Regulating State Tax Incentives

There Ought to be a Law was the title of an old Reader’s Digest humor column: every little pet peeve came in for a jokingly recommended law barring it.  Because More Government is always the solution.

Barton Swaim, in his Wall Street Journal op-ed, actually takes that seriously, and he wants to apply it to the idea of States and cities offering businesses tax incentives to get them to build in those jurisdictions.  He wants the Federal government to…regulate…what those State and local jurisdictions can do to entice businesses.

He’s even holding up the European Union as a paragon in this venue.

The European Union imposes significant restrictions on how much member states or regional governments can offer companies to entice them to expand or relocate.

This is the same EU, keep in mind, that is constantly trying to bully low-tax member nations to charge more and higher taxes, rather than encouraging high-tax member nations to lower and lessen theirs.

Never mind that, though.

Why couldn’t Congress impose a simplified version of this principle on state and local governments?

It’s true enough that many of those incentive deals the States and locals turn out to be lousy from the States’ and locals’ perspective.  Why, then, shouldn’t the Federal government dictate to the States and local governments what those bodies should do with their own citizens’ and residents’ money? For their own good, you see.  Besides, isn’t it the Federal government’s money, anyway, and not those citizens’ and residents’?

Be more like Europe, and be more infested with central diktats than we already are. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Because, after all, States (and the local jurisdictions within them), to paraphrase John Jay, have the same relationship to the Federal government that counties have to the States: mere political jurisdictions set up to facilitate enforcement of Federal laws.

Federal republic be damned.


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