Are economic incentives constitutional?

Are politicians so desperate for more taxes that they have turned into outlaws?  Are corporations so desperate for relief from government taxation that they have turned into extortionists? Have both–politicians and corporations– teamed up to raid the treasuries to benefit themselves?  Redistributing wealth has become the goal of both parties and all sectors of government using the lame excuse of “Economic Development.”  Who pays the price for this “redistribution?”  Answer: All of the rest of us.

The phrase “Economic Development” today actually means corporate welfare, AKA Fascism.  “Economic Development” is so popular among our politicians that we have now set up “Economic Development” offices within all levels of government: city, county, state, and federal.  “Economic Development” has become discriminatory subsidization, not a legitimate function of government. And always under the guise that, “If government doesn’t do it, nothing will happen.”  Happy is the business that gets the goodies with the ‘blessings” of politicians.  The rest are out of luck.

We have people in our local government who live and breathe this method of subsidizing favored businesses and activities.  Jan Winters, CountyManager, has recommended subsidizing industries and /or development several times and gained politicians’ support.  He threatens that we are in competition with other counties and other states to keep or gain industries in GastonCounty, so therefore, he recommends that you and I must pony up some goodies to achieve his goals. Donnie Hicks, Director of the Economic Development Commission, is of the same mind. The EDC is a hybrid, quasi government organization, partnered with the Gaston Regional Chamber of Commerce, and is a supposed facilitator of government friendly business policies. But what does that mean?  Recently we were asked to believe that we must fork over electric rate credits (for “Operation Tulip”), or leasing contracts (for the Loray/Firestone Mill), or taxpayer guaranteed loans (Kirby enterprise downtown and the Loray/ Firestone Mill), all for the sake of saving or attracting business in our area.  Apparently “Economic Development” means that certain businesses can’t thrive without taxpayer-funded subsidies.  But all businesses are not created equal according to the EDC or our CountyManager–just the ones who “win” favors from our local government.

What is wrong with this picture?  Those businesses that don’t receive these goodies are forced to subsidize the ones who “win.”  The collective, meaning all of us, are co-opted (forced) to financially support the “winners.”  Politicians swear to uphold the Constitution, and market themselves as purveyors of fiscally sound policies… but when it comes time to stick to those principles these same politicians suddenly turn a blind eye to that Constitution and take the path of stealing from the collective to hand out the goodies to the few.  (Yes, I said, “stealing.”) Their desperate justification, they say, is to increase the tax base. I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe the Constitutional function of government is to increase the tax base in order to rule over us, creating winners and losers. In fact, I know that is not the Constitutional function of government.

The sales pitch is: “When businesses thrive here, we all win.”  But, in reality, it is only a few chosen businesses that get the subsidies, credits, and favors.  Is that equal protection under the law?  (Obviously not.)  Does this create a level playing field? (Obviously not.)  After all of the handouts, tax breaks, incentives, site preparations, real estate gifts, and government-backed loans, has the overall economic health of our area improved?  Or the nation?  What is the evidence?

Desperation for power and money makes for strange bedfellows and very bad policies.  The simple solution to “Economic Development” is staring everyone in the face, but our politicians and their corporate bedfellows refuse to allow it to happen.  The solution is to quit this corruption and abuse of government force through taxation and incentives, and get out of the “Economic Development” business altogether. A level playing field would create a thriving atmosphere for all comers.  Of course, that means the unholy alliance between government and corporations would have to give up subsidies and power and live by the same rules as everyone else. And as we all know, desperados living on other people’s money don’t willingly give up power.

Cheryl Pass lives in Gaston County, and writes an occasional column for the Guardian. Visit her blog at

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