I’ve long opposed targeted incentives to corporations Columbia deems fitting, which the taxpayers of South Carolina have to fund. Though these funds are offered in the name of job creation, it is not the government’s role to create jobs. The role of government is to create a fair, just and equitable playing field on which private industries and individuals ought to compete. Conservative members of the legislature, many of whom I consider friends and respect, voted in favor of a targeted tax break for Amazon on the second vote, claiming that it helps create jobs. That is as short sighted as it is wrong. Handing out millions to a large corporation, which will directly compete with existing SC businesses, is not favorable to free markets.
Make no mistake: those who vote to pick winners and losers from the Statehouse are not pro-market; they are pro-“some” businesses. This sort of legislative wrangling creates a savior based economic model, whereby the businesses that gain a competitive advantage are those well-connected to politicians. That is fundamentally un-American, and it flies in the face of South Carolina’s long-standing commitment to limited government.
What should have occurred in Columbia is that a conservative lawmaker should have stood-up for equality in economics. When some members of the General Assembly started clamoring for a sales tax exemption for Amazon, someone should have suggested that we exempt all online sales from sales tax. In other words, don’t provide one company a benefit we’re not prepared to offer to all. I have friends who own retail stores in this State, which carry many of the same book products as Amazon.com. They will now be at a greater disadvantage in competing with the retail giant, because they must continue to collect sales tax on South Carolinians, while Amazon will not. This targeted exemption provides a built-in cost advantage for Amazon over their existing in state competitors.
Corporate welfare is not only unjust, it’s expensive. Studies have indicated that the annual cost to SC taxpayers of ongoing incentives measures tops $540 million. This staggering figure is enough to provide nearly every business in South Carolina with a twelve month income tax holiday. Now, the question we must ask ourselves is this: do we believe that government central planning got the most bang for those bucks? Or do we believe that those funds should be in the hands of private industries and individuals, not handed out from government to their favorite “business of the week?” Which would create more jobs?
I believe the answer is clear: freedom works. Reducing the overall cost of doing business in South Carolina, by pursuing fundamental tax reform is the real answer. I wholeheartedly endorse the SC Fair Tax, as I believe it presents our State with the single greatest opportunity to attract new investment, expand existing companies and create thousands of high paying jobs, all without having to hold votes in the Legislature.
I don’t know about you, but the less the people of South Carolina have to rely on the special interest cherry-picking of the crowd at the Statehouse in Columbia, the more prosperous and free we will be.