A friend recently passed along an amusing anecdote about Greg Gianforte. During one of his secretive, closed-to-the-public meetings, he told a largely sympathetic audience the kind of story only someone who is entirely out of touch with the lives of ordinary people would imagine makes him seem down to earth. Congressman Gianforte, it seems, boasted to this small group of Montanans that he has never spent a weekend in D.C. since being elected to Congress. He can’t stay in D.C., he told his audience, because he just can’t abide “the swamp.”
Because he flies home in his personal jet every weekend.
Now, there were a number of things that came to mind when I heard that story. The most obvious was simply that Gianforte should probably work harder. I’m just a public school teacher, and I average 8-10 hours of work every Sunday, reading essays and preparing for the week. Surely a member of Congress has work that could be done in D.C. rather than enjoying two or three day weekends every week.
It also occurred to me that Gianforte may struggle just a bit to understand the financial challenges Montanans face. There are plenty of Montana families who struggle to put fuel in their vehicles, heat their homes, and feed their kids, all things someone who boasts about his seemingly limitless private jet travel may not be best positioned to understand.
In the end, though, what stuck with me was the unbelievable hypocrisy of Congressman Gianforte suggesting that D.C. was some kind of swamp that was somehow beneath him. We’ve railed on Steve Daines the past week for voting to increase taxes on Gold Star families, college students, and young people living in Indian Country, but Gianforte was fighting just as hard, braying just as loudly that the Trump Tax Scam, which was primarily about benefiting people like himself, should pass, no matter the damage it would do to the deficit and Montana communities.
And there’s nothing that could be stronger evidence of the way Gianforte has embraced the swamp to enrich himself than the very private jet he boasts about. While Gianforte fought for a tax bill that tripled tax rates on children of those killed in military service, he and Congress essentially made buying a private jet a massive tax write-off for the wealthiest Americans. As the Economist notes:
America’s rules are loopier still. Donald Trump’s tax reform allowed individuals and companies to write off 100% of the cost of a new or used private jet against their federal taxes. For some plutocrats this has wiped out an entire year’s tax bill. For others, it has made buying a jet extraordinarily cheap.
Perhaps even more galling is that the 2017 tax bill codified a tax exemption for private jet owners. While you and I pay taxes on every flight to support the FAA and other critical air services, Congress exempted private jets from those costs:
On a per flight basis, a private jet could generate as little as two percent of the taxes and fees paid by airline passengers on an identical route, Bloomberg found in its review. High-performance private planes make up about 10 percent of U.S. flights under air-traffic control, yet pay less than 1 percent into a trust fund that finances air-traffic control and other Federal Aviation Administration operations, an agency study found this year.
It’s rich that someone like Gianforte, who doesn’t interact with his constituents in public town halls and who probably thinks the members of the Yellowstone Club represent the middle class, has the audacity to depict the nation’s capital as too swampy for his liking, especially when he and the Republicans in Congress have used their time in D.C. to pass tax cuts written by lobbyists for the elite in the dead of night and turned their backs on working families.
There is almost certainly a swamp in D.C., but the stench of it follows Congressman Gianforte back to Montana every time he takes his private jet back here to remind us that he’s not looking out for us and never will.