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SC Incentives: Still No Transparency, Accountability




Five years ago this website ran a story about the Palmetto State’s over-reliance on crony capitalist incentives – a.k.a. “corporate welfare” – and how there was no transparency or accountability over the hundreds of millions of tax dollars doled out each year to select corporations.

At the time, we noted that there was “zero transparency, zero accountability and zero review of the giveaways,” which we described as “a frightening revelation when you consider the dramatic escalation of government’s attempts to pick winners and losers in the South Carolina economy.”

Two years later, we pointed out the Palmetto State was “still failing on incentives.”

Today?  Nothing has changed … at all.  Well, nothing except that South Carolina taxpayers are being forced to shell out even more money on these secretive subsidies.

According to reporter Jamie Self of The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper, government leaders have “no way of knowing” whether these corporate giveaways are actually producing the promised “economic development.”


“The state does not have a well-designed plan for reviewing all economic-development incentives and gauging whether those benefits work,” Self’s report noted.

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How much money are we talking about here?  At least $433 million a year, at last count – although that number varies wildly based on the number of specific projects in the hopper.

Crazy, huh?

Indeed … and often these giveaways subsidize totally unnecessary infrastructure projects that would otherwise be at the bottom of South Carolina’s priority list.

Here’s the thing: Even if these subsidies were being meticulously documented by state leaders – and even if this documentation showed they were producing a surreal return on investment – they would still be wrong.  Subsidies like this are pure theft, people – taking money from individual taxpayers and small businesses lacking in political clout and transferring it to corporations that have it.

Sure, jobs are often created as a result of these subsidies, but no one ever bothers to count the jobs that are lost – or the economic activity that doesn’t take place because all of that money got vacuumed out of the consumer economy.

In other words it’s great to tout the benefits of certain projects … but what about the costs?  Oh, and what happens when money gets taken from the economy for subsidies that return absolutely nothing on the investment?

This website has always stood against taxpayer-funded incentives on principle – and we will continue to do so.  In the meantime, though, lawmakers need to take the long overdue step of providing a detailed accounting of these deals so that taxpayers can see for themselves exactly what sort of arrangements are being undertaken with their money.

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