And taxes for free!
Let’s consider the news that two developer groups, including one headed by Springs resident Bill Schuck, are racing to see which one gets to build a mega-speedway east of Denver. The winner gets an annual tax break estimated at $50 million, thanks to a bill that was whooped through the legislature and currently awaits the governor’s signature.
I know, I know – stock car racing is big business, we don’t have anything like a Nascar track in Colorado, and none of our intrepid entrepreneurs would risk building such a facility without fat government subsidies. Think of the jobs! Think of the economic development!
Let’s see just how this might work. Look at the twin Taxpayer Fields in Denver, playgrounds of our beloved Broncos and our slightly less beloved Rockies.
Do they benefit the city’s economy? Sure. Could the public’s money, whether in cash or tax credits, have been invested more effectively and more efficiently?
That we’ll never know, because of the way that these government handouts are created, structured, and promoted.
Here’s the way it works: powerful, ad hoc interest groups are formed that have the moxie, the cash, and the clout to push through their particular agendas. Dissenting voices, if any, are marginalized, as in “What? You don’t want the Broncos to have a glittering new stadium, and compete for the Super Bowl?”, or “What? You don’t want our city to be transformed by a Major League baseball team?” and now “What? You don’t want to give an insignificant, no-cost tax break to the noble souls who are struggling to bring us the People’s Sport??!! Vroom, vroom-get out of our way!!”
Such subsidies are, supporters tell us, ideal in good times or bad. Times are good: we can afford it- whatever it is! Times are bad: it’s all about economic development!
No, it’s not. It’s all about shoveling tax dollars into private businesses and hope that, through some mysterious process, the public good is served.
Sometimes it is – and sometimes it isn’t.
Consider the sparkling new stadium that houses the Broncos. Mile High Stadium was, we were told, rickety and unprofitable, so down it came.
It was also noisy and intimate, giving the Broncos an unequaled home field advantage. Now, legions of disinterested chardonnay-sippers sit quietly in their luxury suites, and visiting teams enjoy a polite, civilized silence.
Super Bowl? That’s so 1998!! Let those uncouth Steelers win – we’ve got a better stadium, and that’s what really matters!
That ain’t workin’/That’s the way you do it/Money for nothin’/'Cause taxes are free.
With apologies to Mark Knopfler.