Jay Carney: Aviation Job Cuts Just 'Difficult Choices'
Feb 20, 2013
By Burgess Everett
White House press secretary Jay Carney didn’t ooze sympathy
Wednesday for the thousands of plane builders who could lose their jobs if the
Obama administration succeeds in its call to eliminate a tax break for
corporate and private jet owners.
“I would say that making choices about budgets and deficit
reduction always involves difficult choices,” Carney told a reporter who asked
what he would say to “tens of thousands” of middle-class aviation workers whose
jobs could be affected in states like Kansas, Washington and Oklahoma.
Carney then went back to the administration’s usual argument
on how to avert the looming sequester — that the debate is a choice between
“special” tax breaks versus national defense, Head Start for children and jobs
“When it’s a choice between laying teachers off or affecting
our national security or in the broader scheme, reforming our tax code in a way
that eliminates these special interest tax breaks or subsidies, that is a
better option,” Carney said. “The question here is: What choices do we make? Do
we choose to protect narrow special interest loopholes?”
Later, in a televised interview with Wichita’s KAKE, Obama
offered a more diplomatic defense of his administration’s push to end a
corporate tax benefit for jet owners, saying the move isn’t about cutting
aviation jobs, and he hopes to make things easier for aviation companies, but
not corporate jet owners.
“We want to give more tax breaks to all the aviation
companies in Kansas, so that they are hiring here and producing here. What we
don’t want to do is give somebody who's buying a corporate jet an extra tax
break that ordinary people can't get because they don't need it,” he said.
“The reason people buy corporate jets is because it's
extremely convenient and they can afford it. And they don't need an extra tax
break, especially at a time when we're trying to reduce the deficit.
Something's got to give,” he added.
Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) raised concerns earlier this month
that more than 1 million people in the general aviation industry could be
affected by touching the 1986-era tax exemption for
personal and corporate jets. The reporter at Wednesday’s briefing said
thousands of layoffs have already occurred in Kansas “since the president
started mentioning this.”
Association CEO Pete Bunce said later that people in his
industry “are not special interests” and demanded a mea culpa from Carney.
“These statements are totally outrageous and Mr. Carney
should apologize,” Bunce said. “It’s completely offensive to refer to
hardworking Americans as ‘difficult choices.’ This administration should stop
the sound bites and political games and focus on fixing our economy.”
The infamous loophole, a frequent target of Obama, stole the
show at the daily press briefing. Carney repeatedly pitted the billions of
dollars in automatic spending cuts looming on March 1 against “corporate jet
owners,” along with the oil and gas industry.
One reality, though: Eliminating the tax benefit would pay
for a fraction of the billions in domestic spending cuts that sequestration
threatens to impose March 1.
The tax break allows general aviation aircraft to be
depreciated over five years rather than seven for commercial planes.
Eliminating that provision has been estimated to generate about $300 million a
year, or $3 billion over 10 years. The sequester will deliver about $43 billion
in domestic cuts this year alone should it go into effect.
“Can we acknowledge here that closing the loophole for
corporate jet owners … is not going to solve your sequester problem?” another
reporter asked Wednesday.
“We can acknowledge it, but implicit in your suggestion is
that we ever said that it would,” Carney responded. “Can you tell me a single
tax loophole … that Republicans have identified that they’re willing to close
that would reduce the deficit?”
However, the press secretary also said Obama supports
legislation from Senate Democrats that would avert the sequester, mostly
through raising taxes on the rich but also ending some farm subsidies and
cutting some defense spending.
The Senate bill doesn’t include anything to eliminate the
break for jets. So while Carney continued to hammer private jet owners, he also
was endorsing a bill that would do nothing to close that loophole.
“There’s legislation that has been submitted that would
avert the sequester implementation by House and Senate Democrats. The president
supports that legislation,” Carney said.