I’ve spoken with both U.S. Senate offices, and this is their explanation (or my understanding of their explanation) of the pork in the bailout bill:
With one exception, all of the sweeteners were tax extensions that were already passed by the house, and/or were set to expire at the end of the year. The tax subsidy to racetracks, for instance, is recognition that when a facility such as Atlanta Motor Speedway repaves its track, it is allowed to depreciate the repaving over 7 years instead of 20. 7 years is not an exceptional amount of time, and is much closer to the useful life of the pavement than 20.
The new sweetener in the bill is a “fix” of the Alternative Minimum Tax calculation, that would otherwise have 20 Million middle-class Americans facing the Alternative Minimum Tax this year. This is something Republicans have been advocating forever, but have been unable to get through Congress.
Conservatives on this blog and others have been completely apoplectic since the vote. As I’ve said many times before, I think there were better ways to accomplish the objectives that this bill set out to solve. But I also think the hyperbole to attack the “pork” in this bill has been over the top, without understanding that most of it was renewing tax credits and treatments, with the remaining being an improvement in the AMT calculations.