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Cowboy hat By Jim Hightower and Phillip Frazer - Thu., 2/1/07
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In December, in the frantic final hours of a do-nothing Congress, the majority finally rose up to do something.

Unfortunately, what it did was despicable. In the dark of that last night, the Republican leadership snuck through 529 special- interest “tariff suspensions” for assorted corporations. Everything from imported shoes to boiled oysters received tariff cuts or eliminations, meaning that you and I now have to make up the loss of this tariff income with our taxes. Of course, it also means that products made abroad get a tax-free advantage over products made here at home.

To add insult to injury, this giveaway occurred in a manner that would make cat burglars blush. First, the bill doesn’t name products getting the special treatment. Instead, the legislation identifies these products by numerical codes that are keyed to arcane tariff tables contained in volumes the size of phone books.

Second, the corporations that will pocket tens of millions of dollars in tax savings also go unnamed, as do the Congress critters who snuck the suspensions into law. Third, congressional guidelines say that no single tariff suspension should cost the public treasury more than $500,000 in revenue. But lawmakers and lobbyists (bless their larcenous hearts) simply inserted multiple suspensions aimed at a single corporation’s product, thus giving millions of dollars in breaks to that importer.

Wait, there’s more! When the full Congress finally got to vote on these tariff suspensions that had been larded into a massive bill, members had to vote on all of them as a block, without being able to pick and choose and without knowing specifically what they were voting to do.

The Congress that failed again and again to pass bills needed by the people went out of its way to help its special friends…and it did so in secret.

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