Rebecca talks with Pat Garofalo, author of The Billionaire Boondoggle: How Our Politicians Let Corporations and Bigwigs Steal Our Money. But first — Indivisible’s Chad Bolt and CAP senior advisor Jesse Lee swing by the studio to recap Trump’s latest budget. Subscribe to Off-Kilter on iTunes.
“From stadiums and movie productions to casinos and mega-malls to convention centers and hotels, cities and states have paid out billions of dollars in tax breaks, subsidies, and grants to the world’s corporate titans. They hope to boost their economies, create new and better jobs, and lure well-known events such as the Super Bowl — not to mention give their officials the chance to meet celebrities. That Big Entertainment drives bigger economies is a myth, however. Overwhelming evidence shows catering public policy to its promises results in a raw deal for the taxpaying public.” Rebecca talks with Pat Garafalo, managing editor of TalkPoverty.org, about his new book out this week, The Billionaire Boondoggle: How Our Politicians Let Corporations and Bigwigs Steal Our Money.
But first — Rebecca is joined by Indivisible’s Chad Bolt and CAP senior advisor Jesse Lee for a recap of another billionaire boondoggle, aka Trump’s latest budget proposal, Part I of which was released this week. And yes — they make it into a drinking game.
This week’s guests:
- Pat Garofalo, managing editor, TalkPoverty.org and author, The Billionaire Boondoggle
- Chad Bolt, associate policy director, Indivisible
- Jesse Lee, senior advisor, Center for American Progress
For more on this week’s topics:
- Dig into Pat’s book, The Billionaire Boondoggle
- Get up to speed on the slew of proposed cuts to survival programs in Trump’s latest Cruelty Olympics budget
- Reminder: While Trump’s budget may be DOA now that Dems have taken back the House… his proposed SNAP cuts pose a *very* live threat because he’s trying to sidestep Congress to ram them through (have you submitted your comment at handsoffSNAP.org yet?)
This week’s transcript:
REBECCA VALLAS (HOST): Welcome to Off Kilter, the show about poverty, inequality and everything they intersect with powered by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. I’m Rebecca Vallas. This week on Off Kilter, I talk with Pat Garofalo, managing editor of TalkPoverty.org and a friend of the show about his new book just out this week. It’s called The Billionaire Boondoggle: How Our Politicians Let Corporations and Bigwigs Steal Our Money and Jobs. May be clear what the book is about but it takes a look at how our current public policies let the entertainment industry bilk taxpayers and hurt economic investment starting and ending with President Trump.
But first, oh, hey guys, hey Chad, Chad what’s up, you coming into the radio studio?
CHAD BOLT: I’m back again for another week.
VALLAS: I love how you said that and was like why is she pretending to be surprised? I’m here every week.
BOLT: I’ve been here for fifteen minutes now.
VALLAS: OK, the shade, the shade is high on this episode, maybe I’ll look for someone who is nicer to me. Oh hey Jesse, how are you?
JESSE LEE: Hey, it’s good to be back how are you? Just saw the party and wanted to stumble in.
VALLAS: Jesse Lee going along with the schtick because he’s nicer to me than Chad, see Chad? That’s what I’m talking about.
BOLT: I’ve been on the show maybe too many weeks in a row.
VALLAS: Is that a threat or that a complaint? It’s hard to tell.
BOLT: Nothing but love.
VALLAS: Well I am really excited to have both of you guys here and also a bottle of wine and some cups because we’re all really sick of having to deal with these cruelty Olympics Trump budgets that come out every single year and in years like this one they come out twice, we get another one next week so we’re actually just in warm-up mode right now. But I really appreciate you guys being down to do this. I think the only way that could be described as the right way to talk about the Trump budget and that is you guessed it, wait Chad, you’re not going to help with the drumroll, you’re just going to hold your hands up weirdly in the air and look at me? Thank you, thank you, we’re going to do this as a drinking game, that’s right folks. That feels like the right thing because of both the level of seriousness that this budget deserves but also because it is where we are in terms of our mental state and approach to such a horrible scorched earth document. So with that you guys came up with some rules for what this should be, right?
BOLT: We did.
VALLAS: You want to enlighten us Chad?
BOLT: So first one is any time we get to a part of the budget that breaks a promise Trump made at some point.
VALLAS: So we’re going to be wasted.
BOLT: Yeah there’s only a few of them.
VALLAS: Only a few of them, oh man, it’s a good thing this is not the whole episode. This is just a segment. Alright, so that’s drink once.
BOLT: Yes, drink twice is anything that meets the criteria both is a really cruel proposal but also a really stupid proposal.
VALLAS: Oh excellent, shout out to Alex Lawson for that one, the cruel and stupid test, a time honored classic.
BOLT: We may find a few of those.
VALLAS: We might find a few of those, I would agree. And then I think there’s a third rule too, right Jesse?
LEE: Yeah, I think the third rule was you have to drink three times any time you come across $25 billion monument to hatred on our Southern border.
VALLAS: Oh OK.
LEE: Just in case.
VALLAS: Just hypothetically.
LEE: You never know, somewhere on page 782 clause three there might be one of those.
VALLAS: Is it actually 782 clause 3?
BOLT: Please, do you think Trump put out a 782 page budget?
VALLAS: I thought you were going to say do you think Jesse actually read the budget and I was about to say I hope so booked him for this segment. [LAUGHTER] Well putting aside the plausibility of both those hypotheticals.
BOLT: We’ll see.
VALLAS: We’ve got three rules to work with, alright, so Jesse before we actually do anything that causes us to drink as I pour a little bit of this into some cups and I would just like to acknowledge what we’re drinking. It’s an old vine red, it’s actually a fire wine, I think you guys will like this one, 2008. So Jesse give us a little bit of context for this budget. Before we get into specific cruel cuts, what’s going on here?
LEE: I mean first of all kudos on the product placement on the wine. Very impressive. Second of all, to me the overwhelming thing that you can’t miss here but I think we’ve all taken for granted is Trump ran as this different kind of Republican, this populist, this economic nationalist, whatever that is, Steve Bannon, $1 trillion infrastructure, I’ll never touch Social Security, Medicare, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and I’ll raise taxes on the rich. And you look at these budgets and you look at what he’s done as president and it turned out to be one giant fraud. And you can’t blame people for making that sound really good. Mind you, he won the Republican primary on these promises. This wasn’t some big pivot after he won the nomination like that’s how he beat the entire Republican field was promising to be a complete different kind of Republican. And this budget basically just does the exact opposite of everything he promised to do.
VALLAS: The quote that everyone brings up in these budget moments and really does need to be tattooed on Trump somewhere so that he can’t walk around without being able to escape this is he pledged to fight for the forgotten man and the forgotten woman. Those were the words that he chose and he used them in his stump speech and he used them in his debates and he used them in his first ever speech before the country as president, his inauguration. And he’s used them since in the State of the Union. He continues to utter those words and yet those are as you’re describing exactly the people who lose the biggest in these budgets and in his entire policy agenda year after year. But Chad before we get into the individual cuts here and people might be wondering do I not want to get started drinking, is that what’s going on? I sound like I’m delaying. No these are important.
BOLT: It’s coming up, it’s right around the corner.
VALLAS: These are important context points I think for the cuts. You should I think because you like taxes, you like to talk about taxes, help us remind us a little bit of the other context going on here for this budget, which is the tax law.
BOLT: As Jesse said to his point, this isn’t some different brand or Trump being a different kind of Republican. This is classic Republican playbook. It is another attempt at repealing the ACA and it follows the other classic Republican agenda item which is cut taxes for the wealthy and corporations. So let’s not forget that this budget is being put out just 15 months after passage of the tax law that blew a $2 trillion hole in the deficit. This budget is basically Trump now saying the bill has come due for the tax law and he’s got a very specific point of view as to who should be paying it.
VALLAS: So let’s getting right into that and actually Chad one point that we talked about on last week’s show but I feel like is really helpful in this tax context is about the new numbers out of Treasury telling us that the deficit ballooned 77% in fiscal year 2018. That is what we’re watching this tax law do in real time. So it’s not just us saying it, it’s not just people forcasting it, we are watching this happen, live look at deficit ballooning, that’s what happening and so maybe this is the segue we were all looking for, the fact that this budget on page after page makes everything it cuts about reducing the deficit and it doesn’t just do it in a couple spots, that is a through line throughout this document.
BOLT: That’s exactly right.
VALLAS: Whines about the deficit, whines about how we can’t afford things and what it’s doing to the country, it completely opts to engage in selective amnesia by forgetting intentionally. So that it’s Trump’s own administration that caused the deficit in the first place.
BOLT: Yes this did not happen by accident. For example, corporate tax receipts are down in 2018 alone $135 billion less than projected pre-TCJA. So this wasn’t an accident, it didn’t come out of nowhere this is a direct result and his own budget director has said so before congress, this happened because of the tax law so that’s the context for everything that we’re about to talk about.
VALLAS: So let’s start with the big three, the programs Trump claimed never to cut or promised never to cut. Of course that starts off with Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, spoiler he cuts all of them in this budget and significantly. So is that drink once or three times?
BOLT: I think it’s three times. Because it was a promise not to cut Social Security, he does that, a promise not to cut Medicaid, I mean he would destroy it in this budget as we know it and obviously not to cut Medicare and he does that too.
VALLAS: So Medicare is a new one here, so let’s actually start with that. Medicare he cuts by upwards of $800 billion, we should note we don’t know everything we want to know in this budget because of what I mentioned before it’s a two parter. If Trump has learned anything from the deeply unpopular budget rollouts he’s had in the last two years. It’s not that his budgets are unpopular because he’s doing the opposite of what the American people want. He appears to have learned the wrong lesson, which was hide your cuts better.
VALLAS: So that’s what he’s learned how to do in a two part budget release with all the detail hat we wonks need next week, what we’ve got right now is toplines but we do know he wants to cut Medicare by $845 billion, I think I got that right?
BOLT: That’s just a staggering figure and again without the details that typically accompany a budget release, which we did not get this time, it leaves me wondering are they relying on the same Medicare voucher-ization that Republicans have tried to put for a decade plus now at this point. We don’t know but that’s the kind of thing that one imagines they’re up to when he puts forward cuts of that staggering magnitude.
VALLAS: And Jesse, he cuts Social Security too and that’s not new.
LEE: Yeah, it’s kind of baffling that especially given that I don’t know I don’t think anybody thinks Trump actually cares about the deficit.
LEE: Right so why go ahead and endorse these things? I think people still want to believe the real Trump is the guy that was on the campaign trail and he would never actually do these things. Well it’s his budget, he’s got every opportunity to tell Mulvaney, remember when I said don’t cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid? Don’t actually do that, you know?
VALLAS: You mean like he’s the president and people have to listen to him?
LEE: I understand executive time is very exhausting and time consuming. It also cuts infrastructure, so this supposed to be his big thing, in his state of the union I want to do a big infrastructure package, I can’t wait, why would Democrats hold a hearing on my corruption when we could do infrastructure together. Then he puts out a budget and it cuts infrastructure. And the Medicare thing is amazing to me too. I was in the Obama administration when we had to hear Republicans screaming about the quote, unquote “Medicare cuts” in the ACA that were actually basically ending these corrupt overpayments to Medicare Advantage. And there was a lot of discussion about the Medicare cuts in the wake of this, Democrats should be on the level and not just accuse him of cutting it. well Medicare Advantage was a unique corrupt giant scam. There’s not just every time you turn up a couch cushion there’s $800 billion in Medicare money under it.
VALLAS: Well maybe in Wilbur Ross’s couch cushions. The man wears velvet loafers.
BOLT: $800 billion it’s in his velvet loafers.
VALLAS: I don’tknow how else you buy, we should change the metaphor, and in Wilbur Ross’s velvet loafers they found $850 billion — sorry keep going.
BOLT: There’s no drinking by the way for mentions of Wilbur Ross.
VALLAS: I’m drinking anyway.
LEE: I mean that’s just a life rule.
VALLAS: What kind of a drinking game doesn’t allow drinking in between drinking rounds? Chad, you are so fired. Keep going Jesse.
LEE: You look at the ACA repeal, you look at the Medicaid, gutting Medicaid and it’s funny because I watched him on the campaign trail talk about oh, Democrats want to give everybody health care and it’s socialism. Well how did he get elected, what was his health care platform? His health care platform was everybody is going to have health insurance and government’s going to pay for it. That was the quote and that’s what he’s calling socialism now while he tries to strip literally tens of millions of people of health care.
VALLAS: I Think we have to drink for that.
LEE: Yes, yes that qualifies.
VALLAS: He also said and one of the quotes I find ringing in my head when I see these budgets is he promised that quote, “nobody would be dying in the streets.”
VALLAS: Which might sound histrionic but is exactly what happens when you take away people’s health insurance, and also their food and also their housing conveniently because that is what this budget does all at the same time.
BOLT: Yeah, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, obviously the health care space, a huge area where there are tremendous cuts in this budget but obviously it’s no limited to that. Housing, food, you name it, anything that helps people meet the basic necessities of life, there’s a cut for it in this budget.
VALLAS: If it’s necessary for human survival, Trump has cut it in this budget. That is a good rule of thumb, I like the way you put that Chad. I want to hammer on Medicaid briefly just for another second because what this budget does to it is so astoundingly cruel and painful and more cruelty on top of more cruelty. People will remember when we talk on this show on a fairly regular basis the proposal Trump came out with to take health insurance away from people who can’t find steady work, he calls it work requirements, we know it’s actually making jobless people sick people who don’t have health insurance and that policy has started to be taken up by some of the state. Arkansas for example has it in effect and has already taken Medicaid away from more than 17,000 people. And Trump in this budget calls for hey, why don’t we take that and make it a nationwide thing. What could be better than 17,000 people without health insurance in Arkansas? I know, hundreds of thousands if not millions of people nationwide without health insurance. A backdoor way to dismantle Medicaid which he was not able to get done legislatively. So a lot in this Medicaid section that was just absolutely horrifying. I also want to call out one other particular proposal here which is just so incredibly hateful and that is that it would increase cost sharing for people who end up in the emergency room. So this budget is such an exercise every time in coming up –
LEE: Because everybody’s just going to the emergency room for fun all the time and really they need to chip in if you’re going to go get that broken leg fixed up.
VALLAS: But you know what’s so twisted about it is the people who end up going to the emergency room for regular care which is what this kind of a policy is at least purported to try to go after, those are people who hmm, don’t have health insurance so it’s like all the layers of the onion in this really disgusting, really gross onion I guess. That’s where that goes.
BOLT: Talk about the effects of taking away Medicaid from people who rely on it and Trump’s broken promises. I’m thinking of two that come to mind recently, one is that he would do something about the opioid epidemic, he put his Middle East peace and government reorganization advisor and also opioid advisor Jared Kushner in charge of this.
VALLAS: One and the same.
BOLT: All the same portfolio but instead, so many people who need treatment for substance abuse rely on Medicaid, he would decimate the program, he recently made a big deal in his State of the Union about ending HIV/AIDS and Medicaid is actually the most common form of coverage for people living with HIV/AIDS. It’s just another way that his stated budget document, his stated priorities don’t match up with the things he says in speeches.
VALLAS: Which means we need to drink again, especially because that was just in the State of the Union, that whole —
BOLT: That was a recent promise.
VALLAS: All of that was new.
VALLAS: Apparently forgotten already if he ever meant it at all. So I want to dig into Social Security for one second and move on to some other programs real quick because the Social Security cuts are so extra cruel just like in past years so not new from this administration but hey, consistent in their cruelty at least if nothing else, they explicitly target the Social Security Disability programs, people who live with significant disability, chronic illnesses, terminal illnesses you can’t make this stuff up and actually if we can expect that the cuts are going to include the same types of policies as they did last year, which we’re guessing because they haven’t told us because they don’t want us to know until next week, one of those cuts in there is actually about taking away people’s retroactive benefits. I’m going to do a quick 60 second rant here because I used to handle cases with people with disabilities who were facing denials that were wrongful from the Social Security Administration, a little thing to know about me if you don’t already. I feel about this one. So when people apply for Social Security Disability benefits and they get wrongfully denied and that happens all the time because they don’t have enough medical evidence that’s been submitted or maybe they aren’t even seeing doctors on a regular basis because hmm, maybe they don’t have health insurance like we were talking about before.
People end up getting wrongfully denied, they can wait months, they can wait years for their day in court effectively to go before a judge to get a hearing on that denial and the whole time they’re waiting, what’s happening? They’re too sick to work so they don’t have any income, so they’re draining their savings, maybe they’re tapping their 401(k) if they’re lucky to have one. Maybe they’re losing their home, going into foreclosure. This is the kind of stuff that used to happen to my clients when they were waiting all this time for a hearing. And at the end of the day if you finally get that decision saying yes you are eligible for these benefits and that comes to far too few people, but if you are one of the lucky ones, at the end what you get is retroactive benefits for that period of time you were waiting for your day in court. And guess what Trump doesn’t want you to ever get? Those retroactive benefits, those are the lengths he is going and his administration to try to figure out how to pay for this tax law that they knew was never going to pay for itself. End rant, I’m off the soapbox.
So Chad, take us to nutrition assistance.
BOLT: Sorry I was actually left speechless just imagine, there are new ways to understand Trump’s heartlessness at every turn, so I was just reacting with speechlessness to that point.
VALLAS: Well maybe speechlessness gets a drink. [LAUGHTER] I don’t know what else to say because I’m totally with you, that’s why when I say cruelty heaped on cruelty, the cruelty is the point.
LEE: I kind of want to imagine the conversation where Mulvaney says so yeah we’re going to cut Social Security, I know you promised otherwise and Trump says I said I wouldn’t cut Social Security, why are we doing that? And he explains, so here are the people we’re trying to get at here, ok, and he walks through the kind of story you just did and Trump’s like, well if it’s just those people.
BOLT: Sure. Or if it’s like they’re retroactive benefits not like the actual Social Security deposit, I imagine it’s like Mulvaney is saying when you were talking about that you just meant, the words he used last year were —
BOLT: Regular Social Security or something like that which of course is not an actual thing. So I imagine Mulvaney saying yeah but you promised not to touch people’s regular Social Security, not Social Security Disability, not people’s retroactive benefits. It’s just a truly cruel conversation I imagine playing out, probably not even with Trump, probably with Mulvaney and others below him.
VALLAS: So nutrition assistance, I want to go there because these are some of the biggest cuts in the entire budget and it actually what they call for doing here is cutting the SNAP program literally by a third. This is a program that feeds 39 million Americans in any given month and we’re talking about cutting it by a third, I would be remiss if I didn’t lead off to then set you up what these cuts are Chad, by reminding our listeners, although they could do it with me because we do this nearly every week, the cost of the tax cuts that Trump just gave to the top 1 percent cost more than the entire SNAP program, so just your friendly periodic reminder of the choices being made here and Chad, how does he want to cut these benefits?
BOLT: Well first let me say 18 million kids in this country rely on SNAP to eat that’s who we’re talking about here. When you’re talking about the cut of that magnitude there are really three ways to go about it and you’d probably need to do all three in order to get to that dollar figure.
VALLAS: Give me your cup, Jesse.
BOLT: The first is reduce benefits for recipients, the second is cut eligibility, so that fewer people are eligible for the program and the third, which this budget actually goes into a surprising level of detail to indulge is changing the way the program is administered and they’ve got a particular about how to change the way SNAP is administered.
VALLAS: I can tell from your face already where you’re going with this, bring us there, bring us Chad.
BOLT: So this is a new, they brought this out last year, obviously it went nowhere but it’s back again in this year’s budget proposal and I think I can sum it up most effectively by saying they want to Blue Apron SNAP.
VALLAS: The harvest box.
VALLAS: The harvest box is back.
BOLT: This is the harvest box, this is the idea that people will receive a box of food in the mail, totally controlled in terms of the contents by the government, the arrival time controlled by the government and the postal service, just a staggeringly insulting proposal. And not to mention a completely unworkable one. There’s all sorts of questions when people found this last year it was like what about people with food allergies?
VALLAS: Will’s reminding us we should drink.
BOLT: Dietary restrictions, yes this is definitely —
VALLAS: Oh, and twice, this is a cruel and stupid one.
BOLT: Yes, this is the cruel and stupid one.
VALLAS: Good, good.
BOLT: I had a hunch we’d find something fitting that description in the budget. But there’s all sorts of questions about how this would actually be administered and not the least of which is would it actually save the amount of money that he thinks it will. I think probably not.
VALLAS: And I think last year when people looked at this because it was so bad an idea they decided to keep it in the budget so we still have last year’s reminders of why this wasn’t going to work. No it’s actually going to cost money, that’s what we were told. It’s going to cost money so we’re going to send people their shelf stable milk, and their bread and their pasta and their canned goods and whatever else the government decides they get to eat. You can’t even finish the sentence without feeling so deeply in your heart of hearts and soul how hypocritical this is to come from the Republican Party who wants to not apparently they say be the party of big government.
BOLT: And they sell it as improving nutritional value in the SNAP program and they say it will also cut down on so called “fraud.”
BOLT: Which if course we know is at record low levels in the SNAP program so it’s just a terrible idea all around.
VALLAS: And we don’t have to spend time on it because we spend so much time on it most weeks but part of why this is a budget not to ignore as much as people like to say oh, budgets are dead on arrival, they don’t become law in their existing form. Yeah, all those things are true. And especially in a moment where thank God we have a Democratic House and so Trump isn’t in a position to much in the way of legislating right now, he we know has come up with all kinds of ways to get what he wants to get done by fiat when he fails to do it legislatively. Of course that’s been the entire playbook on health care, the ACA sabotage that has characterized the past couple of years that we have been living through. Dismantling Medicaid as we have been talking about. Now he’s trying of course as we’ve talked about extensively on this show to do the same thing and use the same playbook on nutrition assistance with that rule that would take food away from about upwards of ¾ of a million people, a dollar and forty cents per person per meal just as a reminder of what SNAP gives people as their food budget and that’s in here as well as one of the cuts we can expect this to be including in its’ cut SNAP by a third so you can drown it in the bathtub proposal.
VALLAS: So we’re almost out of time, we should acknowledge housing briefly, I want to do that real quick. Jesse I feel like we’re in the middle of an affordable housing crisis, I feel like we’ve heard about that somewhere, is that a thing?
LEE: I mean Trump condos are selling for cheaper than they used to and the gold has lost its luster or whatever but I have heard that. This is one of those areas where it’s just you think, I think of Mulvaney almost as this guy hired to do a job and the entire budget is, I don’t know if Trump is more like other Republicans all along or the other Republicans are more like Trump all along. It’s like you do this dirty work to hurt poor people, you can throw 100 people out of affordable housing if it might prevent one case of fraud somewhere way, way down the line. The same with SNAP, same with anything you can imagine. Any amount of human suffering to stop this one piece of fraud but really what you’re doing is house cleaning until you can get to the next big tax cut for the rich for a guy like Trump.
People want to say Trump’s not paying attention, actually I think he gets the game, I think he gets what’s going on here it’s just OK Mulvaney go ahead and clean out the stuff, clean out the poor people and when it’s time to give myself a big tax cut voila, the money will be there again. The housing thing is how could Trump of all people not recognize what a need and crisis this is? And there’s no political constituency for it. He’s not even really going out there bragging about deficit cutting. It’s just we’ll do the job, generate the money off the backs of the poor people and then when time comes it might be another few years, it’ll be time to give me another tax cut because what do you know we’re in another recession and there’s clearly no choice but to cut taxes for the rich now.
VALLAS: So we end up in a place where almost half of households in this country, 43% of households are struggling to afford basics like food and housing and healthcare and all the stuff we’re talking about and yet this budget, yet again calls for dismantling rental assistance, which is not nearly enough people afford housing at this point, it actually helps almost no one who is shouldering housing costs they can’t afford. But it would triple the poorest families’ housing costs through its’ cuts and it could of course require work reporting requirements to housing as well in a way that would punish joblessness with homelessness, what a great public policy idea, right? If we’re trying to help people work, I can’t even get the sentence out, oh cruel and stupid, you’re right, cruel and stupid too.
VALLAS: May not be a broken promise because he never told us anything about housing I don’t think, did he?
LEE: NO I don’t think he ever got to that particular depth of policy.
VALLAS: I’m looking over because I feel like Jesse is encyclopedic on the broken promises. You’re looking at me like Jesse was that a promise? And he’s like on this day, Trump said this thing, he never meant it, we knew he never meant, by the way yes that is totally the voice Jesse uses.
LEE: I had no idea I sounded like that, I’m appalled.
VALLAS: I mean I’ve bene enjoying it the whole time, why do you think I had you on the show? So we’re out of time basically but Chad you have an important point to make so because I like you I’m going to let you make it.
BOLT: Thank you for responding to my pouty face with thirty additional seconds —
VALLAS: That’s 100% what it was.
BOLT: To get one more thing is, so just want to note that oen of the other major problems facing the American people is the student loan crisis.
VALLAS: Yes, yes.
BOLT: And Trump’s budget would respond to that by eliminating subsidized student loans. He’d end the public service loan forgiveness program and he would make income based repayment more burdensome for borrowers. Meanwhile he would add more money for charter schools as his education security is out there selling a new tax break for donors to private schools.
VALLAS: And also potentially personally benefitting from migrant children being rehomed.
BOLT: Not to mention that as well.
VALLAS: Just wanted to throw that one in there.
VALLAS: Alright so there’s other bad stuff we haven’t talked about too is basically what Chad is saying, we haven’t talked about how Meals on Wheels would get defunded. We’re going to learn a lot more next week because that’s when we’re going to get part two of this cruelty Olympics that we have started off and I think started off right. I feel like –
LEE: There’s also I’ve heard a $25 billion monument to hate on the Southern border.
VALLAS: Oh my God, wait is that in there?
BOLT: Yeah so it’s not —
VALLAS: Was it on page 782, did you check?
BOLT: There are some areas of the budget where instead of cutting spending he would actually like to drastically increase spending. Particularly on the border for a wall.
VALLAS: So I think that means we have to finish our drinks.
VALLAS: I guess 782 pages was the right page to end on. I love the awkward silence that Will is going to have to listen to later and be like were they done? Nope they were just drinking at the same time. Guys, I really appreciate you taking some time to scour this horrible document with me. Chad, you’ll be back next week based on what we know about some of the details but I will say there is a ton more that we did not get to so check out the nerdy syllabus page for all kinds of resources on why to hate these budgets. And why they will screw you and your family over to pay for tax cuts that people who have multiple yachts just got. So with that don’t go away, more Off Kilter after the break.
You’re listening to Off Kilter, I’m Rebecca Vallas. “From stadiums and movie productions to casinos and mega-malls to convention centers and hotels, cities and states have paid out billions of dollars in tax breaks, subsidies, and grants to the world’s corporate titans. They hope to boost their economies, create new and better jobs, and lure well-known events such as the Super Bowl — not to mention give their officials the chance to meet celebrities. That Big Entertainment drives bigger economies is a myth, however. Overwhelming evidence shows catering public policy to its promises results in a raw deal for the taxpaying public.” So writes Pat Garofalo, author of “The Billionaire Boondoggle: How Our Politicians Let Corporations and Big Wigs Steal Our Money and Jobs” Pat you will know of course is the managaing editor of TalkPoverty.org and his new book is out this week, Pat thanks so much for taking the time to come and talk about your book.
PAT GAROFALO: Hey thanks so much for having me.
VALLAS: So I feel like the title says a lot about what’s in this book. I want to read it again because I really like it, the title is “The Billionaire Boondoggle” but the subtitle is so perfect, “How Our Politicians Let Corporations and Big Wigs Steal Our Money and Jobs.” So I read a little bit of your inside book jacket there but I feel like the place to start is actually the very last chapter, am I terrible for starting with the last chapter of this book?
GAROFALO: No, not at all because that’s where all the lessons come from and the bigger picture comes from.
VALLAS: Well I happen to like to read the ends of books before I read the beginnings of books, particularly if they’re non-fiction and yours was no exception here. But the reason that I want to start with the back of your book and then we’ll come to all the pieces that came before it is because that title which is, that chapter, which is titled “The Mythology of the Corporate Tax” is really the lead here about why the book is entitled “The Billionaire Boondoggle.” So I want to actually start by asking you to read, I’m putting you on the spot here, I’m going to ask you read a little bit from that chapter about the mythology of the corporate tax.
GAROFALO: “The moral of this story is that a mythology has been crafted around the corporate tax. One that claims American companies are uniquely burdened and buried by Washington’s tax and regulatory requirements. Everything that happens with stadiums, movies, casinos and the like can be traced back to this enduring bit of storytelling. This is the year text of every bad deal in which cities and states find themselves. But giving companies breaks on their taxes does not and will not translate into the sort of economic benefits that boosters proclaim, a lesson that never seems to stick no matter how many times it is learned.”
VALLAS: So take us back and really to the beginning of this, which is this is the myth. This is the myth out there and it is the through line of your entire book, I enumerated a whole bunch of the ways that cities and states are out there trying to bring in companies and movies and other things all with the promises of big returns. You argue that after taking a look at this it doesn’t work that way so roll the clock back a little bit for us and tell the story of the mythology of the corporate tax.
GAROFALO: You can actually roll the clock on this literally all the way back to the beginning of America. The first corporate tax break in American history was issued in 1791 to Alexander Hamilton to build a manufacturing park in New Jersey. Within five years they were not manufacturing anything, it wasn’t until decades later that actually that area in Patterson became a manufacturing powerhouse and Hamilton’s scheme utterly fell apart and that’s basically what has happened throughout all of American history is that corporations have come in and told this story that if you just give them money and make them pay no taxes then they will be really nice and build new factories and create lots of jobs and do all the sorts of things that you want them to do to build a sustainable economy. And none of it is true, data, anecdotally, you can look at these things up down, every which way, all around, the economy simply doesn’t work that way. The way to build the sustainable long term growth that actually works for everyone isn’t, shockingly to rain money down on the richest folks.
VALLAS: Now something we’ve talked a lot about on this show and I want to come back to the specific piece here of states and cities competing for what they think are going to be huge returns and that’s obviously been talked about extensively in the context of Amazon in recent weeks, so we’re going to come back there, don’t worry Pat, we’re coming back. but before we do that I actually would love for you to tell a little bit of the story that’s also really woven throughout this chapter and throughout the book but which is about what we know about the connection between the corporate tax rate and economic growth because that’s a big part of this story here too. And it’s not the other side of the coin but the rest of the coin when it comes to the myth.
GAROFALO: Absolutely the story is that there really is no story. To hear the folks who puts these sorts of plans tell it the lower the corporate tax rate the more jobs you’ll see and the more economic growth you will see. And it just simply isn’t true. There’s absolutely no correlation at all, if anything the correlation is in reverse. When the corporate tax rate is higher growth and job creation is higher. So that story just literally has no bearing in fact.
VALLAS: You have a great quote in here that sums this up nicely. You actually quote the Economic Policy Institute and Thomas L. Hungerford writing for EPI over there quote, “At first glance the link between the statutory corporate tax rate and economic growth appears to go in the “wrong direction. Higher tax rates are consistent with higher economic growth rates.”
GAROFALO: Kind of tells you everything.
VALLAS: You’re looking at me like correct, I put that in my book, I know.
GAROFALO: That’s perfect.
VALLAS: This was a big part of obviously the conversation around the Republican tax law from 2017, you had all of these claims about people average workers were going to take home a $4,000 pay increase, that was one very explicit promise but very much premised on the idea as we’ve talked about as recently as last week on this show on the idea that it was going to not only pay for itself but to bring about some kind of massive economic boom so that myth really is still with us today. How is it despite all kinds of evidence to the contrary, which your book lays out, throwing numbers all over the place, how is that myth still with us today?
GAROFALO: So there are three things I think we want to talk about. The first is that the story just sounds good and it feels good, right? We’ll give a company a tax break and they’ll come here and open a new factory and they’ll create some jobs and then people in our town will have those jobs and everything will be good right? Perfect, what could go wrong? That gut level appeals to people, and then you have folks like me coming along like oh actually if you look at the studies and talk about the substitution and wah, wah, wah, wah, I’m the teacher in Charlie Brown and it goes in one ear and comes out the other. So that’s certainly part of it is that the myth is a bit easier to tell because it sounds correct. The second part is that studies have shown that engaging in trying to lure businesses with tax breaks wins you votes. It really does, it does help move voters and that’s because if you do manage to get a company to come you get to put out a nice press release, you get to go to the ribbon cutting, you get your picture on the front page of the paper and those are things that are really worth it to politicians. Those things really do matter, particularly since I focus a lot on states and cities, they matter a lot in local elections. If you’re running in a small town to be mayor, being on the front page of the wherever post-gazette at a ribbon cutting is a huge deal. So these things are just shown academically to move voters to reelect the people who engage in them.
And then the third part is just honestly simple economic desperation. The number of people I talked to for the book said the folks who make these deals and kind of know that they’re a raw deal but honestly something is better than nothing and if you can bring a giant sporting goods store like Bass Pro to your town and create 35 jobs even if in the long run that really hurts your city budget, in the short run it feels pretty good so we’ll just do it and hope that the next guy can figure out something better. So I think those things all come together in a toxic stew to perpetuate this even though literally everyone on the economic side, the ones doing the analyses are saying no, no don’t do it. this is one of the very few areas where economists left, right, middle, upside down, wherever, all agree on this, it basically doesn’t matter who you’re talking to. They will all say these sorts of deals are terrible.
VALLAS: I like the idea of the upside down economist, I feel like that actually needs to stick with us and as we talk maybe we can categorize people, it’ll be like a sorting hat.
VALLAS: You, oh that’s an upside down economist, pretty clearly. So Amazon is very much why a lot of this phenomenon is out there being talked about right now. So for anyone who might be hearing you describe what it is you talk about in your book, this is not a new subject for public consumption, everyone is talking about exactly what your book looks at. So let’s start with Amazon as maybe the entry point that is going to work for a lot of folks here and that they’re already following. Obviously Amazon in the headlines a lot in the past couple weeks, in particular because of the ongoing debate around where it’s going to be opening up headquarters locations, New York was in the mix and then it wasn’t. Tell a little bit of that story and maybe with a lens of what you’ve learned about what’s going on behind the scenes given your work for this book.
GAROFALO: Yeah so it’s actually a fascinating example of this exactly phenomenon and actually when Amazon got booted out of New York by the local politicians and activists. I think my publisher did a little jig because they were like oh your timing is perfect. But this is a hugely important example because Amazon did a very high profile year long auction for their second headquarters and they weren’t shy about what they were doing. They said hey we want a bunch of money and we’re going to bring tens of thousands to tech jobs and everybody today loves tech jobs and so let’s do this thing. And hundreds of cities participated, they squeezed it down to 20 finalists and then in the end wound up getting a roughly $3 billion deal from Long Island City in New York and roughly $750 million to $800 million deal from the DC suburbs in Virginia to build two halves of this quote “second headquarters” which they ended up splitting in two.
The reason it’s a super interesting example is because one, after squeezing all these cities for data and asking all these questions where on earth does amazon end up? The nation’s capital and the world capital of finance. So I think you can make a pretty good argument that they never intended to go anywhere else. There were really good reasons to be in both DC and New York for this company. And something that just came up again and again in the book was folks point out that we’re paying companies to do things they want to do anyway. To be in places they want to be, and so what you really want cities and states to be competing on is the sort of stuff like hey we have a world class education system. Hey our infrastructure system is the best, our quality of life is really great and your workers are going to be happy. Those things are worth something and they were worth something in this instance and all the money was piled on top for Amazon was just a windfall. And honestly if it was just about the tax breaks they had much bigger deals in New York and Maryland, and so there was something to those locations, again, being in the nation’s capital and next to Wall Street that Amazon wanted to do so you’re just paying this company to do things that it’s going to do anyway.
VALLAS: So it’s basically like the dude who has a crush on the girl, is totally down to ask her out or even date her, my god, pop the question but he instead decides he wants to be on ‘The Bachelor’ to make her enter a bidding war with a bunch of other women before he actually does what he already wants to do. That’s what you’re describing here?
GAROFALO: That sounds perfect, he goes around and he flirts with everybody else to try and see what she’s going to give him for the date. But the second thing that was important about this was because Amazon decided to this giant circus and make all these mayors and governors yell how high when Amazon asks jump, people paid a lot of attention to it and most of these deals nobody pays attention to. So in a lot of ways Amazon shot itself in the foot by doing this huge PR debacle. There was a piece in the Washington Post a week, week and a half ago about how while Amazon was doing this entire circus, Google was just quietly going around the country using shell companies and hovering up about a billion dollars in tax breaks. So Amazon was unique in that everyone was paying attention and everyone was talking about the downsides and the displacement and the gentrification and the straight up loss of money that could be spent on anything else in those states. And that was pretty unique that doesn’t happen most of the time. A lot of the time these corporate tax break programs will just chug along for years and no one will bother checking in on them.
VALLAS: I have to say I learned some things from this chapter that are going to stick with me and some of which actually have pretty significant visuals associated with them so when people are wondering what is it that these different cities might have been doing to try to catch Jeff Bezo’s attention, answer if you’re from Tucson, Arizona, I should say that correctly because my sister used to live there. If you’re from Tucson, Arizona the answer you sent Jeff Bezos a 21 foot cactus, that’s the kind of stuff cities were doing here to set themselves apart from the pack.
GAROFALO: Absolutely there were some cities that literally told Amazon it could spend tax revenue however it wanted. It could literally direct the spending that the city council would do.
VALLAS: That sounds a little more enticing to Amazon than the cactus but hey, Tucson, maybe next time.
GAROFALO: Didn’t go to Tucson.
VALLAS: I want to now push you to get really concrete here about the policy side of this and I actually want to get into some of the other areas, boondoggles shall we say that fall into other categories besides just corporate headquarters for example but because Amazon has been so much in the spotlight and because there’s been so much misinformation out there about say the roll of Representative Ocasio-Cortez in how that turned out, make concrete if you would what it is that the types of incentives from a tax perspective that states and cities have been offering to a place like Amazon to try to do better than a cactus.
GAROFALO: The giant is almost always property tax breaks. They almost always say to the company, essentially you don’t have to pay your property taxes if you put your whatever it is here, this is a big problem with sports stadiums where sports team owner will get tax breaks for 50, 60 years long on property taxes. Something that Donald Trump actually very much benefited from was a super long, 40 year property tax break for his very first big hotel development in New York City.
VALLAS: So it ends up being, especially get out of tax free cards is what they’re being handed and what are being piled up on top of each other. So now on the flip side you might have someone saying and someone might be listening and thinking this, yeah but when New York lost the Amazon deal and it was AOC and other folks on the left who were saying no, this isn’t good policy, I feel like the piece that got missed in a lot of that public discussion was exactly what your book looks at. It wasn’t about is this the right thing to do. It wasn’t about the moral case for whether you want to be trying to attract a business to come to your town. At the crux of this what it comes down to is this even a good business deal for the state or for the city or is it what you’re describing, being something that might get a lot of headlines and seem really smart in the early days but doesn’t pan out. So in the case of New York is your appraisal having learned what you learned in writing this book that ultimately the city ended up doing better not to get the deal.
GAROFALO: Yeah I think so. I think Amazon’s going to keep expanding it’s New York presence anyway because there are good business reasons for Amazon to be in New York and that’s just a lot of money to spend on the sort of things that really work out long term. One of the most interesting things through the book is just how short term and fleeting a lot of the benefits of these deals are. They disappear within a year or two. It certainly isn’t only property tax breaks, some of these things are just straight up we’ll give you a cash grant, we’ll give you $20,000 for every job you say you create. And that money could just do so much more good and have a much higher time to get wonky, multiplier effect in the way that it circulates through the economy if you spend it on education or the social safety net or infrastructure, something that benefits a lot of people rather than the just very specific company.
VALLAS: So back to Trump here for a second, you mentioned his having done quite well as a result of some of these policies. I know our listeners are shocked I tell you to hear that but you actually one of your chapters is titled, “Have a Good Night’s Sleep on us”, And it looks at hotels as actually one of the big ticket items that cities are sometimes in a position to try to lure to their city. And this chapter opens with protesters outside of the Trump hotel yelling “shame” because of how that came about.
GAROFALO: Yeah, the Trump hotel in DC used to be the old post office building and because it’s a national historic building it’s going to get $30 to $40 million tax breaks from the federal government for refurbishing. This is not new for Trump as I said before he benefitted from a giant tax break for his very first big development in New York City, he took daddy’s money and got a humongous property tax break on it. he made a career out of hoovering up every tax break out there and subsidy out there and taking advantage of every little thing. Should he not do that if people are willing to make those sort of things available you can’t blame folks for going after them. But at the same time he was certainly part of this giant debacle from the very beginning.
VALLAS: And you really tell a lot of the story going way back to before the Trump hotel in DC. You mention New York as a big part of this but this actually featured pretty prominently, this type of hoovering as you describe it in The New York Times investigative reporting piece exposing Trump for potentially being guilty of tax evasion if not outright tax fraud.
GAROFALO: Yeah this was part of the some $885 million I think it is in tax breaks that he has gotten, that his organization has gotten over the years, yeah, he’s made a living off of these sorts of things. Real estate is a very murky wild world when it comes to taxes. It’s very easy to dance over the line if you will.
VALLAS: So some of your other chapters go into other types of business that cities try to lure into their locals with all kinds of hopes of huge returns. Another couple of examples are lotteries and casinos. Those are not without their own share of controversy when it comes to policy debates particularly in the poverty and inequality space. What did you find looking at lotteries and casinos?
GAROFALO: So the lottery was actually the nice thing about writing a book is you can get into some of the tangential topics that you often can’t get into in just a few so I put the lottery in there because I think it’s an instance of the state to really directly engage in something that hoses low income folks in order to benefit for itself and in this instance the state is the corporation who is saying hey come play this game. We’ll make all your dreams come true, and all of the academic studies show that lotteries really, really, really prey on low-income folks and that they’re not playing out of fun or because it’s a cool game or it’s something to do to provide a little entertainment, it’s out of economic desperation. It’s because they want to get rich and the one in ten million chance that they will draws them to play these games over and over and over again. Casinos are kind of a funny one, they’re one of the odder entities that I looked at as I was going through the book. Just because they can work sometimes but only if you really had the first mover advantage, the most interesting thing about gambling in the US now is that it’s proliferated so much that the economic impact has basically vanished. When it was just in Atlantic City and Las Vegas you could make a really good argument that hey this draws in tons of people, you have to go to these places, it’s often rich people who are traveling to these locals in order to gamble. But now some forty something states are in this business that is no longer the case. That doesn’t work, it’s just people driving short distances to go to their local casino. So the economic impact of this has been really blunted and yet states keep trying and trying and trying and trying to do it and actually in many ways doomed Atlantic City because it had nothing else going for it.
VALLAS: On the lottery point, I feel like as you were talking I always hear in my head in conversations about lotteries and what they mean in the lives of low income folks who play often in really tragic ways because of how much they’re hoping for even small payouts that can be helpful for paying bills, there’s that commercial that I think it’s the DC lottery, I think that’s where I see it, but the tagline these days is lots of people win. That’s literally where they are at this point to say something that’s both true and also hopefully appealing to the potential customer base.
GAROFALO: The one that always got me and I can’t remember what state it was now but the hey, you never know tagline was always, it’s like yes you do, you’re not going to win.
VALLAS: Is that New York?
GAROFALO: It might have been, yeah.
VALLAS: That might have been New York, again accurate and also wow, says a lot. So you also take a look at shopping malls and boy is that one that doesn’t get a lot of attention anymore but ten, fifteen years ago was absolutely the front page news on a fairly regular basis especially in rural areas and areas that are not maybe huge cities, I’m thinking about the Mall of America. It was a huge deal when that was built so what do you find when you look at malls.
GAROFALO: So everyone’s favorite example from the book is this wild thing in Memphis, the Memphis pyramid, there is a giant black pyramid on the shores of the Mississippi in Memphis that is currently home to a Bass Pro shop that has been subsidized hugely by the city because this building, they built it thinking oh it’s Memphis like Egypt we should have a pyramid, ha, ha, ha, it’s amazing tons of people are going to come see it, that was really not the case. It has been a concert venue, a failed basketball arena, all sorts of stuff. So finally out of sheer desperation they paid for a giant sporting goods retailer to come in and be in this pyramid. And that’s happened all over, Bass Pro individually, this one giant sporting goods store has gotten some billion dollars in tax breaks over the years. With shopping there’s a seductive quality to it because again it sounds right. We’re going to open this store and people are going to come to it and they’re going to spend money and consumer spending drives the economy so let’s do that. In this instance I think you’re kind of way behind the times if you’re still betting on shopping with the rise of Amazon and e-retail, people are really betting on a shopping model that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense anymore, particularly when they’re in these things that are set off from downtowns, by themselves, you have to drive there, just doesn’t seem like it’s going to work. A wild example right now is this thing called the American dream that’s being built in the swamps of New Jersey and they seem to be betting on that this mega mall that’s going to have ski slopes and water slides and all sorts of goofy stuff is going to draw people literally out of New York City into the Meadowlands in New Jersey to go shopping. I’m skeptical.
VALLAS: Some free advice for New Jersey from Pat that he’s not pulling any punches on there.
GAROFALO: This thing has been, they’ve been developing that thing for so long, it used to be called Xanadu before it was called the American dream and New Jersey residents, which is the state I’m from so this one’s near and dear to my heart all started calling it Xana-don’t.
VALLAS: Womp. [LAUGHTER] I’m looking at you and I’m looking at Will and we’re all just like yeah.
GAROFALO: Do you have a sad trombone sound?
VALLAS: Actually, do we have a sad trombone sound?
[SAD TROMBONE SOUND]
SO the last one I want to hit on is movies and TV shows and that’s another one where I think actually your chapter here opens with one of the more famous of these debates and that was around House of Cards and the competition to actually have House of Cards film in a particular location. But I also want to give you props for finding a way to work in my favorite Gladiator quote, nicely done there.
GAROFALO: I try.
VALLAS: “Are you not entertained?!” obviously is what I’m talking about for anyone who wasn’t sure as I said that, they’re probably in the same camp as Chad but I digress. So movies and TV that’s one where people probably hear that and they go yeah oh God, there must be all kinds of economic benefit that comes from all kinds of filming your location because you’ve got all these people who were on the set, you’ve got all these people who were there for a concerted period of time, they’ve got these hotels, they need food, how does that one not work out?
GAROFALO: So this is one that’s really popular. Tons of states tried this, at their peak 44 states I believe had film tax credit programs. It’s down quite a bit now because states have started to realize that this isn’t working. And as soon as you get past the first level of hey, the production is here, there will be jobs, you realize that this doesn’t make a ton of sense. These are short term jobs, they’re very transient, you end up shuffling people around from jobs that they had, so like someone who’s doing hairdressing maybe will leave the salon to work on the movie production for two months so you just rented that job, you didn’t really create anything new. The biggest problem with movie productions is it sets up this time for hostage taking, which is that if you don’t keep paying for it and paying more for it every year because movie jobs are so easy to move around the production just says hey, give us more money or we’re leaving, which is what House of Cards did. They had filmed their first two seasons in Baltimore and season three came and the Maryland legislature was like you know, guys, you’ve been here for two years, we don’t realy need to keep doing this, can we have our money back?
VALLAS: It’s sort of amazing they did that before they saw season three because it would have been season three where I was like yeah I’m done with you guys. But they go there before I did.
GAROFALO: And House of Cards was like nice jobs you have here, shame if anything were to happen to them, [LAUGHTER] and threatened to leave. They actually stopped production entirely and delayed it and said we’re going to go somewhere else if you don’t keep giving us our money and of course the legislature caved and said oh alright fine take it, it’s OK. And Veep which was also filmed in Baltimore did leave, they got a better deal from California and poof gone, and they were across the country the next day. And that just happens all the time, Louisiana was the first state to get really big into movie production. And for a time literally more feature films were made in Louisiana than anywhere else in America which is wild if you think of New York and California as all the advantages that they have. It’s not the case anymore, now it’s Georgia, why? Because Georgia spends more money so it’s just so easy to poach these things. And one of my favorite slash saddest stats in the whole book is that the Maryland Department of Legislative Services, which is essentially their Congressional Budget Office, they analyze these programs found that Maryland’s economy is smaller in the long run due to its’ film tax credit program because the return on spending was so low. Literally could have set the money on fire.
VALLAS: Is there any argument that at least having your location visibly in a movie or TV show is benefit because it might drive tourism or something or is that garbage because most of the time you’re actually pretending where it takes place in a way that you don’t know it’s in Louisiana.
GAROFALO: Yeah, that latter point is the important one. There hasn’t been a ton of work done on tourism effect of movie credits and the main economist who I talked to for this was at least open to the idea that there could be a tourism effect but not in the instance like you talk about, if people watch House of Cards where are they going to want to go? Washington DC, not Baltimore.
VALLAS: Or they’re not going to want to go there because they’re afraid that they might get pushed in front of a subway train or something else, which I firmly believe really does happen in politics but that’s a different conversation. So Pat in the last few minutes that we have from a how do we change this perspective, you’ve shed light on the myth and you’ve helped inject really important facts in a timely conversation because of Amazon really dominating the headlines.
GAROFALO: Thank Jeff Bezos.
GAROFALO: I should send him a copy, send him a signed copy.
VALLAS: You haven’t done that yet? [LAUGHTER] Oh, that’s a missed opportunity my friend, yeah, send it to him with a cactus, that will get his attention. But in addition to sheding light on the myth where I was going to go with this is what are your takeaways after now having written this book and having done the work to write it and the research, what are your takeaways from the stand point of how our public policies need to change so that this kind of race to the bottom boondoggle bidding war isn’t what states and cities have the opportunity or feel the need to do?
GAROFALO: So the really simple elegant solution is that congress could knock this off tomorrow if they wanted to. They could come in and Godzilla stomp this whole thing and say nope, we’re not doing it anymore. State and local corporate tax incentives will be taxed at a 110% rate henceforth done. That’s not really going to happ, so honestly I think the real solution is just awareness and letting people know and the Amazon example is so encouraging because once people found out the details they were like oh no, this is terrible, we’re not going to do this, it makes no sense for us. And so just shedding light on these things and telling people about them and making folks realize what their states and cities are doing in their name and it’s literally the sports team that you love and literally the TV show that you stream every night and literally the store that you shop in and that they’re taking advantage of you, it’s the best way to do it. Amazon was really encouraging, Boston preventing the Olympics from coming was really encouraging. In 2016 the Anaheim city council flipped because the city had given so much money to Disney for a bunch of hotels which was complete nonsense so you’ve just got to pick these things off one by one and hopefully get enough folks on board with realizing what a bad deal this all is.
VALLAS: I’ve been speaking with Pat Garofalo, he’s the author of The Billionaire Boondoggle: How Our Politicians Let Corporations and Bigwigs Steal Our Money and Jobs. There’s no way to read that title by the way without doing the movie guy voice, I feel like I just botched it because I didn’t do [MOVIE GUY VOICE] “Our Politicians Let Corporations and Bigwigs Steal Our Money and Jobs”. He’s also the managing editor of TalkPoverty.org, Pat thank you so much for taking the time to do this and for this fantastic and well timed book.
GAROFALO: Hey thanks so much I’m always happy to be here.
VALLAS: And that does it for this week’s episode of Off Kilter, powered by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. I’m your host, Rebecca Vallas, the show is produced each week by Will Urquhart. Find us on Facebook and Twitter @offkiltershow and you can find us on the airwaves on the Progressive Voices Network and the WeAct Radio Network or anytime as a podcast on iTunes. See you next week.