There's rising worry that corporations are taking over America. But after reviewing a slew of the bids by cities and states wooing Amazon's massive second headquarters, I don't think "takeover" quite captures what's going on.
More like "surrender."
Chicago has offered to let Amazon pocket $1.32 billion in income taxes paid by its own workers. This is truly perverse. Called a personal income-tax diversion, the workers must still pay the full taxes, but instead of the state getting the money to use for schools, roads or whatever, Amazon would get to keep it all instead.
"The result is that workers are, in effect, paying taxes to their boss," says a report on the practice from Good Jobs First, a think tank critical of many corporate subsidies. [...]
The most far-reaching offer is from Fresno, California. That city of half a million isn't offering any tax breaks. Instead it has a novel plan to give Amazon special authority over how the company's taxes are spent.
Fresno promises to funnel 85 percent of all taxes and fees generated by Amazon into a special fund. That money would be overseen by a board, half made up of Amazon officers, half from the city. They're supposed to spend the money on housing, roads and parks in and around Amazon. [...]
Is it even legal to give a company direct sway over civic spending like that? When asked about it, Fresno's economic-development director threw the public interest under the bus.
"Rather than the money disappearing into a civic black hole, Amazon would have a say on where it will go," he told the Los Angeles Times. "Not for the fire department on the fringe of town, but to enhance their own investment in Fresno."
You poor fools out on the fringe of town. All this time you've been paying your taxes, thinking it was for the broader public good. Suckers.
"It feels like a dicey moment for the 'civic black hole.' Also known as democracy."
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