In our 24/7 news world, it now seems as though we also have a 365/52 political season. We went through our county, state and national elections in November and just got done with our city elections this month. Now contenders are already lining up to become the next president of the United States. It never ends.
Nor does the constant droning from every candidate they’re all about one thing (when they aren’t about something else): creating jobs. From city council candidates to county commissioners to state reps in Denver to our representatives in Washington to the new presidential hopefuls, the message of “creating an economy that creates good-paying jobs for the middle class” will be bandied about as often as you;ll see photo ops of these same folks with “hard-working Americans” to make themselves look good. It’s the same with jobs programs. Politicians, with the ever-present pomp and circumstance, will talk about the good they;re doing while actually not doing much good at all.
For the millionth time this needs to be said: Politicians can’t create jobs. They can only use taxpayer money to fund jobs on the backs of taxpayers. And those jobs can only be maintained by exacting those same tax dollars year after year. Another truism is that corporations don’t pay taxes. They collect taxes and pass the cost of taxes on to their customers. But spreading the huge cost of any tax burden onto a larger taxpaying base in small ways is a favorite trick of politicians to get votes, just as it is used by businesses out of tax-paying necessity. How else do you think businesses pay 40 percent of profits in taxes and we get theaters downtown?
The latest in a long line of “public/private” schemes to come up Colorado’s pike in the realm of job creation is something called Tax-Free Colorado. I recently sat through a presentation on the program, and I’m sure you’ll be seeing more about it in the coming weeks and months, including in this edition of the Business Times. Tax-Free Colorado is based on what some consider a successful program in New York state where new businesses that open a facility in that state can run tax-free for the first 10 years they’re there. Proponents will talk about how new businesses can’t compete with any other business in the state. They’ll point to the fact that in New York, more than 23,000 businesses applied in that state and only about 100 got approved. They’ll say how the program’s “good paying” jobs will benefit other businesses in the community, and finally, that citizens can be assured every possible scenario has been thought of and covered for Colorado’s version save one: Who pays the taxes these companies aren’t paying?
All in all, politicians and proponents claim the New York program to be a very successful and, therefore, one we should have in Colorado. This claim is being made across party lines and across the state. As a matter of fact, we were hard pressed at the Business Times to even find politicians who weren’t in favor of bringing Tax-Free Colorado into fruition. This includes folks on our city council, our county commissioners and our state representatives. They’re all lined up to jump on the bandwagon. I guess this just proves two undeniable facts: That business will line up for free stuff just like politicians will line up to give it away. And when that happens, the little guy, the hard-working Americans, the middle class better hang on to their wallets, because there goes another penny or two out of your hard-earned dollars to fund someone’s folly.
The question is not whether the state can do a program like Tax-Free Colorado. It can. It’s whether or not it should do another program when we already have so many. The bigger question is just who’s going to pay the taxes these new companies aren’t paying? Who covers their property taxes every year for 10 years? Who pays the payrolls taxes not being paid? By the way, that’s payroll taxes times thousands of employees times 10 years. Who pays the unemployment tax burden for these companies? Especially since they won’t be liable until they pull up stakes like so many do after their tax-free grace period is up. The answer is simple: we do.
So do we need Tax-Free Colorado because all of a sudden politicians understand that operating tax-free is a great way to create jobs? Well then, Mr. and Ms. Politician, why isn’t what’s good for the geese you’ll woo with incentive after incentive also good for us ganders already here who struggle under your tax burdens? Why aren’t you working hard every day to eliminate our tax burden, instead of giving it away to someone new? Because while your photo op with Jimmy’s Techno Widgets’ move to Mesa County might come with 30, 50, heck, let’s say 250 new jobs, what are you going to do about the thousands of jobs that have left our area and the numerous local small businesses that continue to go under?
I’d guess same as always, because a picture in front of a closed company or a going out of business sale tends to be bad optics come campaign time.