Groups Rap State-Of-The-Union Attack On Business Aviation

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President Joe Biden was still shaking hands after his State of the Union speech Thursday when aviation groups started firing responses to a line in the speech about those who operate business jets paying “their fair share” of taxes. In the briefing notes on the speech issued by the White House, the administration also said it would eliminate an unspecified tax break “that gives preferential treatment to corporate jets compared to commercial aircraft” and increase the fuel taxes paid by business aircraft “so that corporate executives and other wealthy Americans pay their fair share for the use of airspace and other public services related to air travel.”

NBAA President Ed Bolen said there’s no evidence those who use corporate aircraft are avoiding taxes and that they’re such important productivity tools that some Cabinet secretaries use them to efficiently get to places not well served by airlines. “Of course, every American business should pay the taxes they owe, but President Biden has unfairly chosen to target those who use business aviation, even though the vast majority of flights are taken by U.S. companies to help them compete effectively in a global marketplace,” Bolen said. “Business aviation is an industry that is essential to America’s economy and transportation system,” Bolen said. “It supports jobs, connects communities, helps companies succeed and provides humanitarian lift in times of crisis. This is an industry that should be promoted, not pilloried.”

Alliance for Aviation Across America Interim Executive Director Devin Osting said the focus on business aviation was unfair.

“The President’s comments unfairly singled out the business aviation industry—an industry that supports an economic impact of $247 billion and 1.2 million American jobs,” he said. “Aside from the rhetoric, the reality is that business aviation is a tool that allows companies to operate more efficiently and in rural and small markets that would otherwise present logistical challenges.” He said companies that use aviation perform better than those that do not. “The President’s comments tonight unfortunately reinforce an inaccurate stereotype of business aviation, which is essential to the nation’s economy and transportation system,” he said.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

40 COMMENTS

  1. Unfortunately, the speech in general, was divisive, and more of a stump speech than the State of the Union. It was mean-spirited, when we as a nation, could use a unifying thread. Unfortunately, aviation was targeted again. Educating the general public on the role aviation plays in their every day lives cannot be stressed enough. We, as a flying community, must advocate and should be contacting our Senators, Congressmen, and the Secretary of Transportation about the President’s out-of-line comment, singling out Corporate Aviation. Don’t wait for someone else to do it. Every voice counts.

    • How could you possibly have expected anything else? It’s a waste of time watching. I already know what’s going to be said. Nothing but pure dribble. No surprise here. Expect nothing from these people because you will never get anything. It’s a proven truism. It never changes.

  2. Sounds like a line regurgitated from a previous Obama speech. Perhaps Air force One should be a bus, car, train, or watercraft. Certainly would save tax payers, and set an example.

    • That’s exactly what I said when Pres Obama made similar comments. The president, whomever they may be, flies on the biggest baddest business jet(s) ever built. Drumpf flies a nice one too.

    • No real surprise given this is essentially Obama’s third, and hopefully final, term. Maybe, just maybe, this will change who the aviation alphabet groups throw their money behind.

  3. One of the most effective political tools is “us vs. them”. Sometimes the them is illegal immigrants, sometimes the them are those who can fly in private jets. If I was struggling to put food on the table, kids clothed, and my car road-worthy and I found out that I was paying sales tax on my kids’ clothing but Peter McPilot wasn’t paying sales tax on his airplane parts (true in my state) I would think it was yet another case of “the other” getting away with it. Someone in a suit in front of a business jet lecturing me that business aviation is worth “$247 billion and 1.2 million American jobs” I would just laugh and think it was another line of corporate BS.

    Once I was at the hangar late at night working on my plane. At the fence some guy started yelling insults at me, calling me all sorts of lovely names and accusing me of being the recipient of a trust fund. I didn’t engage as, well, it was about as useful as debating politics these days. If I had, I don’t think it would have mattered that I work a second job to afford aviation or that the base wasn’t a trust fund but a corporate job I’d been at for 10+ years. I don’t know this guy’s woes- maybe it was that he couldn’t afford the car he wanted, maybe he lost his job and had just gotten thrown out on the street. Either way, I was the convenient “other” to blame for whatever his personal woes were.

    So honestly, in politics, it makes sense to campaign against those with jets. It’s a juicy target when many are hit with inflation and feel themselves slipping back to having less. But let that be a reminder to those of us in GA; whatever outreach we can give, whatever engagement we create, we help combat that narrative. That includes, as listed above, calling your representative/senator. Knowing people with a passion for aviation and showing what it can do for people is a more compelling narrative in the culture wars than interest groups simply listing off stats.

  4. When you have run out of money from the middle class you move on up the ladder. Those that get forced out of business can learn to code. Right?

    • Good on Russ for reporting this story. Russ is a reason why I read AvWeb. Keep the aviation headlines coming, even if political.

    • No one forced you to click. If you don’t want to read political stories, don’t click on a headline that includes the words “state of the union”.

  5. Can someone please quote the part of Biden’s speech that states business jets should be taxed at a higher rate? thanks

  6. Since he did not really tell us what he was blathering about I did some looking and it appears they are just going to use a sharper pencil when deciding whether a flight was business or pleasure. It was mostly just an applause line but I suspect the added bookkeeping will end up costing us more at the cash register than and extra taxes they collect. Business doesn’t pay taxes, their customers do.

  7. If anyone thinks biz aviation will be the only segment targeted, think again. I fly a homebuilt and a glider and even with my own av activity about as far away from biz as fixed-wing can be, I have gotten numerous insulting and ignorant comments about my participation in flying from people who think their opinions should drive the behavior of others. Politicians listen to the loud squeaky wheels. People minding their own business as they do what they like are often easy targets when politicians and “activists” seek to create an appearance of taking action. The thing that seems to bug them the most is when reasonable people refuse to participate in the grievance-fueled race to the bottom demanded by those who whine loudest. Once BizAv complies, what segment will be the next target? It’s never enough for them and they will never stop because it’s so easy for their “thought leaders” to whip up an emotionalized perception of “injustice.” Outreach with reason, facts, and a welcoming attitude can, and does, get through to some, but others will never be open to the truth. So it’s up to all of is who love flying to take action regarding threats to any one segment of our chosen activity.

  8. More tax on business aviation is obviously not even a drop in the bucket of the federal deficit. It’s just chasing votes. Going after the bad “rich” people is good politics for those that despise rich people.

  9. I don’t know if the NBAA is liberal or conservative or in between but if they are similar to the pipe fitters and autoworkers who keep voting for people who want to put them out of a job, good luck.

    • It’s because union workers get great benefits now, but don’t realize that these benefits are jacking up costs so much that their employers are forced to move their jobs overseas.

    • The rank and file are not voting for Biden, it is the leadership that is supporting him. Misusing union dues.

  10. It’s not really the jets – it’s the fact that most of the wealth created in the US over the last few decades has gone to the top 10% wealthiest Americans. And most of that went to the top 0.5%. CEO pay is now 350 times that of the average worker, while it was 50 times in 1980. Jets have the best optics but it’s the wealth stagnation of the working class that that some are demanding to be addressed.

    And I’m a member of the NBAA but they could do a better job extolling the benefits of aviation. Every Monday morning at my big city FBO a bunch of blue collar workers with lunch pales and hardhats get on a big jet and fly off to some remote worksite. NBAA should highlight that. Take the spotlight off the Gulfstream that flies empty across the country to pick up his cat (true story).

    • It’s funny how you can rephrase a given statement and make it come out quite different. Like, “Only a very small number of Americans have created most of the new wealth in the US over the last few decades – and they’ve kept remarkably little of it for themselves” (Bill Gates, for example, probably kept no more than 1% of the wealth created when he started that very successful software company).

      And of course, a complaint about CEOs making 350 times the pay of an average worker (a statistic dramatically distorted by looking at only the top-paid 500 CEOs in the country, rather than ALL CEOs) looks very different if it’s phrased as a demand to stop hiring low-skilled workers, so as to reduce the ratio (which is how the minimum wage works).

      Yes, the top 500 CEOs make a heck of a lot more than the average worker – and quite a lot more than the average CEO (there are over 40,000 of them). When you pick the top 500 people in careers where pay is unlimited, you often find some superstars. The average income of a Fortune 500 CEO is about $15 million. I couldn’t find the pay of a top 500 sports star, but a top 100 sports star makes an average of $44 million. But it’s funny: you never see politicians attacking sports stars – probably because sports stars (and actors and musicians) get rich by being popular, and politicians don’t want to mess with their fans.

      This President has a chance to win a second term – improbably so at his age – by just not ticking off the center, and he’s talking tax increases on their employers. You can’t save some people from themselves.

      • P.S. Glassdoor estimates the average CEO in the US makes $250-500k, which is 4-8 x the average worker’s pay.

      • Some very leftist (Marxist even) economists recently have decided that Thomas Sowell was correct all along. Those worn out stats about inequality in the US have been misrepresenting reality for a long time because they didn’t accurately account for after tax income and benefits costs.

  11. An actual free market is the greatest equalizer of wealth ever devised. Crony capitalism, or Mercantilism as it was known originally, on the other hand, tends to funnel the most money to the already wealthy and to those well connected who know how to work the system. I blame our public schools for failing to teach solid economic realities. Otherwise, Americans would never accept a system where government interferes in the economy at the current level.

  12. As one of those “wealthy Americans”, I guess Biden doesn’t want to fly on private jets anymore. If this speech had come from a sane human being, it would be ironic. However, no sane human being could have given that speech.

    Seeing as it’s always wealthy politicians who want the wealthy to pay more taxes, why aren’t they banging on the door of the IRS with their extra bags of cash to give as generous gifts to Uncle Sam? You mean they want to pass laws that others have to follow but not them? Hmmm…

    • And they always protect their wealthy donors. Notice when they talk about taxing the “rich” it is always raising ordinary income taxes which they don’t pay. They will go after high wage earning middle income people. The not raising it on anyone making less then $400k is also a joke, everyone knows they will not stop at $400k.

  13. Watch out! This may be a back door attempt at user fees again. This president never met a tax proposal he didn’t like, no matter who gets stuck with it.

  14. I’m not sure what the Founding Fathers were thinking when they wrote the requirement for the State of the Union into the Constitution, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t envision what a circus it has become. For most of the 200+ year history of the event, it was pretty much a non-event as far as the public was concerned. Thomas Jefferson refused to appear in person, fearing it would make the President appear subservient to Congress. He simply sent a letter to be read to the assembled representatives. Perhaps the origin of the saying “mailing it in”. Unfortunately, the rise of television and the 24-hour news cycle has made it an opportunity for the current party in power to pound their drum, especially in an election year, like we see this time. This was Joe Biden’s opportunity to show the public he is not a doddering old man, and to also assure the people voting “undecided” in the primaries that he hears them and can take on the challenge of four more years. If you look over the past 30 or 40 SOUs, you see a pattern develop. The Democrats rail against big business and rich people and demand higher taxes for the “rich”. The Republicans extol the virtue of corporations that create jobs and promise smaller government to get it off our backs. In the end, fortunately, very few of the promises made during the speech ever come to fruition. While the NBAA is right that we should all try to demonstrate the positive effect GA and business aviation has on the country, we should keep in mind the significance of the speech. To butcher the writings of Shakespeare, it is an event “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”.

  15. Still waiting for AvWeb to report on some actual aviation news…

    A triple-seven dropped a wheel on takeoff today and a three-seven went off-roading yesterday

  16. Since when did the federal government get to claim the right to charge for use of the sky?

    And btw, everyone who owns a plane that’s not a corporate jet, BOHICA! This means they are coming for you again.

  17. I’m sure the owners of the hundreds of corporate jets that were parked on the ramp at LAS for the Super Bowl were there to conduct business, generate more profits and create more jobs, while attending the game. Same thing at the Masters, who knows how many working class jobs were created while billionaires watched a golf tournament. If Taylor Swift can afford to fly on a private jet from Tokyo to Las Vegas just to watch a football game, if Usher can afford to fly around in his own 767, if Bill Gates can afford to own two G650’s, if all the Kardashian sisters can each have there own jet and, dare I say it, if Donald Trump can own a 757, I feel almost certain most of them can afford to pay a little more in taxes and still be able to fly off to Aspen to create more jobs.

  18. I think Joe Biden wasn’t carping on what people earn, but how much tax those at the highest income levels pay. Accordingly, he referred to the last tax cut which allowed the highest 1% of income earners getting 84% of the benefit of the cuts, leaving the remaining 99% of income earners with 16%. Further, the tax cut created a large increase in or deficit, which then adds to the debt.

    Politicans of all stripes engage in this preferential behavior in various forms. No one’s hands are clean.

    Unfortunately, at least for my interests, corporate aircraft was used as the example of profligate spending. I remember when GM execs went to D.C., hat in hand, to get a huge government bailout but those execs traveled by corporate jet. It wasn’t a good look, even if a CEO’s time can be of greatest value. I do wish Biden another non-aviation example as his cudgel.

    Until dark money and other forms of large cash donations is taken out of politics and things like gerrymandering becomes a thing of the past, it will be the weight of one’s pocket book, not weight of one’s words, that dictates how our politicians will behave behind closed doors.

    Only when the person who pushes a broom has the same say as those who write six-figure checks, will politicians listen and act appropriately and balance their efforts to better reflect the interests for all of those being, presumably, represented.

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