Tuesday, January 01, 2013

What was wrong with the New York Times's article on green cards for investments (EB-5) in Vermont

Several people have asked why I haven't commented on the prominent New York Times article yesterday headlined Lure of Green Cards Brings Big Investments for Remote Resort in Vermont, a rosy portrait of developer Bill Stenger's ambitious plans to raise money through the federal government's EB-5 program.

The article had huge gaps, as I indicated on Twitter.  I tried to post a comment on the Times's web site, but it was rejected, presumably for technical reasons. (And after I tried to re-post fairly quickly, it may have triggered a filter.)

Here it is:
This article fails to offer serious scrutiny of the EB-5 program and its application in Vermont.

There's no mention of the well-publicized controversy--in Vermont, and in EB-5 circles--in which Stenger's former visa broker publicly cut ties:
http://eb5info.web11.hubspot.com/bid/126868/EB-5-Visa-Agent-Broker-Rapid-Visas-denounces-Jay-Peak
http://www.7dvt.com/2012vermont-eb-5-visas

Nor is there mention of Stenger's savings: the value of a low-interest loan via EB-5 versus how much such financing would cost on the market. That should be factored into the public policy equation: the savings to the developer/entrepreneur vs. the perceived public benefit from new jobs/tax revenues.

As for whether the visa program allows rich foreigners to jump the line, Stenger's a rather self-serving authority. Of course, they're buying their way into the country.

Analysts like Michael Sandel think that's bad enough. Given that countries like Canada and Australia have somewhat similar programs, it's understandable why the U.S. competes.

One key difference: programs in Canada and Australia have the would-be immigrants buy plain vanilla government bonds, thus avoiding the Rube Goldberg-like EB-5 program, which generates big sums to the middlemen--lawyers, overseas brokers--and big savings to the entrepreneur.

Follow the money.

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