Flyover: What's the American job worth?

Monday, February 12, 2018
MPR News (National Public Radio)

As bids pour in to host Amazon's second headquarters, so do the promises of huge tax breaks. At least 118 cities across the country want Amazon HQ2 and all the jobs it'd bring, reports The Seattle Times, the retail giant's hometown newspaper, and nearly 30 of those cities are offering tax breaks of over $100 million.

But look more broadly into these types of deals — you could call them corporate welfare, or public investment for the future — and $100 million is relatively miniscule. Wisconsin's offering a $3 billion incentive package for the Taiwan-based Foxconn company to build a flat-screen TV plant. New York state gave aluminum producer Alcoa some $5 billion in tax breaks. Boeing could get more than $8 billion in tax breaks from Washington state.

Of course, many of these big corporate incentives are for manufacturing, which for generations fueled our economy and defined our national identity. But as the economic landscape shifts, an important question arises: are these deals worth it? Chances are your town or state has seen significant public investment in corporate incentives and attempts at job creation.

This week's guests include:

  • Shawn Johnson — reporter for Wisconsin Public Radio.
  • Matthew Mitchell — director of the "Project for the Study of American Capitalism" at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.
  • William "Sandy" Darity — founding director, Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity and Samuel DuBois Cook Professor of Public Policy, African and African American Studies, and Economics at Duke University.

Listen here.