Whitehouse Statement Opposing “Tax Extenders”

Talk about speaking truth to money! From the Whitehouse Press Office:

Floor Statement of Sheldon Whitehouse
On H.R. 5771
December 16, 2014

Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Mr./Madame President, later this week, the Senate will likely take up and pass legislation to extend several dozen expired tax provisions. While I support a number of the individual provisions extended by this bill, I rise today to explain why I reluctantly plan to oppose it.

The so-called “tax extenders” package includes the one-year extension of a hodgepodge of over four dozen tax provisions. This extension is not for the year ahead of us, as one might reasonably expect, but rather for the year that’s mostly past us. In other words, we will be extending for 2014 tax programs that expired at the end of 2013. This means that, for the most part, the bill will offer credits and deductions to reward things that have already happened while doing absolutely nothing to help businesses and individuals plan for the future.

If tax policy is intended to influence behavior, the extenders bill is a double failure: it spends money rewarding things that have already happened and offers no incentives for businesses and individuals for the year ahead.

Let’s take for example the production tax credit for wind energy, a program I strongly support that encourages the construction of wind farms. The provision in the extenders bill offers this incentive for properties for which construction has commenced by the end of 2014. That’s three weeks from now. Instead of giving energy companies time to plan and prepare wind projects, we’re saying: if you happen to have one ready to go, you’ve got until the end of the holiday season to break ground. The clock is ticking.

In contrast to Congress’s temporary, year-to-year treatment of the wind tax credit and other incentives for renewable energy, Big Oil and Gas enjoy permanent subsidies in the tax code. It’s long past time to reform the tax code so it reflects America’s 21st Century energy priorities. Permanent incentives for oil and gas and temporary programs for renewable energy is simply upside-down public policy.

In total, there are 50 or so extensions in this bill, and the only thing they seem to have in common is that Congress repeatedly packages them together. It’s truly a mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Let’s start with some of the good provisions. In addition to clean energy incentives, the bill extends a popular tax credit that encourages businesses to hire veterans, a host of incentives for energy efficiency, and a provision that ensures that families that lose their homes in foreclosure don’t incur tax bills for the deficiencies. These provisions have strong bipartisan support.

Then there’s the bad: the unjustifiable tax giveaways. These include so-called “bonus depreciation,” a program that allows corporations to deduct the costs of equipment right away instead of spreading out the deductions over the life of the equipment. Congress first included this provision in 2009 in the Recovery Act when it made some sense. The idea was to encourage businesses to accelerate their purchases when the economy most needed the investments. We’ve extended it so many times, though, that now we’re just giving money away to corporations for buying things they would have bought anyway. That’s a nice subsidy for the businesses, but not a wise use of taxpayer dollars.

The bill also includes tax giveaways for NASCAR tracks and racehorses. While I know these sports are popular, it’s hard to justify subsidizing them with taxpayer dollars at a time when we’re running large deficits and face the prospect of more budget sequestration.

And then there’s the ugly, the stuff that does actual harm. There’s a pair of provisions in the bill–the “active financing” and “controlled foreign corporation look through” provisions–that reward U.S. corporations for shifting money overseas to avoid paying taxes. Sadly, there are already a number of provisions in the tax code that encourage companies to move operations and assets overseas. We should repeal those provisions, not enhance them as the extenders bill does.

This one-year, retroactive mixed bag of extensions will increase the budget deficit by over $41 billion. To put that figure into perspective, that’s more than the annual budget for the entire Department of Homeland Security.

Earlier this year, my senior Senator from Rhode Island, Jack Reed, lead an effort to extend unemployment benefits for the millions of Americans who have struggled to find work in this uneven economic recovery. Republicans repeatedly filibustered his unemployment insurance legislation, with many citing the $17 billion price tag and the offsets included to pay for it.

I expect many of these same Republicans will vote to pass the $41 billion tax extenders bill, legislation which is not offset and will add to the deficit. If Republicans are truly as worried about the deficit as many of them claim to be, they need to raise these concerns consistently and not forget them when it’s convenient. Spending through the tax code is still spending, and we should offset it.

Mr./Madame President, next year this body will have new leadership and a fresh opportunity to tackle our nation’s problems. I hope Senate Republicans will show us they can exercise the power of being in the majority responsibly. President Obama says he is eager to work with the Republican majority on several major bills including tax reform. I too am eager to work with Republicans on sensible, responsible tax reform—reform that ends the era of year-to-year extensions, eliminates wasteful tax spending, and decreases the deficit. I thank the chair, and I yield the floor.

Too Hot for Nuclear

Chernobyl was a disaster of human error, Fukushima a natural disaster worsened by human error, but this is a whole other situation. The water in Long Island Sound is so warm that even with emergency rules that loosen the safety standards, the Millstone Nuclear Power Station had toshut down one of its units…

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut’s nuclear power plant has shut down one of two units because water from Long Island Sound used to operate the plant is too hot following the hottest July on record.

Just 2 days ago ‘The Day’ reported that the NRC juggled the numbers to allow the plant to continue operating…

Waterford – Because water temperatures in Long Island Sound have been averaging 1.7 degrees above normal this summer, the Millstone Power Station has been granted an emergency amendment to its license related to cooling water used for Unit 2.

The amendment, issued Friday by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, gives Millstone permission to use an average of three temperatures from three locations to ensure that the water drawn into the plant to cool instruments in the nuclear reactor building and the emergency diesel generators is no higher than 75 degrees. Previously the company was required to use a single measure of the highest temperature.

NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said the agency agreed that taking an average would be a valid way to ensure the temperature was within safety limits. If the water exceeds 75 degrees, Millstone would be required to scale back operations, and if the water reaches 77 degrees, the plants would be required to shut down.

Water that is 77 degrees or higher does not sufficiently cool the plant to keep it within the margin of safety, Millstone spokesman Ken Holt said.

I’ve seen online arguments that a few Chernobyls may be the price we have to pay for stopping the carbon pollution inherent in other forms of energy production. That’s more honest than pretending that human error, acts of nature and unforeseen events will somehow bypass nuclear.

We are in a crisis, I’m feeling three days of exhausting heat and humidity as I write this. But in this crisis we have tools we did not have in the 20th Century, and denial is running out. Conservation, a smart grid, diverse power sources and questioning a ‘lifestyle’ based on geometrically increasing demand for manufactured needs are where we need to start. I don’t see so many Hummers on the road these days, and I’m doing more teleconferencing to save us time and fuel. I’m not very confident in our leaders from either party, this change will have to come from the people.

They’re So Beautiful

The wind turbines seem to be offline, but the blades were rotating gently in the morning breeze. The light reflecting and changing on the bright white surfaces was fascinating, and the clean, aerodynamic look– contrasting with the rusty rail cars and low buildings.

In between taking care of two generations of family, I had time just before sunrise, and then around noon. I took those few minutes to get pix of the windmills, from as many angles as possible.

The view of the windmills at the tops of the little streets off Allens Ave is amazing, but I was unable to get the right perspective– and also people were looking at me like I might be up to something. I decided to go back another time, and maybe capture that picture with a paintbrush– which is often more true than a camera.

How Did That Happen?

Dawn on Providence Harbor

The windmills seemed to appear overnight. Mary, Kmareka’s Environmental Science consultant, says they are going to supply 85% of the electricity for the Fields Point waste treatment plant.

They’re pretty amazing, especially looking down the streets named after states on Allen’s Ave. They loom over the triple deckers, but screened by trees, they may not be so visible when the leaves come in.

How did something so big sneak up on us?

Brighter Days

By the middle of this week we will have eleven hours of daylight, and we are just about a month away from the vernal equinox.

In honor of the sun, here is some good news on the solar energy front from Scientific American…

The energy benefits of solar photovoltaics will only improve as the technology continues to boost its efficiency at converting sunlight to electricity or proves to last longer than the 30 years anticipated by manufacturers. “There is no reason for this not to last a lot more than 30 years,” Fthenakis says.

If solar energy begins to power its own production—a so-called PV breeder cycle, in which PV-generated electricity goes to produce more PV cells—the outlook is even sunnier. “I think 30 percent of the energy consumption in the [manufacturing] facilities is easily met from the land they have available [on] the roof and in the parking lot,” Fthenakis says.

Wow! Can’t you just feel the singularity coming? Of course, with all that energy production, we’ll need some big batteries to store it. Good news there too…

VRB will start mass production this year of a longer-lasting rival to the lead acid battery currently used to store energy for example produced by solar panel, Hennessy said.

Low carbon-emitting renewable energy is in vogue, driven by fears over climate change, spiraling oil prices and fears over energy supply and security.

While the supply of the wind and sun far exceeds humanity’s needs it doesn’t necessarily match the time when people need it: the sun may not be shining nor the wind blowing when we need to cook dinner or have a shower.

Soaring production of solar panel and wind turbines is now spurring a race to develop the winning energy storage technologies which will drive the electric cars and appliances of the future.

Wouldn’t it be great to tell the rest of the world, especially those nations that don’t like us, that they can keep their oil, we don’t need it. Remember when a young, visionary and daring president led our country to put a man on the moon? Now we just need a battery. We can do it. Now is no time to build more nuclear power plants — that’s so 20th century. We need to invest in solar.

And if you are thinking local as well as global, check out Natural News Network for what is happening in a neighborhood near you. Today’s headline is an amazing photo of last week’s lunar eclipse, by Kathy Hodge who braved the cold to take it.