Many 'Sweeteners' Tucked Inside Bailout Bill

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Tucked into the massive $700 financial rescue package are a number of goods targeted to favored industries and constituents. One of those is a tax break for manufacturers of children's wooden arrows. Mike Pesca reports.


Among the provisions of the Wall Street rescue bill were a few things that didn't have much to do with Wall Street. Right there, Section 503, quote, "Exemption from excised tax for certain wooden arrows designed for use by children." Wooden arrows. Wooden arrows? NPR's Mike Pesca has an explanation.

MIKE PESCA: Somewhere, perhaps in an indoor rainforest in Iowa, on the other end of the bridge to nowhere, there sits a bear atop a $640 toilet seat, patiently waiting the results of his DNA test. This is the tableau of famous government waste and tax breaks to which we can now add dozens of wooden kiddie arrows. Dave White heard about the provision right after the Senate passed the bailout bill.

Mr. DAVE WHITE (Owner, Cajun Archery): In fact, I was at my chiropractor this morning, and they were talking about it in the office this morning, about these wooden arrows, and I'm like - that's me.

PESCA: Yes. Dave White estimates that 80 to 90 percent of the wooden arrows bought in this country come through his company, Cajun Archery. As he explained to his chiropractor, five years ago, Congress re-calibrated the way arrows were taxed. High-performance arrows with names like "Stalker Extreme" and the "Terminator" sell for $10 to $12 a piece. So when Congress changed the tax from 11 percent to a flat 39 cents, the manufacturers of those arrows loved it. But White says makers of little wooden arrows who sell their goods for a few dollars were crushed.

Mr. WHITE: The problem is I had five competitors that no longer exist. In 2004, about 1.4 million arrows - used arrows of these children, the wooden arrows we're talking about - were sold in the United States. And today it's about 300,000.

PESCA: And when you consider that the market for the arrows were Scout groups, Bible camps, pretty much the most Norman Rockwelly(ph) parts of America, White and his fellow arrow makers, well, they thought they had a good argument to bring to their elected officials. White doesn't represent big business. His entire workforce...

Mr. WHITE: There's eight, including myself, and then I have a part-time college student.

PESCA: Couldn't sway a town council election. Still, as Jay McAninch, president of the Archery Trade Association says, eliminating the tax had no opposition. Everyone he talked to in Congress was for it, so it moved from one bill to another and finally wound up in the bailout bill.

Mr. JAY MCANINCH (President, Archery Trade Association): We had no idea nor did I even wake up and even think in my wildest dreams that this even belonged in that package.

PESCA: Jerry Dishion, on the hand, doesn't care what the public perception is. As owner of Rose City Archery, the largest supplier of wooden arrow shafts, Dishion just knows the tax was crippling his business.

Mr. JERRY DISHION (Owner, Rose City Archery): What difference does it make which bill we're in? Nobody was complaining when our business got cut by 40 percent when the tax was implemented.

PESCA: Dishion estimates it will take years to rebuild the little wooden arrow market. And if anyone wants to criticize him, well, in his profession, he's used to the slings and arrows of fairly modest fortunes. Mike Pesca, NPR News, New York.

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