Missing the Point on Corporate Welfare


June 27, 2016 2:58PM

If politicians and journalists displayed the same knack for their professions as they do for missing the point, a Cicero would fill every Senate seat, and Pulitzers would populate every newsroom.

But missing the point is a bipartisan phenomenon, and flourishes in every discussion from fixing potholes to income inequality.

It is therefore typical that this would happen in response to the launch of Beacon’s newest website, which details the nearly $3 billion in taxpayer handouts Tennessee has given to corporations and CEOs since 2005. Most notably, Tennessee’s top three recipients–Nashville, Chattanooga, and Clarksville–stand out sharply, each having diverted more than double of your dollars into the pockets of CEO’s compared to Memphis, which ranked fourth.

Unfortunately, we have our work cut out for us in communicating the real point, especially to those who are as scandalized by our findings as we are. For example, some commenters have asked whether our findings should spark debate about whether legislators have been too stingy with other cities compared to Chattanooga, Nashville, and Clarksville. That is, among those of us who believe corporate handouts to be unfair, some will argue the case on grounds that more should have been handed out in total.

If missing the point were an event in the Summer Olympics, this would take the gold.

By supporting corporate welfare, both conservatives and liberals actively cripple their own worldviews. Corporate welfare is unfair, because when government selects winners, they artificially create losers. If you are a free market conservative, you cannot support this activity without undermining your principles. Corporate welfare is immoral, because it involves taking from one Tennessean and giving it to another to whom it does not belong. And how much worse is it to know that they are taking from the poor and middle-class and giving to the rich? If you are a liberal who cares about income inequality, you cannot support this activity without undermining your principles.

Tennesseans should forbid its legislators from giving handouts to corporations, because it is immoral and unfair. And if morality and fairness is what we want, then every city in Tennessee should receive the same amount: Zero.

That’s the point.