The chief economic culprit of President Obama’s Wednesday press conference was undoubtedly “corporate jets.” He mentioned them on at least six occasions, each time offering their owners as an example of a group that should be paying more in taxes.
“I think it’s only fair to ask an oil company or a corporate jet owner that has done so well,” the president stated at one point, “to give up that tax break that no other business enjoys.”
But the corporate jet tax break to which Obama was referring – called “accelerated depreciation,” and a popular Democratic foil of late – was reauthorized by his own stimulus package.
Proponents of the tax break lauded it as a means to spur economic activity by encouraging purchases of large manufactured goods (planes). So the president’s statement today – and his call to repeal that tax break generally – is either a tacit admission that the stimulus included projects that did not, in fact, stimulate the economy, or an attempt to “soak the rich” without regard for the policy’s effects on the economy.
For many Americans, those effects could be dramatic. Cessna and Gulfstream have facilities in a combined 15 cities nationwide (and another four abroad). A significant decline in consumption of private jets would undoubtedly have adverse effects on at least some of those local economies. Given the sizable bump in consumption that the initial tax break yielded, its repeal would likely have that economic domino effect.
The Associated Press noted the tax break’s potential economic benefits in this February 2009 report:
Just a few months after lawmakers scolded auto executives for flying to Washington in private jets, Congress approved a tax break in the stimulus package to help businesses buy their own planes.
The incentive — first used to help plane makers recover from the 2001 terror attacks — sharply reduces the up front tax bill for companies who buy assets like business planes.
The aviation industry, which is cutting jobs as it suffers from declining shipments and canceled orders, hopes the tax break in the economic-stimulus bill just signed by President Barack Obama will persuade more companies to buy planes and snap a slump in general aviation that began last year.
“This is exactly the type of financial incentive that should be included in a stimulus bill,” said Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., in an interview. His state lost at least 6,900 jobs at Cessna and Hawker Beechcraft, both based in Wichita.…
The incentive — known as accelerated depreciation — lets companies take a larger deduction in the early years of the life of an asset such as a plane.
Companies will have to place orders by the end of 2009, and those planes will need to be delivered by the end of 2010 to take advantage of the tax benefit.
First used in the months following 9/11, an industry study found accelerated depreciation helped boost sales by 43 percent, and later contributed an additional $2 billion in sales when implemented again in 2003.
UPDATE: Corrections made to headline and third paragraph to note the reauthorization of the tax break in Obama’s economic stimulus package. Heritage’s Mike Gonzalez has written a response about White House criticism of this story.