Insanity & magic dust: Think DCED

Insanity & magic dust: Think DCED

We’re shocked — shocked, we say — that a news organization reports how “millions of dollars in tax credits” given to this, that or some other private company “may not be paying off for Pennsylvanians.”

Yes, this is most worthy news. But it’s not necessarily new news. For this kind of taxpayer abuse has been going on for decades in Pennsylvania.

The latest examples are reported by Spotlight PA, a consortium of newsrooms from around the commonwealth. And they represent pretty much the same old story of hard-earned taxpayer dollars being “invested” in private companies but with either little or no accountability, little or no sunshine and claimed “results” that are, at best, dubious.

To wit, the newest exercises in rathole sustainability, er, corporate wealthfare, involve millions of dollars given to companies to improve broadband Internet in rural areas — but no requirement that those companies invest in such areas.

Well, isn’t that slick?

Nonetheless, the companies still received an estimated $12 million in tax credits. One recipient was tech behemoth Comcast.

But here’s another kicker – or a kick in the wallet: The news report notes that state law prevents the Department of Revenue from naming two other companies that also received the tax credits or even how much they were given.

What a racket, eh? Don’t try this at home – or, at least, not without the government’s blessing.

And then there are those evergreen mavens of accountability at the state Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED).

Spotlight PA reports how the Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ) tax credit was created to benefit start-up companies operating near universities to, supposedly, encourage entrepreneurship.

But it says the state’s Independent Fiscal Office found “a lack of reliable data” making “qualifying its economic impact ‘very difficult.’”

That’s especially true when the DCED allows recipients to self-report all the great things the subsidies supposedly created but with no state audit to confirm anything.

What a sweet deal for recipients. What a travesty for transparency.

But that didn’t stop the DCED from claiming that KIZ, as the news report put it, “has helped to create more than 11,000 jobs since its creation, keeping more than 3,500 college graduates in the state.”

Ah, the blind leading the pocket-divers.

And, predictably, such a gross lack of oversight and accountability has led to scandal. You might recall the case of a couple given $6.4 million in these tax credits – credits sold to third parties by a network of shell companies they allegedly created.

The pair, predictably, remain fugitives abroad.

Due diligence? What due diligence?

We couldn’t make this stuff up if we wanted to. And, that said, who thinks this stuff up?

Why, of course, it’s bureaucrats with a virtually bottomless pit of money – your money – who fervently believe that constantly repeating grand claims of “benefits to the public” will, magically, make them true.

What’s the definition of insanity, again? In this case, it comes in the form of an acronym – DCED, the state agency with a seemingly infinite supply of magic dust.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).