North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

Community News Network

December 26, 2013

States should rethink big tax breaks to companies, economists say

Sometime early next year, Boeing will make one state very happy and more than a dozen others very sad. It will select the location for a new manufacturing plant to build its 777X airliner, gifting what it promises will be thousands of good-paying jobs to the winner.

Those jobs are shaping up to be one of the most sought-after economic development prizes of 2014. Every state that covets them is, at Boeing's urging, preparing a package of tax breaks and other government incentives, reaching into the billions of dollars. It's the latest example of a decade-long trend: As good jobs have become harder to find, states have approved bigger economic handouts to attract or keep individual companies.

New economic research suggests that's often not a good idea, and it implies that states could be bidding too much to attract the Boeing plant.

Two economists — Owen Zidar, a doctoral candidate at the University of California at Berkeley, and Juan Carlos Suarez Serrato, a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University — write in a forthcoming paper that companies aren't nearly as mobile as economists have long assumed. Cutting taxes, they conclude, might not be the best way to boost firms' bottom lines and keep them around.

As Zidar put it in a recent interview, the research "throws some cold water" on the idea that higher tax rates on businesses always push companies away, whether to other states or other countries.

"Corporate taxes," he said, "aren't as bad as we thought."

Economic models have long assumed that taxing businesses hurts workers and local economies because companies can operate more or less anywhere and workers can't always move to follow the jobs.

The growing concern that any big employer could pack up and leave town has led states to approve lucrative incentive packages to attract or retain companies. Indiana recently cut corporate taxes and has aggressively courted companies from neighboring Illinois, following the example of Texas. Oregon, on the other hand, called a special legislative session last year to approve a tax-incentive package mainly targeted at retaining Nike's headquarters.

Text Only
Community News Network
  • sleepchart.jpg America’s sleep-deprived cities

    Americans might run on sleep, but those living in the country's largest cities don't appear to run on much.

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Who should pay for your kids ACT?

    Thirteen states paid for 11th-grade students in all public high schools to take the ACT college admission test this year, with several more planning to join them in 2015.

    August 20, 2014

  • Pets.jpg Why do people look like their pets?

    As much as we might quibble over the virtues and vices of Canis domesticus, however, and over whether human nature is any better or worse than dog nature, even dog fanciers don't usually want to look like a dog.

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ice bucket challenge trending up

    Internet trends are a dime a dozen these days. Everything from Tebowing to planking to the cinnamon challenge can cause a wave of social media activity that can last for weeks before fizzling out.

    August 19, 2014

  • Africa goes medieval in its fight against Ebola

    As the Ebola epidemic claims new victims at an ever-increasing rate, African governments in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia have instituted a "cordon sanitaire," deploying troops to forcibly isolate the inhabitants in an area containing most of the cases.

    August 18, 2014

  • Democrat? Republican? There's an app for that

    If you're a Republican, you might want to think twice before buying Lipton Iced Tea, and forget about Starbucks coffee. If you're a Democrat, put down that Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, and throw away the cylinder of Quaker Oats in your pantry.

    August 18, 2014

  • Five myths about presidential vacations

    In the nuclear age, presidents may have only minutes to make a decision that could affect the entire world. They don't so much leave the White House as they take a miniature version of it with them wherever they go.

    August 15, 2014

  • Can 6 seconds launch a career? A generation of Vine stars sure hopes so.

    A year ago, Shawn Mendes filmed himself singing a tentative acoustic cover of the Justin Bieber song "As Long as You Love Me" and put the results on Vine. He wasn't expecting much response. "I didn't really want anything to happen; I just kind of wanted to see what people would think," says Mendes, 16. "I posted that first Vine and woke up the next morning with 10,000 followers. That was pretty cool."

    August 14, 2014

  • Freshman.jpg 8 crucial tips for college freshmen

    With school starting back up around the country, no one has a bigger deer-in-the-headlights look than college freshmen.

    August 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • A night in Ferguson

    For the past week in Ferguson, reporters have been using the McDonald's a few blocks from the scene of Michael Brown's shooting as a staging area. Demonstrations have blown up each night nearby.

    August 14, 2014