I've read a few articles recently mentioning the rather frequent feigned confusion about how tax breaks are different then spending. I'll give a brief metaphor to explain why the two are identical.
Consider a club that you want to join. The club requires payment of a fairly high entrance fee. The club owner now decides he wants to encourage people to wear Metallica T-shirts. The club owner knows incentive effects are powerful so decides to offer a cash bonus. He suspects people will be upset if he simply hands $5 to everyone that walks in the door wearing a Metallica T-shirt.
Instead, he posts a sign up saying "I'm now allowing you to be a member of the club and keep more of your hard earned money for yourself, wear a Metallica T-shirt and I'll give you $5 off the entrance fee." Then when someone wearing a Metallica T-shirt shows up they pay $5 less. This is identical to the above scenario, but given the rhetoric surrounding this idea on tax issues you'd think there's some kind of real difference in outcomes, when such a difference is logically and mathematically impossible (ignoring timing of a discount vs. a receipt of a payment).
The club owner believes that people will be more accepting of his handing out money to people that love Metallica as much as he does if he advertises it as a discount rather than simply handing out money when people walk in the door. On any rational level however, these two scenarios have exactly the same impact on both the club owner's budget and that of individual club members, people who love Metallica and wear their T-shirts become slightly wealthier than those that don't. This is grossly unfair from the standpoint of anyone who thinks that club membership and fees should be completely unrelated to a member's opinion on Metallica.
The question is, how many people are suckers who will buy the difference between the discount and the handout when both have identical effects on people's income?
I'm pretty sure that everyone that reads this blog understands that spending and targeted tax breaks are identical (some tax breaks can be arguable from an efficiency perspective but they are just as defensible from a spending perspective provided that differences in administrative and oversight costs are ignored since these two factors are not identical between these two policy options), but this is a political tactic I see so often despite its transparency that I feel the need to express my exasperation over it. Who really falls for this framing?