Saturday, December 10, 2005

The morals police comes to New Orleans

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?

From the Associated Press, December 7 (Hat tip: To the People, via Radley Balko):

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.


Pooh said...

If there's one thing that sure to help NO rebuild, it's a centrally planned economy.

mabman said...

Great - the GOP leads the fight against sinful businesses in the name of "economy." Wonder where their sense of economy was a few months ago when Congress passed that amazing porkfest of a highway bill - that $289 billion would come in pretty handy right about now.

Anonymous said...

That is so stupid! I don't know much about NO, but I do know that the Gulf Coast of MS depends upon those tourist industries. Mississippi is already poor--why are they trying to destroy the economy of one the few places in the state where we actually make money?


Cathy Young said...

By the way, are tanning parlors now considered immoral?


Anonymous said...

I missed the part about tanning parlors! That's terrible; there are a lot of tanning parlors in MS. No matter how small the town, there will be at least two or three. I suppose it's ok for those people to lose their livelihood? Now, I think the whole idea of a tanning parlor is foolish and unhealthy, but that's no reason to discriminate against them in a recovery plan!


reader_iam said...

Nailed it again!

Maybe I should just put a special section on my blog titled: "What She Said" and just link everything you write.

We'll sure never go wrong overestimating the ability of Congress to keep its eye on the wrong ball.

But then, I'm feeling pessimistic today.

Revenant said...

I'm torn between anger at the Morality Police and happiness that less of my money is being thrown into rebuilding a city I don't want rebuilt.

richard mcenroe said...

Sheeeit, take the sin out of New Orleans and all ya got is a damp Branson...

Cathy Young said...

LOL, Richard!

rev, any reason you think NO shouldn't be rebuilt?

Pooh said...

You could certainly argue that (re-building) a city below sea-level on a flood plain doesn't represent the wisest use of tax-payer money. But I'm applying the novel "wise use" standard, so that can't be it...

Apesnake said...

I know someone who tans regularly and says it helps control her depression, stress and related symptoms.

The reason tanning and country clubs are now sinful is that they make people smile. Smiles are shaped like devil horns ):-)

Finally something the left and the right can agree on. If you are smiling, the right thinks you have sinned and the left think you have stolen your good mood from poor people.

Revenant said...

rev, any reason you think NO shouldn't be rebuilt?

The usual "don't build below sea level between a river, a lake, and an ocean" thing. Particularly given that we're entering a period of increased hurricane activity.

Anonymous said...

You see... this is why democracy - especially with a federal republic - doesn't (and really... CAN'T) operate efficiently and intelligently. Revenant and Pooh go right to the heart of the issue. But remember when Denny Hastert had the "gall" to suggest the same reality? The media and politicians piled on immediately! Before we get bogged down in micromanaging which businesses "deserve" taxpayer subsidies and which don't, wouldn't it make sense to deal with first things first and decide what parts of "old" New Orleans should be rebuilt and repopulated vs. which should be returned to their original environmental function? This isn't a Republican or Democratic idea... it's a common sense suggestion.

Pooh said...

Just to be clear, I'm not taking the position that NO shouldn't be rebuilt, and that we should foot some of the bill. But, it is certainly a defensible position (not that it will actually get defended, c'est la vie political.)

No, I think it should be rebuilt. First, abandoning cities to the advancing wild seems slightly post-apocalyptic - Mad Max 4: Return to Bourbon Street.

Second, I think its important to have places where the normal rules don't really apply. In that respect, what gave NO much of its character is precisely the stuff that Morals-Police McGee and the rest of the theocons are trying to suppress

Revenant said...


My understanding is that the "fun" parts of New Orleans pretty much survived the Hurricane (since the older, historical, touristy parts of the city were built above sea level).

The parts we're throwing billions of dollars into rebuilding weren't anything we'll miss.

Pat Patterson said...

Don't the NO politicians have a god given right to rebuild those tax paying businesses that cater to drunken sophmores from Nebraska and transsexuals from NY? Aren't they smarter than everybody else and can't they be trusted with more money then they have ever seen before? I'm just so disappointed in the cynicism.

Paul said...

The poor seem to always take the back seat to business, but then the poor are used by everyone.

Pooh said...

Well Pat, to continue your sarcasm, you are right, only the righteous should be able to rebuild. It was a biblical plague after all.

On seriousness, this is wrong on two levels: the moral pandering and the idea that some congresscritter has a better idea what businesses that NO will support than the NO market. Command economies do not work, and this is a step in that direction.

Nobody is throwing money (at least in this particular measure) - its a tax credit, which means you have to have a business with taxable income, which means you have to start up a business, which means people have to patronize your business.

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real_tips said...

is there's a thing such as moral police...

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