Saturday, December 08, 2012

Times editorial on subsidies: "politicians and officials are trying to pick winners and losers, almost exclusively to the benefit of big corporations"

So, on the heels of its series on subsidies (which unaccountably ignored Atlantic Yards in its database), the New York Times on 12/6/12 offered an editorial headlined Race to the Bottom:
Competition among states and cities to lure businesses in hopes of creating jobs is not new, but it has become more fierce in recent years. An investigation by The Times found that state and local governments are giving out $80 billion a year in tax breaks and other subsidies in a foolhardy, shortsighted race to attract companies. That money could go a long way to improving education, transportation and other public services that would have a far better shot at promoting real economic growth.

Instead, with these giveaways, politicians and officials are trying to pick winners and losers, almost exclusively to the benefit of big corporations (aided by highly paid lobbyists) at the expense of small businesses. Though they promise that the subsidies are smart investments, far too often the jobs either don’t materialize or are short-lived, leaving the communities no better off.
...Local governments would be much better off investing tax dollars in education and public works that would deliver long-term benefits to both businesses and workers. California, for instance, is among the least generous of the larger states in doling out tax breaks. It gave out just $112 per capita compared with $759 in Texas, $672 in Michigan, and $210 in New York. Its experience leaves no doubt that investments made in public institutions like the University of California system can remain critically important to economic growth decades later.
Here's the key paragraph:
The trouble with targeted incentives is that they are little more than transfers of wealth to a handful of powerful corporations from all other taxpayers, including other businesses. If the problem is excessive tax burdens on businesses in general, then the solution is broad tax reform that also benefits small business owners, who are more likely to stick around if the regional economy weakens and who are unlikely to hopscotch around the country in search of a bigger tax break.
Remember when the editorial page was at least semi-skeptical about subsidies for Atlantic Yards?

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