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Why Can’t States Just Say No to Corporate Giveaways?

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Crop Circles in Colorado

The New York Times reports on a topic near and dear to our interests:

No place better illustrates the absurdities of the proliferating use of tax incentives for job creation than the Kansas City metro area, which straddles the Missouri-Kansas state line.

Over the past decade, Missouri and Kansas have offered more than $330 million in tax breaks to lure companies back and forth across State Line Road. More than 100 companies and more than 12,000 workers have moved to new offices, some headed east, some headed west. Missouri poached Swiss Re and Applebee’s; Kansas got JPMorgan Chase and AMC Entertainment.

The net result? No increase in economic activity; no improvement in the lives of workers. Just a few more jobs in Kansas, a few less in Missouri — and a big loss of tax dollars.

Corporate tax incentives are a dubious business. The giveaways frequently serve no higher purpose than rewarding businesses for moving where they already plan to move or creating jobs they already plan to create. And even when incentives prove motivational, there is often reason to question whether governments are getting value for the money.

The black comedy of corporate relocation across State Line Road is an extreme example, but it is by no means unique. Half of the nation’s 10 most populous metropolitan areas — New York, Chicago, Washington, Philadelphia and Boston — include portions of multiple states. So do smaller metro areas such as St. Louis; Charlotte, N.C.; Portland, Ore.; Cincinnati; and Memphis. And all are struggling to limit a practice that amounts to paying your furniture to rearrange itself.

(click here to continue reading Opinion | Can States Just Say No to Corporate Giveaways? – The New York Times.)

Fog Over Boeing HQ

A variant of the sports ball stadium boondoggle which we’ve also covered ad nauseam, corporate tax giveaways rarely, if ever, make sense in the long term. The politicians who vote for the tax giveaways are usually long gone, but the bill remains, payable by taxpayers. Consultants have raked in their consulting fees, businesses continue doing what they would have done, albeit with a slightly improved quarterly profit for a several years.

Salugula Pool

Not to mention, sometimes the corporation moves to somewhere else:

But the success stories tend to be celebrated while the failures are forgotten — and studies find that over time, the recipients of tax incentives are no more likely to create jobs or to drive investment than companies that don’t get a break. The plain truth is that governments have no special ability to predict which companies will thrive. Recipients of tax incentives aren’t even guaranteed to stay put. Missouri used $12.9 million in tax breaks to lure Applebee’s corporate headquarters from Kansas in 2011. Four years later, the company moved to California.

Why do politicians still lavish money on corporations for dubious reasons? Who knows, perhaps there should be a study of how many people involved in these sorts of decisions directly benefit from them within a decade. 

Written by Seth Anderson

July 9th, 2019 at 8:35 pm

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