Congress has found a fine time to legislate morality. And a fine place: New Orleans, still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Katrina and getting far too little help.
Now, here’s a kind of government assistance everyone should be able to get behind: tax breaks for businesses rebuilding in flood-devastated areas. Not handouts, but letting people keep more of their money so they can do more for themselves.
And what has Congress done?
The House approved a multibillion-dollar package of tax breaks on Wednesday that are intended to revive Gulf Coast businesses destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
So far, so good.
But the tax relief excludes the casinos and country clubs that underpin the area’s leisure economy.
The incentives for Gulf Coast commerce include tax credits for low-income housing and rehabilitating commercial structures and historic buildings. Businesses could claim an additional 50 percent depreciation deduction for software, equipment and other expenses, and small businesses could write off more of their new investments.
Other tax breaks would help businesses recoup cleanup and demolition costs and aid small timber operations with reforestation.
The tax breaks would not extend to leisure industries, including country clubs, casinos, hot tub facilities, liquor stores, massage parlors, golf courses, racetracks and tanning parlors.
Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., led the effort to carve those businesses out of the bill. He said Congress should not allow “our constituents’ hard-earned tax dollars, in these kinds of record deficits, to subsidize the rebuilding of a massage parlor, a liquor store or a casino.”
Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., said she was “astounded” and “angry” that Wolf won on gambling establishments, an industry “that employs thousands of people in the region and generates millions of dollars in tax revenue.”
Well, what’s a few thousand jobs when we’ve got morality to enforce.
Note that while this moralism on the backs of hurricane survivors is driven by the GOP, its targets include not only “sin” as traditionally defined by cultural conservatives (massage parlors, liquor stores, casinos) but also the luxuries that commonly draw the moralistic ire of egalitarian liberals (country clubs and golf courses).
Conservatives and liberals, united against the selfish pleasures of humankind, and bravely prepared to screw over thousands of jobless, homeless people in the process. All’s right with the world.