It always amazes me that the first thing people want to cut when it comes to government budgets (federal, state, local) are safety nets for the poor and vulnerable. "Welfare" has somehow become a dirty word and refers to needless spending on those too lazy to pull themselves up out of whatever hole they're in. It never refers to spending on those who don't need it: you know, professional sports franchises who want a new stadium or they'll go elsewhere; large corporations who expect tax breaks and subsidies to keep the wheels of commerce spinning; agricorps who want crop subsidies to keep them growing food to ship across and even out of the country.
The New York Times recently published a three-part series on corporate welfare and what it costs the country. The gateway to that series is located here. The articles are well worth the read. Tom Eblen reflects on those articles in a commentary originally published in the Lexington Herald-Leader and featured at McClatchy DC.
When a poor person gets a government handout, it's called welfare. When a rich corporation gets one, it's called an economic development incentive.
With local, state and federal government budgets tighter than ever, social programs are getting a hard look. But what about corporate welfare?
The New York Times started a good conversation last week with a three-part investigative series called the United States of Subsidies. Reporter Louise Story spent 10 months analyzing corporate tax breaks, gifts and other incentives in all 50 states, which she figured add up to at least $80 billion in annual taxpayer subsidies to business. ...
...Incentives redirect billions of tax dollars to corporate bottom lines instead of to improving education, health, safety, infrastructure and making other public investments that will create genuine, long-term economic development. ...
The incentive system favors large corporations over small businesses — often the employers who are already in a community and aren't looking to leave. Officials have responded by coming up with some incentives for them, too, which just further drains government coffers.
How do we stop this racket, where cities and states compete to steal jobs from one another? It would be great if Congress could pass a law, but it probably can't. Still, with about 20 percent of state and local government budgets coming from federal dollars, somebody needs to be looking out for the national interest.
Labels: Corporate Welfare