobby has asked to be excused from the rule ordering employers to provide free abortion drugs to workers. After a loss in Oklahoma's federal court, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing the chain, asked Justice Sonia Sotomayor to "set aside" the mandate while the suit worked its way through the appeals process. (As FRC's Ken Klukowski explains, each of the 13 federal appeals courts is overseen by one of the nine Supreme Court justices. Sotomayor presides over the 10th Circuit Court, where the Hobby Lobby case now resides.) She refused, dealing a huge financial blow to the company, which could face crippling fines of more than a million dollars a day once the mandate kicks in.
But even the prospect of massive losses isn't deterring Hobby Lobby from its pro-life convictions. The Green family announced this week that they will not comply with the mandate--no matter what it costs them, and even if it means endangering their business's survival. If their case takes another ten months to decide, that could mean as much as a half-billion dollars in penalties. For Hobby Lobby--and potentially hundreds of thousands of other Christians whose religious freedom is at risk--civil disobedience is the only option.
Fortunately, Domino's Pizza won't have to resort to the same drastic measures--at least for now. On Sunday, a federal judge ruled in favor of Catholic owner Tom Monaghan, who argued that offering contraception to employees is a "gravely immoral" practice. In his decision, Judge Lawrence Zatkoff wrote that Monaghan "has shown that abiding by the mandate will substantially burden his exercise of religion." Zatkoff agreed to exempt the company from the mandate until the Domino's case is resolved. Both companies are putting their profits on the line to do what's right. And for that, they deserve our prayers, our respect--and our business.
** The holidays brought the usual flurries--not only of snow, but op-eds! FRC's finest were tapping out columns right through the New Year. To catch up, click through these: Ken Klukowski takes on one of the biggest liberal newspapers in his Breitbart piece, "New York Times: Throw Off Bondage of 'Evil Constitution'"; General Jerry Boykin takes the Hill to task for its hearings in his Washington Times column, "Congress Asking the Wrong Questions on Benghazi"; and Ken Blackwell teams up with Bob Morrison for a look at the significance of New Year's Day in "Emancipation: January 1, 1863."
*** To kick off the new year, I dropped by Fox's "Huckabee" to talk about what 2013 might hold. If you missed the interview, click the video below.