Notes on the state of things …

Notes on the state of things …

The state of Arkansas will give U.S. Steel of Pittsburgh $11 million in annual tax breaks over 14 years — $154 million total – to build a new $3 billion state-of-the-art mini-mill.

As the Post-Gazette reports it:

“U.S. Steel President and CEO David Burritt said the Arkansas site in Osceola offered ‘incomparable advantages’ and that government officials and project partners ensured the company had a ‘path to the future without roadblocks.’”

This would be the same U.S. Steel that constantly complains about foreign governments subsidizing competitors.

This is the same U.S. Steel that reported net earnings of more than $2 billion in the 2021’s third quarter (the latest available quarter).

This is the very same U.S. Steel that reported its liquidity at the end of that third quarter to be $4.5 billion, with just under $2.1 billion of that in cash.

Why again is the state of Arkansas buttering the quite flush steel giant’s bread with $154 million of the taxpayers’ bread?

Meanwhile, the state of West Virginia is giving the NUCOR steel company of North Carolina $1.35 billion in tax breaks and another $315 million in “matching funds” to build a new steel mill in Mason County and, perhaps, a “transloading facility” (an intermodal operation), likely in Weirton, a mere 40 minutes or so from Pittsburgh along the Ohio River.

Massive economic benefits are touted as being attached to these projects, the latest in a long line of developments that politicians assert to be something not far from the be-all and end-all to the industry’s and economy’s woes.

But both projects represent the latest attempt at “winner-picking” by government, which, by its very nature, stands to create unsubsidized losers who can’t – nor should they be forced to — compete with the taxpayers’ involuntary largess.

The better option, of course, would be for government to keep taxes and regulations at the lowest possible level for everyone to encourage 100 percent private development by all.

Sucker fish need not apply.

In other news of government hubris, Mary Conturo, the longtime executive director of the Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority (SEA) and Pittsburgh Stadium Authority is leaving her posts after nearly 20 years on the job.

The publicly funded PNC Park, Heinz Field and PPG Paints Arena are owned by the SEA, which also operates the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

The Stadium Authority, which should have ceased to exist with the 2001 implosion of Three Rivers Stadium, owns surface parking lots and two parking garages on the North Shore.

Wayne Fontana, a state senator and chairman of the SEA board of directors, says Conturo’s work “has supported economic growth and development of Southwestern Pennsylvania.”

Funny, but the record points to a far less-rosy picture – continued population loss in the City of Pittsburgh and quite weak economic growth during the period touted by Fontana.

Do remember how these playgrounds for the barons of sport and the brand-spankin’ new convention center were touted as being some kind of supercharger for economic growth.

They clearly were not.

And, in reality, that’s not funny at all – but tragic as usual when it comes to pols’ promises of grand economic benefits from the taxpayers’ forced underwriting of corporate wealthfare.

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