With the deficit super committee scrambling to reach the Nov. 23 deadline for coming up with at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., on Monday released a report listing special tax breaks he says the wealthy enjoy.
Whether Coburn's report, "Subsidies of the Rich and Famous," http://1.usa.gov/szu8CJ will have any impact on the negotiations under way by members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction is uncertain.
But as Democrats and Republicans on the panel battle over how - and by how much - to raise new revenues, Coburn's highlighting of these special tax breaks is sure to grab some attention. Coburn, a conservative, has been among the few Republicans to embrace the idea of ending tax breaks for the wealthy to help reduce the nation's deficit and increase revenue.
Coburn's study is also one of the first, from either party, to identify specific tax benefits that should be made more progressive. Some of the benefits, which Coburn calls "welfare for the well-off," included $74 million in unemployment compensation and $316 million in farm subsidies. Though many of the individual breaks were small, the study found the aggregate cost to tax payers was over $30 billion, including the cost of federal grants and subsidized loans.
Coburn was careful to distinguish his findings from the generic loophole targeting that has become part and parcel of most GOP tax plans.
"This is not an accidental loophole in the law," he said. "To the contrary, this reverse Robin Hood-style of wealth redistribution is an intentional effort to get all Americans bought into a system where everyone appears to benefit."
The findings are sure to resonate with congressional Democrats who embraced President Obama's recent call for a millionaires tax to plug the deficit hole.
Still, in a time when savings goals stretch well into the trillions, the scale of Coburn's findings may make the report easier for GOP leaders to ignore. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has often dismissed talk of a more progressive tax system as "class warfare."