Leaders of the corporate aircraft industry used a carefully orchestrated rally Wednesday to try to send a message to the White House to stop picking on their customers and give more support to a business they say boosts the economy and U.S. jobs.
After President Barack Obama repeatedly singled out "corporate jet owners" as an example of wealthy individuals who should sacrifice tax breaks, a top industry lobbyist urged employees and their friends and neighbors to tell Obama to lay off the criticism. He noted that the president asked Iowa residents during a stop in Peosta on Tuesday for their ideas to help the economy recover.
"Tell him, this industry is important. It needs to be supported," Pete Bunce, president of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, told about 300 employees of aviation technology maker Rockwell Collins Inc. (COL - news - people ) in the company's hangar at the Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids. "He needs to know, if you go after our customers, you go after every one of us."
Five members of Iowa's congressional delegation spoke at the rally, where employees were instructed by a lobbyist beforehand to applaud their words, make eye contact with the politicians and thank them for "fighting for your jobs." Banners reading "Iowa flown, Iowa grown" and "General Aviation equals jobs" were hung from the rafters, while speaker after speaker applauded an industry they said has a $1.2 billion economic impact on Iowa and supports 2,000 jobs in the state.
Obama has proposed scaling back a tax break enjoyed by the private jet owners but not by commercial airlines to raise about $3 billion in additional revenue over the next decade. Even though that's a tiny fraction of the nation's deficit, the president has repeatedly hammered on the issue and other tax increases that he says the wealthy can afford as he paints Republicans as defenders of the rich.
While the plan was not included in the recent deal that raised the nation's debt limit, the White House has said that a new committee of lawmakers that has been created to cut the deficit should consider it. The plan would require corporations that buy private jets to deduct the cost from their taxable income over seven years, the same as the airlines, instead of five.