In the end, the money that towns across America gave General Motors did not matter.
When the automaker released a list of factories it was closing during
bankruptcy three years ago, communities that had considered themselves
G.M.’s business partners were among the targets.
For years, mayors and governors anxious about local jobs had agreed to
G.M.’s demands for cash rewards, free buildings, worker training and
lucrative tax breaks. As late as 2007, the company was telling local
officials that these sorts of incentives would “further G.M.’s strong
relationship” with them and be a “win/win situation,” according to town
council notes from one Michigan community.
Yet at least 50 properties on the 2009 liquidation list were in towns
and states that had awarded incentives, adding up to billions in
taxpayer dollars, according to data compiled by The New York Times....
A Times investigation has examined and tallied thousands of local
incentives granted nationwide and has found that states, counties and
cities are giving up more than $80 billion each year to companies. The
beneficiaries come from virtually every corner of the corporate world,
encompassing oil and coal conglomerates, technology and entertainment
companies, banks and big-box retail chains.
The cost of the awards is certainly far higher. A full accounting, The
Times discovered, is not possible because the incentives are granted by
thousands of government agencies and officials, and many do not know the
value of all their awards. Nor do they know if the money was worth it
because they rarely track how many jobs are created. Even where
officials do track incentives, they acknowledge that it is impossible to
know whether the jobs would have been created without the aid.