January 17, 2013

Gotta Spend Money To Make Money?

My mom and I went to Las Vegas not long after I turned 21. I cannot remember why we chose Vegas, as neither of us are the nonchalant, carefree type to throw money on a table without an intense fear that we may never see it again. In fact, I do not remember much of that trip. But the most common advice I heard leading up to it was that I needed to play big to win big. (What they do not tell you is that you also can play big and lose big.)

Apparently, in other circumstances, you can play big and always win big if you know the right people and have enough money. Especially if your name is Paul McKee.

I recently wrote about the lack of progress on McKee’s NorthSide Regeneration project in North Saint Louis, despite the $40 million he has already received in tax credits.

One specific state tax credit, that only McKee is eligible for, is set to expire in April. But not if he can help it. Seventeen lobbyists registered on Monday to represent the NorthSide project, which the St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes is the same amount that represents Ameren Corp. and Anheuser –Busch, combined.

When will McKee end his relentless pursuit of tax credits?

Unfortunately, priorities shift when business becomes intertwined with the government. Relying on the government often incentivizes companies to hire people with the ability to work with government, not the ability to complete projects.

Ludwig Von Mises discusses this problem in Bureaucracy (pages 76-77, if you are interested). He writes, “Why bother about bringing out better and cheaper products if one can rely on support on the part of the government? For them [corporate executives] government contracts … and other government favors [are] the main concern.”

This reliance on government favors is not necessarily McKee’s fault; he did not create the system. But this is not an excuse to let it continue. We need to change the system that encourages businesses to spend significant resources on government lobbying instead of investing efforts into their business. It is time for Missouri to cease “business as usual” and put an end to corporate welfare.

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