So why have state and local governments given Amazon $241 million to build facilities that they couldn't build anywhere else? Why did Houston give $7 million for a warehouse that had to be here anyway?
That's the question taxpayers should be asking, says Greg LeRoy, the executive director of Good Jobs First, a group that opposes corporate welfare and collected the tax incentive data.
None of these deals ever produces the economic shot-in-the-arm that proponents promise. But what makes Amazon's incentives so infuriating is that they follow years of Amazon not collecting local sales taxes. That helped destroy brick-and-mortar retail stores and cripple local governments that have seen sales tax receipts drop.
The mind-boggling question is why would a local official give Amazon anything? It's not as if Amazon can make next-day deliveries to Houston from Louisiana. These warehouses must be in these communities to provide the service that Amazon is offering.Now that Amazon is getting into the delivery business, it must collect sales tax. So now, Amazon is demanding property tax breaks.
"Some public officials have figured Amazon out," LeRoy said. "Now it's time for all of them to say no more deals."
This is not a liberal position, by the way, but a conservative one. Conservatives believe that government should not interfere in the private market place, or pick winners and losers.
Also, these tax breaks are not free. When local governments cut taxes on a few companies, they are making every other company pay more. If local officials have too much money on their hands, they should cut taxes on all businesses, not just a few.
The best way a community can attract a responsible business is to offer safe housing, educated workers, good roads and public safety. Imagine what our nation would be like if governments concentrated on those priorities rather than seeing who can give away the most money to an individual corporation.