If you want to feed sparrows, you can do it either by spreading the feed right on the ground, or by feeding the horse and letting the sparrows pick through what is left behind. Everyone knows which is more efficient.
Everyone except most current Michigan lawmakers and “economic development” officials.
To encourage economic growth, government can set low tax rates for everyone, so that everyone pays their share and more people keep more of what they earn. Or legislators can choose to tax everyone more, send the money to state government, then let bureaucrats and politicians pick and choose a few to get subsidized.
Unfortunately, the state of Michigan has increasingly chosen the latter path. This is bad policy. In economic terms, they are “feeding sparrows through the horse.”
Over the past few years, state legislators have approved hundreds of millions of dollars for select corporations – most notably a few large auto companies. Nearly $2 billion has been appropriated for just one program that hands out special perks, despite a record of failure when it comes to job creation. That’s on top of the $18.6 billion lawmakers have handed out over the past 20 years.
And at the end of the past few legislative terms, instead of cutting taxes for everyone, lawmakers have gone on a Christmastime spending spree. At the end of 2022, another billion dollars in pork spending was doled out to select groups. This includes $2 million to a curling center. Traverse City’s political leaders are getting $6 million for housing, $7 million for a senior center, and $350,000 to spend themselves. Michigan taxpayers are providing tens of millions of dollars to zoos and museums, as well as $300,000 to a Little League in Taylor. Millions have been handed out to private foundations, millions more for select local municipalities.
Not all curling centers in the state got government funding – just a few. The rest of the housing projects didn’t get favors. Other senior centers, zoos and museums weren’t favored. The rest of the private foundations had to raise money on their own. And all the other Little League families paid more money while just one town got these government goodies. Everyone else paid more so a few entities chosen by lawmakers could pay less.
Lawmakers themselves profit from these deals – not necessarily financially, but through press releases and by favoring special interests who in turn support them come election time. That’s why these programs continue, despite the lack of evidence for positive economic affects.
Permission to reprint this blog post in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author (or authors) and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy are properly cited.
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