Bill Knight column for Mon., Tues. or Wed., Dec. 23, 24 or 25
It’s past time for consumers and government, together and separately, to stand up and stop corporate blackmail.
ADM is moving from Decatur but only to Chicago, the company announced last week, even though it won’t receive the $30 million in tax breaks and other incentives it once sought from the state.
Good for them.
Meanwhile, Boeing is being courted by suitor states, who are lining up to meet the aircraft manufacturer’s demands for a site near a big airport on 300-plus acres of land that’s cheap or free, with massive buildings provided and corporate and property taxes reduced.
“They're asking for the moon," aerospace industry consultant Scott Hamilton of Leeham Company told the Associated Press.
Illinois in 2001 “won” a competition to land Boeing’s corporate headquarters, which moved to Chicago in exchange for state, county and local incentives of more than $36 million.
Illinois recently “lost” the merged Office Depot/Office Max sweepstakes, which will result in the newly formed corporation moving 1,600 jobs from Naperville to Florida. The State Senate early this month passed a $53 million Office Depot incentive package (on the same day a pension-reneging bill went through). However, the House didn’t vote on the measure. House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) days later finally came out against the practice of businesses “holding up” government.
“I find it very difficult to support tax giveaways for corporate CEOs and millionaire shareholders whose companies pay little in state taxes,” Madigan said. “I question our priorities when corporate handouts are demanded by companies that don’t pay their fair share while middle-class families and taxpayers face an increasing number of burdens.”
Companies’ manipulation of governments’ “business-friendly” concerns really just pits state against state or community against community, although more accurately corporations are setting public funds against other public funds. When government surrenders to such demands, everyday people pay for it – as we have for years. Good Jobs First, a national policy resource center, this summer reported that such megadeals in 1991 cost public treasuries $1.1 billion, but now it’s more than eight times as costly.
"This sort of competition between states to retain or attract firms is a race to the bottom," said Therese McGuire, a professor of management and strategy at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management in a conversation with the Chicago Tribune.
In the state level, some suggest that the federal government start discouraging the competition (and the national division it creates), instead stressing the “united” in United States of America by withholding federal highway funds from states that acquiesce to such corporate demands.
Another idea is for regular Americans to pay attention and stop shopping at whatever business, from an office-supply store to a pizza joint, that “blackmails” our state, county or local government – and the treasuries to which we contribute.
This nation is not yet the United Corporations of America.
[PICTURED: Graphic from GoodJobsFirst.org]