Why should rich companies get corporate welfare to do stuff that thy already have decided to do?
The mainstream media occasionally notice that corporate welfare is regressive and perverse. Why should the state steal from the poor and give to the rich? Outright socialism almost makes more sense since the government simply gives benefits to the needy and, at least in theory, doesn’t give cash to big business.
Thus, columnist Michael Hiltzik writes in the L.A. Times, “Iowa’s handout to Apple illustrates the folly of corporate welfare deals.”
The deal will help make Iowa an “innovation and technology” hub, Gov. Kim Reynolds gushed. It will ensure development of a big parcel of open land that otherwise would have remained fallow, local development officials said. It was a bargain, according to civic leaders in Waukee, the Iowa community that will host the data center — after all, Apple will be contributing up to $100 million to a local infrastructure fund, starting with money to build a youth sports center.
We were highly skeptical of this deal when it was announced Aug. 24. In the fullness of time, we’ve subjected it to closer scrutiny. And now it looks even worse.
In a broader sense, the Apple deal shows the shortcomings of all such corporate handouts, nationwide. State and local governments seldom perform cost-benefit studies to determine their value — except in retrospect, when the money already has been paid out. They seldom explain why some industries should be favored over others — think about the film production incentives offered by Michigan, Louisiana, Georgia and, yes, Iowa, which never panned out as profit-makers for the states. They’re often negotiated in secret, as was the Iowa deal, then presented to taxpayers as faits accomplis — and often misleadingly.
These incentives often are an unnecessary bonus to companies that already have made a site location decision based on more important factors. Yet states and localities have persuaded themselves that the incentive packages are an indispensable lure to employers and that without them their economies will collapse.
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