Columns » Hightower

Fiscal cliff bill is full of ugly




Well, finally — in the 11th hour and 59th minute — Republicans and Democrats negotiated a fiscal reform package, which they touted as the "American Taxpayer Relief Act."

But if you had been allowed to peek behind the curtain during the deal-making, you would've noticed that the Dems and Repubs were not alone — and some taxpayers were getting extra-special relief.

Captain Morgan, Bacardi and other Caribbean rum peddlers, for example, were at the table, picking up a half-billion-dollar-a-year liquor subsidy; NASCAR wheeled in to win a multimillion-dollar loophole for building racetracks; railroad conglomerates hauled off a $165-million bundle for maintaining their own tracks; Disney and other fabulously wealthy Hollywood studios reeled in a $75 million subsidy for making movies; and Big Coal mined the negotiations for a federal giveaway to buy safety equipment and provide safety training for their workers.

But the big dogs in the room, as usual, were Wall Street hucksters. Tucked inside the "reform" bill is Sec. 322, opaquely titled "Extension of subpart F exception for active financing income." In plain English, that line of gobbledygook will move $9 billion this year from our public treasury into the already overflowing coffers of Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and other fiefdoms of high finance.

Worse than the giveaway, however, is the provision's purpose. As explained by the excellent watchdog group, Citizens for Tax Justice, Sec. 322 essentially underwrites the financing of corporate offshoring — a $9 billion subsidy for moving more U.S. jobs to foreign countries.

Italians have a useful phrase that applies here: Cui bono — Who benefits? Yes, this Republican-Democrat compromise has some good provisions, but deep inside, it's the same old corporate ugliness.

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow, on sale now from Wiley Publishing. For more information, visit

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