By Dustin Hurst | Watchdog.org
HELENA — The Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney delivers a scathing indictment of Montana U.S. Sen. Max Baucus’ affinity for corporate welfare and he scoffs, shrugs it off and delivers his pre-prepared talking points.
Such is the strategy for an entrenched Beltway insider.
In the past week, Carney’s bludgeoned Baucus, the Democratic chair of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, twice — the first time for aiding the White House’s quest to stuff into the fiscal cliff legislation billions in corporate tax handouts to some of the nation’s largest corporations and the second occurrence for the senator’s penchant for delivering sweetheart breaks to lobbying clients of former staffers.
But Montana’s senior senator, up for re-election in 2014, won’t answer questions about the two articles or his well-recognized affinity for backroom politics.
Aaron Flint, host of the AM radio talk show Voice of Montana, asked Baucus about the tax breaks and the lobbyist favors Monday night after the senator spoke to a Chamber of Commerce dinner here in Helena. Baucus, first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1978, offered his well-oiled response to Flint.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Baucus said when asked about Carney’s work. “I haven’t seen it.”
Flint persisted, walking with the senator as he exited the event, prodding for an answer. The radio host queried why corporate interests should receive $60 billion in breaks while ordinary Americans face $125 billion in payroll tax hikes.
The fleeting Baucus fell back to finger-waving and tired talking points to defend the fiscal cliff bill. “Ninety-nine percent of Montanans’ income taxes did not go up,” Baucus redirected. “That is very good news and that’s permanent.”
Baucus wasn’t lying. In the so-called fiscal cliff bill, Congress made permanent the Bush-era tax cuts for about 99 percent of the population. Lawmakers did hike taxes on those making $400,000 a year or more, taking their rate from 35 percent to 39.6 percent.
Though he didn’t fib, he didn’t speak to the issue, either. The White House, at President Barack Obama’s behest, copy-and-pasted Baucus Family and Business Tax Cut Certainty Act of 2012 into the fiscal cliff bill at the last minute, adding billions in pork for General Electric, Wall Street banks, NASCAR and Disney, among many others.
Analysts say the corporate handouts will cost at least $60 billion.
Simultaneously, many Montanans will receive their first paychecks of 2013 this week, only to realize they’ll have less to spend on gas, groceries, rent and other necessities. That’s thanks to the expiration of the payroll tax holiday, originally authorized in 2010.
The expiration brings the rate back to 6.2 percent after spending two years at 4.2 percent. A worker earning $50,000 annually will see about $1,000 less in 2013, or approximately $83 each month.
Neither party seemed interested in renewing that reduction as part of the fiscal cliff package.
Here’s Flint’s video of the short exchange:
Contact Dustin Hurst at Dustin@Watchdog.org or @DustinHurst via Twitter.