Beware the “public/private partnership. It’s just code for crony capitalism.
The Beacon Center, a libertarian think tank based in Nashville, has released a new film highlighting and describing the impact of corporate welfare in Tennessee. Starring University of Tennessee professor Glenn Reynolds, Rigged tells the story of small business owners in Memphis who were harmed by the massive tax breaks which the Shelby County government bestowed upon the furniture giant Ikea for opening a location in the Memphis area. The film has sparked a renewed focus on cronyism across the state.
Just recently, the four largest media firms in the state published the results of a ten month investigation into Tennessee’s subsidy and incentive programs. They found that the volunteer state’s corporate welfare programs amount to $2.5 billion annually. The Times Free Press reports that the Department of Economic and Community Development, whose raison d’être is to dole out state privileges, has increased its spending by 80 percent since Bill Haslam became Governor.
The investigation also lamented the lack of oversight and accountability. The Times Free Press concludes that it is impossible to conclude if these corporate welfare programs have succeeded even on their own metric, creating jobs. Some officials didn’t even have records of the size of their handouts. However, one does not need to have numbers to prove that cronyism is inherently detrimental to an economy.