In one takes an accountant's view of the bidding for votes on the tax cut legislation before Congress, it is apparent that inflation has taken its toll in the bargaining cost of votes in the House of Representatives.
For example, to win over about 12 votes to the Democratic tax bill, it cost about $9.2 billion in new breaks to the oil industry. This translates to $767 million per vote.
These oil-state "boll weevils," as this group of congressmen is called, were brought firmly on board the Democratic bill, "and they haven't broken yet," Rep. Charles Wilson (D-Tex.) said somewhat anxiously yesterday evening. They stayed on board despite a counteroffer by the Reagan administration amounting to between $13 billion and $16 billion, according to various estimates, $1.1 billion to $1.3 billion a vote.
In the meantime, the "gypsy moths," moderate Republican representatives from Northeast and Midwest states, have been complaining privately that the Reagan administration is pressing them to stay on board the administration tax bill when the benefits to their constituents are nowhere near those given the Southern Democrats.
However, the most favorable estimates of the total cost of special interest tax breaks sought by the gypsy moths, from tax credits for woodburning stoves to credits for rehabilitating old buildings, amounts to $10.5 billion over six years.
Calculating the cost of the benefits to the number of votes influenced, gypsy month Republicans estimated that about 15 were on the fence, only one of whom, Rep. Jim Jeffords (R-Vt.), is expected to defect from the president's bill. Using 14 votes as the margin for these tax breaks, the dollar value would be $750 million each -- almost the same amount as the boll weevils.