Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Is It Good Or Bad When Tax Breaks Flow Into Private Hands? Depends on Whose Hands Are Getting the Money 

It is no secret that I oppose public funding of, and tax breaks for, businesses owned by multimillionaires and billionaires. Some of my commentaries on this issue include Tax Revenues and D.C. Baseball, four years ago in Putting Tax Money Where the Tax Mouth Is, Taking Tax Money Without Giving Back: Another Reality, and Public Financing of Private Sports Enterprises: Good for the Private, Bad for the Public, Taking and Giving Back, If You Want a Professional Sports Team, Pay For It Yourselves; Don’t Grab Tax Dollars, Is Tax and Spend Acceptable When It’s “Tax the Poor and Spend on the Wealthy”?, Tax Breaks for Broken Promises: Not A Good Exchange, Tax Breaks for Wealthy People Who Pretend to Be Poor, When One Tax Break Giveaway Isn’t Enough, It’s Not Just Sports Franchise Owners Grasping at Tax Breaks, Grabbing Tax Breaks, Sports Franchises, Casinos, and Now, a Water Park, and Tax Breaks For Starving Team Owners.

So it’s no surprise that a reader brought to my attention the latest developments in a story to which I had been paying a bit of attention, namely, state and local financing and tax breaks to bring the Oakland Athletics to Las Vegas. As I ask each time billionaire team owners seek public financial assistance for their private businesses, if it can’t be done with the owner’s money then is it really worth doing? Governments should not be owning or financing professional sports teams. Though the owners and politicians line up to justify these arrangements as “doing good for the public” and “creating lots of jobs.” as I explained in Grabbing Tax Breaks, Sports Franchises, Casinos, and Now, a Water Park. “this reasoning would support tax breaks for almost everyone, thus destroying government and civilization.” In many instances, truly public government functions are underfunded or eliminated because of revenue shortages caused by the tax breaks handed out to the starving team owners. It’s interesting that the same groups opposed to “big” and “intrusive” government don’t seem to have any qualms about supporting the expansion of government to be a partner in private enterprise, especially when that expansion consists of public money ending up in private hands. Of course, if public money is ending up in the hands of impoverished individuals, the same anti-tax and anti-government advocates are quick to complain.

Why do these arrangements continue to be proposed and accepted, even when the majority of taxpayers are either opposed or indifferent to the activity being financed? It’s because those who have an unending appetite for money have the money necessary to persuade public officials to funnel tax breaks and, in some instances cash outlays, in their direction. There’s something very wrong with this, and the longer it goes uncorrected, the worse it will get. Down the road the nation will end up with private ownership of all government functions, with ownership limited to those with wealth sufficient to belong to the club.

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