Undermining the Message

The Hill: GOP Sen.: Feds Send Checks to Millionaires For Not Working

From the report released by Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn on Monday, this part I find extremely eye-opening:

In 2009, 18 people earning more than $10 million a year received an average of $12,000 in unemployment benefits. That same year, 74 people earning between $5 million and $10 million received $18,000 in benefits, on average, according to the report. In 2008, 2,840 millionaires received unemployment benefits — an average of $6,500 per beneficiary.

Due to the nature of work undertaken by many of our nation’s wealthiest, sometimes those with millions in the bank are not drawing a salary due to unemployment.  Brad Pitt, for example, is unemployed when not working on a film — the thing is, the very nature of such unemployment should not give rise to eligibility for unemployment benefits.

Another part of the report, however, I really had little problem with:

Coburn’s report found that from 2006 to 2009, millionaires claimed $27.7 billion in mortgage interest tax deductions, $64.3 billion in rental expense deductions and $21 billion in deductions for gambling losses. During that time, millionaires also deducted $607.7 million for business entertainment expenses, according to Coburn.

Doing business involves the cost of doing business, and tax breaks facilitates growth in business.  Keep in mind that government itself does not create jobs, but rather creates and environment in which jobs flourish organically.  These tax deductions serve as a mechanism by which business and job growth is incentivized.

What I really took issue with were Coburn’s statements regarding the investigative report, in particular this part:

“This welfare for the well-off — costing billions of dollars a year — is being paid for with the taxes of the less fortunate, many who are working two jobs just to make ends meet, and IOUs to be paid off by future generations. We should never demonize those who are successful. Nor should we pamper them with unnecessary welfare to create an appearance everyone is benefiting from federal programs,” Coburn said.

When it comes to cutting off the personal unemployment benefits, I agree.  However, to call anything else that could reasonably be construed as facilitative of business growth, I think that the senator is sending the wrong message, in that he is undermining an economically-sound message rightfully trumpeted by conservatives from coast to coast, especially in light of recent headlines involving the #Occupy movement.

Just like Newt Gingrich deriding Congressman Paul Ryan’s budget proposal as “right-wing social engineering” certainly did not help foment confidence in a fiscally- and economically-sound message on spending and entitlement reform, these comments by Sen. Coburn do not help conservatives on all levels–candidates and otherwise–foster confidence in their own Laffer Curve-inspired message.

Incidentally, I asked Sen. Coburn about his comments earlier today on Twitter.  Some lawmakers, such as Utah’s Jason Chaffetz, are generally fantastic about replying to substantive questions.  I have not yet received a response from Sen. Coburn.


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