The sound system was playing rock music as the crowd waited for the appearance of Ivanka Trump at a firehouse in Bayville Monday morning.
For a moment there I thought I was at a Donald Trump rally.
I attended quite a few of them last year when Trump was making his presidential run. The Donald's a big Rolling Stones fan and at every rally I attended the candidate climaxed his speech to the tune of the Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want." (See video below.)
It's a great song, but it sounded like a mixed message for the voters. However it would have made a perfect wrap-up to the appearance yesterday by the president's daughter as well as Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Tom MacArthur, the Republican who represents the district in Congress.
The subject is the tax-reform package that the president wants to see on his desk in the next month or two. When it comes to tax reform, you really can't get what you want.
The competing House and Senate bills are so complicated in so many ways that it takes days of study to pinpoint potential winners and losers.
But let me focus on one historical instance of a tax-reform plan gone wrong. That was pointed out to me by my old high-school buddy Jim Byrnes, who was just re-elected to the township council of Berkeley Township, which includes Bayville as well as a chunk of oceanfront across the bay.
It concerns big boats. Back in 1991, President George "Read My Lips; No New Taxes" Bush signed into law a bill meant to reduce the deficit by imposing a 10 percent "luxury tax" on yachts costing more than $100,000.
What Bush forgot is that yachts really are a luxury - and people stopped buying them. That meant that Viking Yacht, a boat-builder down Route 9 a bit in New Gretna, had to lay off pretty much its entire work force.
"They used to hire every electrician that graduated from the county college," Byrnes said. "They were all laid off."
A study showed that a total of 7,600 boat-builders were laid off, with unemployment costs to the treasury that far exceed any tax revenues. Before long, that luxury tax was repealed and the workers rehired.
Byrnes said he expects to see his town take an even worse hit if this tax package goes through as written. That's because the reform could restrict the deductibility of property taxes to $10,000 a year - or even zero in the Senate version - and of mortgage interest to the debt service up to $500,000 on new purchases.
The House and Senate versions differ on which other deductions would be allowed, but both exclude the state income tax. Without a deduction for the income tax, only a very small percentage of filers would find it advantageous to itemize.
And with mortgage interest for second homes excluded, Byrnes said, the real-estate market in a place like Berkeley Township would be particularly hard hit.
"Most of our houses on the water cost more than $500,000 and they're second homes," he said. "This bill eliminates deductions for second homes."
It does indeed. Under the current law someone purchasing an expensive home at the Shore or elsewhere might be able to deduct $50,000 or so a year from taxable income.
But under the reform, most buyers would get the $24,400 standard deduction that every couple - rich or poor, homeowner or renter - gets automatically.
Any loss of deductions could threaten the property-tax base of many towns in MacArthur's Third District, which includes most the beaches in northern Ocean County already hit hard by Hurricane Sandy.
Meanwhile two other districts up north held by Republicans - Leonard Lance's 7th District and Rodney Frelinghuysen's 11th District - have some of the highest housing costs in America. They would be among those hit hardest by the caps on deductibility for property taxes and interest.
During his brief speech, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said that there will be winners and losers in New Jersey under the tax-reform plans.
"For people who make a million dollars in high-tax states, there will be a tax increase," he said. "But as the president says, he's willing to have his taxes go up to do the right thing."
Good for him, but the more I study these competing packages, the worse it looks for Jersey.
If governor-elect Phil Murphy gets his wish and brings back a top tax rate of 10.75 percent, taxpayers in that bracket will no longer be able to deduct it from their federal taxes. That means they could pay a marginal tax rate of more than 50 cents on the dollar.
That's a big luxury tax for living in New Jersey. Who's going to be left to pay the taxes and mortgages of all those first homes in places like Summit and Essex Fells and second homes in places like Lavallette and Long Beach Island?
But the plan looks great for lower-costs states like Pennsylvania and North Carolina, where that $24,400 standard deduction likely exceeds the deductions of all but a few taxpayers.
Perhaps you can't always get what you want.
But if this package goes through, I predict a lot of Jerseyans will find they need a house on the Outer Banks.
BELOW: Say what you will about the Donald, but you can't fault his taste in music. This was at a victory rally in Hershey, Pa., in December. Also read this piece about the inaugural.
"You Can't Always Get What You Want" - but the Donald can...Read more