Express Scripts & St. Louis: More Big Gov/Big Biz Collusion

As a resident of St. Louis, seeing a headline such as, “Express Scripts to add 1,500 jobs, latest boost to employment outlook in St. Louis region,” makes me “feel good inside,” as VeggieTales taught me to say. I think what this might mean: Express Scripts likes the St. Louis region and wants to expand there. That represents more jobs in St. Louis that will add to the regional economy, but it also makes me hope that, if Express Scripts found the people and area of St. Louis so attractive that other businesses might do so as well, even smaller businesses.

But hold on:

“The deal is contingent upon approval of St. Louis County and state tax incentives. A statement from the Missouri Department of Economic Development says the state is working with Express Scripts to identify applicable economic incentives. A county spokeswoman says the county council will consider incentives on Tuesday.”

If these “incentives” mean money shoveled out from state coffers, then I have no idea how much, if anything, this expansion is “adding” to the St. Louis regional economy. Instead of simply being a net gain, the news means that the residents of the county, and the state to some extent, are losing money to subsidize Big Business.

Hopefully, these “incentives” are merely tax breaks. But that still isn’t good news. What it means is that smaller business and startups no one has heard of are getting hurt by the state government’s and county government’s taxes, but that “Big Business” gets a special favor. I want low taxes but I want low taxes for everyone. By giving these exemptions to a big company, it effectively makes that company a cartel rather than a business that exists only because it efficiently meets the needs of consumers (which, by the way, is the only reason any business should exist). Potential competitors are weighed down with taxes and are less likely to be able to compete.

If you ever wonder why CEO’s tend to be statist Leftists, this is a big part of it. They believe that they are more important than smaller businesses and deserve to exist as a kind of government –favored aristocracy. They plug for statism and the state protects them from many state predations as well as from market competition.

Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t wish taxes on any corporation. Not only are the corporate taxes high, but simply figuring out what is owed is incredibly complicated, and thus expensive. What is bizarre (as this great post from the Show Me Institute demonstrates) is that the same people who oppose lower taxes in general will advocate them on a case-by-case basis.

Of course, while such a position is inconsistent economics, it makes perfect political sense. It is all about power. Setting up punitive tax rates and then magnanimously bestowing lower rates on some friends exalts the political class into the heights of their own self-infatuation. They choose who lives and who dies.

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