It’s Not About China, It’s About Corporate Welfare
During the special session of the Missouri Legislature, there was no shortage of personal attacks levied at individuals and organizations who dared to question the wisdom of offering more than $300 million in tax credits to corporate interests in the state.
As the St. Louis Business Journal put it: “…devotion to God, country and the region was [questioned] by almost anyone who dared question the planks of the China proposal.”
From today’s St. Louis American, which is generally sensitive to incorrect negative stereotypes: “…and some rhetorical heat was added by tea party types who created hysteria around a threatened ‘Chinese invasion’ of Missouri subsidized by Missouri taxpayers.”
The claim above is similar to those echoed in online forums and elsewhere that the widespread public opposition to the Aerotropolis tax credits was based on a fear of increased international trade with China, or that concerns voiced came from uninformed individuals.
Ostensibly, the purpose of the tax credits was to encourage increased international trade at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. However, the tax credit proponents made numerous claims that lacked evidence, or were flat out wrong.
I don’t dispute that well-informed individuals can disagree on a policy proposal. But throughout the past year, I have spoken to many community groups about tax credits and answered questions from many other individuals who were concerned about the Aerotropolis proposal. The accusation that those concerns are rooted in xenophobia is false. I am disappointed that some tax credit proponents have characterized the advocates for reform in that way.
Look, the primary concern I heard was genuine interest in encouraging legislators to abandon corporate welfare policies of the past. True, some focused specifically on the Aerotropolis tax credits. But many voiced skepticism and concern about tax credit programs in general — on the grounds that state government shouldn’t be favoring some industries or individuals over others.
I hope that when the legislature reconvenes in 2012, we can have a public debate regarding the merits of tax credit programs, instead of resorting to name-calling.