Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Why Do They Hate America?

Why do they hate America?

Why do they reject the principles of American free private enterprise, the marketplace, and rugged individualism?

Why do they advocate and practice State investment in, and control and ownership of, for-profit private enterprise?

Why do they think taking a gamble in Iowa's casinos is just good economic development, but taking a gamble on one's own business is too risky to ask of anyone without first providing them public subsidy?

Who am I talking about? The communists? The Italian fascists of World War II? The American socialists? The modern Taliban? Some corrupt third world country's dictator?


I'm talking about the Iowa City City Council and the editorial page of this morning's Gazette.

Why do they hate America? What do they have against courageous American entrepreneurs, stock holders and investors, venture capitalists, and bank loan officers?

Sixteen million of our money in a $40 million project?! [Hieu Pham, "Council Grants TIF to Project," Iowa City Press-Citizen, October 4, 2006, p. 1A.] And The Gazette thinks giving large corporations millions of dollars from Iowa's taxpayers is the way to grow the economy?! [Editorial, "Stay in the Game," The Gazette, October 4, 2006, p. 4A.]

Look, if these former free private enterprisers are so enthusiastic about putting tax money into their buddies' for-profit, private projects, why don't they have a special check off tax for the purpose, like we have on our tax returns for those who'd like to help fund political campaigns, or MidAmerican's voluntary check off called "I Care"? They can give all they like to the "Iowa Values Fund," TIFs and other Robin-Hood-in-reverse, taxpayer ripoff programs. That wouldn't bother me. But why make all the rest of us pay for it?

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not opposed to taxes. In fact, if we'd spend them wisely I'd be in favor of increasing tax support of public projects. Actually, I've always thought talk about "taxes" a deliberate diversion anyway; the issue isn't taxes, the issue is what programs we want to create, expand, cut or eliminate; and that, in turn, is a product of benefit-cost analyses, zero-based budgeting exercises, and skilled and attentive management oversight.

Put aside the costs, ethics and morality of subsidizing private enterprise; if all that doesn't bother you at least focus on the fact that such programs don't work. Our governor offered Maytag $100 million to stay. They left. In case after case, businesses given taxpayers' money went belly up, or never produced the promised jobs, economc growth, and increased tax revenues.

I would actually support economic growth programs that have been proven to work; programs that are fair, rational and benefit all businesses -- and citizens -- in the state of Iowa.

Those who've studied the matter say that business is attracted by a skilled workforce (which requires the uninonization, "liveable wage" minimums, universal single-payer health care, and other economic supports to keep workers here); it also requires quality, and affordable, K-12, community college and university systems (which will require more funding); good transportation systems (buses, trains, roads and bridges, Mississippi and other rivers); communication (reasonably priced broadband, quality newspapers, television and radio); forests, parks and trails (for hiking, biking, camping, hunting, fishing and boating, which will require some restrictions on the hog lot and fertilizer runoff that pollutes rivers, streams and lakes); the support for the arts that Richard Florida talks about, and so forth.

Build that and they will come.

But meanwhile, "Why do they hate America?"

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Nick said...

Don't miss State29's take on the latest Iowa City TIF this morning: State 29, "Iowa City Grants Another TIF Request for a Luxury High Rise," October 4, 2006, at

Anonymous said...

I was actually talking to a number of people about Richard Florida's ideas today, and they seemed generally supportive of the Hyronymous TIF.

For me, the difference with TIFs is that they are simply an agreement to not increase assessment value on a property for a period of years when that property is undergoing major development. It is not shifting money from taxpayers to developers. It is merely refusing to demand more money from developers immediately after they complete their development.

If we are going to rely on property taxes as a source of revenue, we also need to find a way to avoid the anti-development incentives produced by property taxes. One way to do that is through TIFs. I am certainly opposed to taxpayer funding, the use of eminent domain, and government financing for private development. However, TIFs seem like a far better alternative precisely because they do NOT involve taxpayer funding.