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Numlock Sunday: Pat Garofalo asks if the government accidentally banned corporate incentives in the COVID bill

Numlock Sunday: Pat Garofalo asks if the government accidentally banned corporate incentives in the COVID bill

By Walt Hickey

Welcome to the Numlock Sunday edition.

This week, I spoke to Pat Garofalo who writes the wonderful newsletter Boondoggle. Pat appears in Numlock all the time, here’s a recent thing of his I covered in February:

Lawmakers in 11 states have introduced bills for the 2021-22 legislative session that would form an interstate compact to eliminate tax giveaways to corporations. Right now, companies play states off one another, goading them into bidding wars over who gets less money to host the corporation. For many states, who see new businesses as a way out of their problems, this has become an increasingly standard practice, but if every time a company wants a new HQ it’s a 50-party bidding war, eventually we’re going to not collect taxes from businesses anymore. To avert this, the states are eyeing a disarmament, not unlike what Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas worked out in 2019. If the compact enters law, states will agree not to use tax incentives to poach jobs from the other states in the compact. This isn’t particularly new, as there are 200 ongoing interstate compacts and each state is in an average of 25.

Pat’s beat is one of my favorites, he covers one of the most pervasive ways the big and powerful fleece the government at the expense of the small and not as powerful. Today in another special podcast edition of the newsletter, we talk about the botched Foxconn deal, why everything is suddenly a “campus,” the Peace of Kansas City and whether or not the federal government accidentally screwed over every local corporate tax incentive project.

Pat can be found at his newsletter, Boondoggle, and his book The Billionaire Boondoggle is really great.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Pat, thank you so much for coming on. You have a bunch of really cool stories coming out through both your day job and your newsletter, Boondoggle, but just taking a step back, do you want to talk a little bit about what you generally cover when it comes to incentives and how different cities try to woo different companies to various successful and unsuccessful ends?

The tagline that I use is "how corporations are ripping off your state and city," and I got interested in this actually way back during The Great Recession. I was an economic policy reporter covering this fallout from the recession and the austerity push that was happening across the country. You saw all these wacky situations where cities were literally turning off their streetlights, while at the same time paying to give some billionaire a sports stadium. Then the more I started digging into this, I realized it wasn't just sports stadiums.

It was hotels, it was massive sporting goods stores. It was every corporate headquarters in the country. There's been this long, decades-long push amongst the corporate elite in this country to tell a story about how economic development happens in the U.S. and to reap rewards for doing things that way. And it's totally wrong. The way they're going about it and the way the politicians they have in their pockets go about it is just backwards. It's just the completely wrong way to build local economies. That's the sort of work I've been doing ever since.

The Amazon HQ2 thing was a huge illustration of this, where, basically, it inverted the way that lots of local economics should work and turned cities into bidders for a headquarters that was going to happen nevertheless.

Right, and that one was an interesting anomaly in this system that corporate America has built because it was so public. Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, was so brazen about it and pitting all these states and cities against each other. The really problematic aspect of this to me is actually how much of it happens in the dark, how much of it we don't know about. These deals are often presented by local officials as a fait accompli. They come out and announce it before any other resident, any other local official can have a say, and say, "Hey, we're doing this. We're going to give this corporation a bunch of money. You're going to see all those benefits. You're welcome. Goodbye."

The reason for that is that these things actually pay a lot of political capital. If you dig into the literature on incentives and corporate tax deals, they don't pay off on the economic side. They don't create jobs, they don't boost incomes, they don't boost local GDP, they often cost localities a whole lot of money, but what they do increase is incumbent politician vote totals. One of the most fascinating stats that I've seen in the academic literature about this stuff is that states' use of incentives goes up once every four years. Why is that? Because governors are running for re-election.

Whoa. The secrecy component, you've written a lot about this lately. I like how you've really highlighted that there are towns and city councils that are voting on incentive packages where they don't even all necessarily know who the money is going towards in some cases with server farms and whatnot.

Yeah, this is totally wild. This actually happened in Fort Wayne recently. Literally, the city council was voting on an incentive package, and most of the city council did not know who the recipient was going to be — it turned out to be Amazon — because the people who were involved in the deal making had signed non-disclosure agreements. This is public officials, spending public dollars, signing non-disclosure deals with the corporation to say that they can't divulge any information about the recipient, including, literally, its name. It's just so corrupt. This to me is just — there's the economic stuff, right, that these deals are not paying off for states and cities, and they're not bringing the economic benefits? But that also is just problematic democratically, right? How are you supposed to assess the job that your local officials are doing if they literally will not tell you who they are meeting with, who they are dealing with and who they're giving your money to?

It's so huge. And I wanted to take everything back to a very big case that has gone down that has attracted a lot of attention and I think put a lot of these stories on the map, which is the situation with Foxconn and Wisconsin. It's got all the makings of things that you've been talking about: it came about during an election, the economics of it were suspect to begin with and only kind of got worse as it went along. The economic benefit has really folded and collapsed. I would love to hear what that story is and where we're at now because I know that we've actually had some recent news on it.

To back up to this from the beginning, this was 2017, Donald Trump had just been elected President. Scott Walker was the Governor of Wisconsin. They announced this massive deal with Foxconn, which is a Taiwanese manufacturer, they make a lot of Apple products. And it was something on the order of $4.8 billion. They were going to create tens of thousands of blue collar jobs, and this is Wisconsin in the Midwest, so that was a big deal. It was going to be part of Trump's big move to bring manufacturing back to the U.S., make America great again.

Then fast-forward a few years, and Foxconn literally did nothing. There was just nothing there. They changed their plans over and over and over. It went from tens of thousands of jobs in a manufacturing site to 1,000 white collar jobs in an office building. The whole thing unraveled and actually the promising thing about this deal in my mind was that there actually was a political price for it, as opposed to a political benefit. Governor Walker lost his re-election to current Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, in large part because of this deal, because Wisconsin residents looked at this thing and went, "This is not good. This is clearly not working out for us." So, Evers recently renegotiated the deal. The amount of money went from about $4.8 billion to about $80 million. So a huge, huge, huge decrease in the amount of money.

One of those Bs became an M. That's not usually a good sign.

Exactly. I think the nice thing about that deal was that there actually was a little democratic accountability. Someone lost office, the current governor had a mandate to re-negotiate and he did, and that's good. I still don't love the deal for two reasons. One, is that in a sense, you're sort of giving Foxconn another whack at something it doesn't deserve. It didn't even come close to fulfilling its side of the original deal, and so you're letting it rework it and try again and promise something new.

There's no real reason to think that Foxconn is going to keep its promises this time either, but you're still putting the state on the hook for $80 million, which again, is a lot better than $4.8 billion. That's great. That's many billions of dollars that you're not liable for, but there's certainly a world in which just letting the original deal play out and having Foxconn just fall on its face and not meet any of its metrics and, therefore, not get most of its money would have actually saved the state money, if we assume that Foxconn is going to fulfill the second deal, which I don't really think it will, but that remains to be seen.

But the second part of this is that — and then this is an important part, I think, of the overall incentive stories — localities in Wisconsin made investments on the premise that Foxconn was going to build the first thing, the massive manufacturing plant. Made infrastructure investments, seized homes through eminent domain. One town in Wisconsin is on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation for eminent domain for seizing folks' homes. Those people had to move. And now the plant just isn't happening.

And that's one of the things I tell people, I spend a lot of time in my day job at the American Economic Liberties Project, talking to folks around the country, both in office and activists and community members about these deals. One of the things I bring up all the time is these plans are not ironclad. The officials will tell you, "Oh, we are giving X million dollars and we are receiving Y benefits," as if Y benefits are certain and it's definitely going to happen, but they often don't and Foxconn is such a perfect example There are reasons that they don't that are both nefarious — like the corporation never intended to do the thing it was doing, it was just dragging people along to get some money—- but also legitimate, right? Sometimes a pandemic happens and lots of corporations have to suddenly change their spending plans, but the way these deals get treated in the public square, and in public debate, and the way that politicians talk about them as if they're done deals.

Foxconn is just such a great example of the sort of things that folks need to look out for and why states and localities need to be really, really careful. Because again, these little Wisconsin towns spent money, but the one village in Wisconsin actually had its credit downgraded because its promised outlays for Foxconn were so high that even the credit rating agencies were like, "Whoa, there is no way that this is going to happen." But they did it! And now they're just out this money. No one's ever going to make them whole. Even if Foxconn fulfills the second smaller deal and does build this smaller plant, you're never going to get that back. For those folks who had their homes seized and had to move, you're not going to get your house back either. That's why states and localities need to be so, so, so, so careful when they enter into these massive mega-deals.

The reason that these deals are struck and come up with is because for the point of view of the company, it's really privatizing a lot of the benefit and publicizing a lot of the risk. And it seems like this is just a really good illustration of what went down in Wisconsin. You have to look at who's holding the bag right now. What negative consequences Foxconn suffered as a result of backtracking on this deal versus what are the negative consequences that small towns have suffered?

Absolutely. Foxconn's ding was to its reputation, right? But again, it got to come right back and renegotiate a new deal. The number of times you see these things fall apart, and then you turn around and the same company comes riding back in and says, "Oh no, we'll do it here. And we'll do it better." I mean, Tesla is a perfect example, it has ripped off city after city after city. Elon Musk is a sort of famous grifter in this state, not just with Tesla, but with some of his other companies. And yet, states and cities still will sit down at the table and will give him something and say, "Okay, this time it's different. Our community is different." It can get really distressing. But I think one of the reasons that happens, and you'll often see in this space, it is the big tech companies that tend to get some of the largest deals, some of the flashiest deals.

Talking about Amazon HQ2, we can talk about a new Apple campus in North Carolina. We can talk about Tesla getting deals all over. Austin is throwing money at tech companies left and right. It's because there's this allure, right, of these shiny new tech jobs. Even though this is actually just a very old model of ride into town, promise the residents a lot of benefits in return for a lot of money. You can literally date this back to the beginning of the United States. Alexander Hamilton got the first corporate tax break in U.S. history for a manufacturing plant in Paterson, New Jersey that never was completed. We started off exactly where we wound up. And some of his associates went to jail.

I think I missed that song in the musical.

Somehow, Lin Manuel Miranda left that one out of the show. But it goes back to World War II, in the post-World War II period when Southern states were trying to diversify their economies coming out of the war. They were mostly agricultural. It was Mississippi that really started this shtick of going to Northern manufacturing plants and saying, "Hey, we'll give you a lot of money. Bring your plant down here." John F. Kennedy, when he was in the Senate, would go on the Senate floor and just rail about Southern states, poaching Northeastern manufacturing plants. Even though today's version of that is to pay some shiny tech company to do it like a Foxconn, like a Tesla, this is the same story that we've seen over and over and over again.

Setting aside the municipal blow back, setting aside the fact that that's money that you can't spend on school textbooks, and when you don't collect property taxes, that does have ramifications for what you can offer kids in libraries and all that kind of stuff. Setting that aside, you have this really cool study that's come out that talks about how states give incentives and how that actually affects small businesses in the area. Do you want to go into what the research showed?

This is a fascinating new study by a guy named Manav Raj at the Stern School of Business. He very kindly sent it to me and it shows two things. It shows, one, that political competitiveness in a state legislature is correlated with increased use of incentives. So, the tighter the governing majorities are, the smaller the governing majorities are in the state legislature and the likelier the legislature has to flip back and forth between the two parties, the more likely that legislature is to hand out incentives. And then the second thing is the more incentives the legislature hands out, the less likely it is that small businesses will succeed. This study is so fascinating because it ties together a lot of what both myself and all the other folks in this space have been talking about for so long, which is that these things are not about economics, they're about politics.

They're about entrenching dominant incumbent firms and harming small businesses. It makes sense, right? The companies that get the bulk of these incentives are the large, big ones that can afford to pay to have lobbying shops. Amazon and other big companies will literally pay people, who are called site selection consultants — that's a job — to go out and to figure out how to get the most money out of these states and localities. Small businesses just can't afford to do that. The academic research is really clear: It's big companies that get the most of this stuff. So, states and cities are literally subsidizing the business model of large companies vis-à-vis their smaller competitors, right? It makes perfect sense that this is harmful to small folks who just don't get the same level of support from the state.

The example that always comes to mind when I talk about this particular aspect is Amazon. Amazon is notorious. They've gotten some $3 billion-plus dollars in state and local incentives over the years. Most of that is actually not HQ2, even though that was a big one. Most of that is for its distribution network, it's for its warehouses and for its distribution houses. You can see if you're a small retailer how they really grind your gears, right? That Amazon is receiving money to build out its distribution network, that's not something you ever receive as a small business. If you're just selling stuff out of your garage, it's not like the mayor is going to come down and be like, "Here, have all this money to buy a delivery truck. Excellent. Keep up the good work." That doesn't happen.

So, it's making the cost of building out distribution networks cheaper for Amazon versus other retailers, which Amazon then turns around and uses as leverage to pound other retailers into the dirt. Amazon is notorious for using its distribution network as a stick to beat other retailers with. They'll say, "Oh yeah, if you pay us to use our distribution network, we'll give you Prime access. We'll do all these other things." And they just ratchet up the fees year after year after year, so you sort of just become beholden to Amazon's taxpayer-funded network. The fact that it was great to put some numbers to this story and to have data showing that this feeling that we all had in this space, that this is bad for small businesses, actually does bear out when you look at the data.

Then the second part was really interesting to me too. The fact that tighter, more competitive legislatures give out more incentives. It does make sense if you think about it, because in a tight legislature, where say, the majority has one or two votes and it can only lose one or two or their bills go down, that gives each individual lawmaker more leverage to get concessions during legislative debates. Since we know that incentives are good political capital, that seems to be what state legislatures go for. So, if you're like the Joe Manchin of the Missouri legislature, you're the critical key vote that can be lost, you go and say, "Hey, give my buddies down here some incentives, and then sure, I'm on your bill."

I was just really fascinated with, again, Manav Raj at the Stern School of Business. I wrote it up in my Boondoggle newsletter. It just really tied together a lot of strands, circling back to the core point about all this, which is that it’s a political problem. It's not an economic problem. The economics are unambiguous. This stuff is bad for states and localities. The reason it continues year after year, and folks like me are actually screaming about it all the time is because these giveaways make for really good politics.

It's really interesting, that finding about how it negatively impacts small business, which very much makes sense to me because small business owners do tend to pay corporate taxes. Because they are individually held, they tend to do profit and then pass those profits on to shareholders, which are taxed. And you have the entire Amazon credo, like Bezos notoriously said, “your margin is my opportunity.” That seems very true here, where the local tax base is subsidizing a new contender, which to some notoriety, aggressively minimizes its tax obligation, right? Whereas your local retailer operating with QuickBooks is a little less adept at doing that.

Yeah, Amazon was born out of a tax loophole, right? The whole reason that Jeff Bezos got into online book selling is because he realized that there was a hole in the law that said, if you didn't have a physical presence — and this hole has since been patched — but that if you didn't have a physical presence in a state, you didn't have to collect sales tax. From Washington, he was able to sell books in every other state without collecting sales tax. Obviously, that lets him undercut every local bookseller that has to pay sales tax because they're literally handing you the book and you're giving your money, and there are sales taxes involved in that transaction.

Bezos took that out of the equation. He then used that, and the proceeds he made from that, to just pull the same trick in line after line after line after line. I mean, there are lots of reasons Amazon is what it is and not all of them are tax-related, but that is a really key part of its power, is its ability to both avoid paying taxes on the one hand and then to actually collect subsidies and government largesse and other regulatory favors on the other.

You've also highlighted a number of other recent cases. There was this case in Nashville regarding Oracle and they managed to get a 50 percent property tax for 25 years. How does that shake out for Nashville?

This is such a weird one. Tennessee is sort of notorious for these deals. Memphis has a horrific record of just handing out corporate tax giveaways willy nilly. I talk about Memphis a bunch in my books because it's just —

There's a monument to it. A very large pyramid, I understand.

Exactly. You come walking down the street, here you go, here's your corporate tax abatement. This deal with Oracle is strange. The way it's structured is that Oracle will come in, it's building a "campus." And this is the hot new thing now in taxes, it's call everything a 'campus.' Every time you're bringing a company, it's building a 'campus' because that's more than a headquarters and that's more than just new jobs. It's always a 'campus' now. An Apple campus is opening in North Carolina, a new Google campus in North Carolina.

But, anyway, Oracle will pay $175 million in Nashville up front for some public infrastructure, a pedestrian bridge, a park, some other stuff. And then yes, will get a 50 percent rake off on its property taxes until that $175 million is repaid. This isn't actually new money going out the door and Oracle does have these upfront costs. It's just a very strange situation in which Nashville has decided to sort of outsource its infrastructure building to a private corporation and then recoup it through taxation. It's just a little weird. It's not the most egregious of these deals I've seen. I think the larger concern with that deal is that there are real displacement concerns, and that's part of the problem with a lot of these arrangements is that they don't do anything to sort of ameliorate the knock on effects of the people who are already there.

This large corporation comes riding in and brings all these workers, contrary to what the corporation usually tell you. Those aren't local people getting hired. It's oftentimes just current employees moving in. There are gentrification and displacement concerns with this Oracle deal that the city says it has a handle on, but in my experience, it probably doesn't because cities don't ever really in these circumstances. It's just weird, the way to structure it, and that Nashville decided that the way to do this was to have Oracle pay for a bunch of stuff that taxpayers should just pay for, and then give it a giant tax break when you could just tax Oracle and build the public infrastructure like normal?

But the reason I actually liked this Nashville situation is because there's a congressional candidate in Nashville— her name is Odessa Kelly, and she's the head of an organization called Stand Up Nashville — who is talking about these deals a lot and has been through a bunch of them in Nashville, a bunch that were much worse than this Oracle deal. She also was a key part of the city negotiating one of the better stadium subsidies arrangements in America. They made a really good deal actually with the new Nashville MLS team that's coming there, and in return for some public subsidies for a sports stadium, which I generally hate — cities should not do that — they did actually make a really good community benefits agreement. She is now running for Congress on this platform of stop letting corporations hose our city. It's a really interesting test of whether the politics of this can be flipped on their head, because I've been saying this whole time, this is a political problem.

There's political capital to be built from doing these deals and if you're an incumbent politician, getting your face in the local paper and being able to send out a press release and to be able to tell about all this job creation is big. You send out tweets and Facebook posts and say, “look at all the good I'm doing." That's worth something politically, even if it actually turns out to be worth bupkis, economically. Odessa Kelly's campaign is going to be a really interesting case study, if you could flip that on its head and say, "No, actually, this isn't working for our city and this isn't appropriate, elect me to stop doing these things and we need more community input." Her line was just great, she said, "Oracle, isn't the prize. Nashville is the prize." And I just love that because it's exactly right.

That's great.

It's so perfect because the thing about these deals, right, is that we've been told, and this sort of gets back to what I said at the beginning of this story, the corporate elite and the politicians who love them have told us for 40, 50, 60 years that you should be thankful we are here. We are going to come in to town and rain down benefits upon you, and that's why we deserve these tax giveaways. When, actually, it should be the other way around. That should be the city saying, "No, it's a privilege for you to be here. And if you want to be here in our excellent community, where we have paid for lots of great things with our taxes, then we have certain expectations for you and you have to achieve certain benchmarks for the community."

The way we talk about economic development is just backwards, the way to build a local economy isn't to dump a bunch of money on a corporation and hope something good happens. It's to have the best education system, have the best transportation system, have the highest quality of life for workers. Then corporations are going to want to come there, right? Places have incumbent advantages and they need to play them up and build on them. That was one of those maddening things about Amazon HQ2, was that why is Northern Virginia — for all intents and purposes, the greater DC Metro area — paying all this money for Amazon to be in the nation's capital?

Are you kidding me? Amazon doesn't want to have a massive presence in Washington, DC where, oh, by the way, Jeff Bezos has a massive house and owns a newspaper? Of course he wants to be here! And yet we've been told that we need to grovel before these corporations in return for their investments that they were going to make anyway. So, that's why I just love the Odessa Kelly line to flip this on its head. I really hope it goes well for her.

I mean, I live in Queens right near where the other HQ2 was going to go, and I was very frustrated by that because that place is really lighting up already. I don't know how much you need to write him a check to move into a neighborhood that is already blowing up. One of my favorite stories that you've ever covered was the Kansas City-Kansas City ending of the conflict between the Kansas Cities. And I guess what I'm wondering is, how has that been going? Are you seeing more of that? Is there moving forward any kind of hope for more of those disarmament campaigns? I know that you had kind of alluded to recently a number of state legislatures that were looking at a disarming compact, but I guess I'm wondering what's the status?

This was — for listeners who are interested in the backstory — a so-called border war between Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri.

It's so good.

They were literally using incentives to have companies move a couple of miles because the Metro area straddles the state line. So, companies were literally just moving back and forth across the border. Nobody's job was changing, people's commute was just altered a little bit. And yet tons of money was going out the door to do this obviously ludicrous thing. And even though it did take forever, and much longer than it should have — because, again, this is obviously and patently stupid — the two states did agree to a ceasefire and said, "Okay, we're not doing this anymore. No more incentives to get companies to just hop the border within the Metro area. That's no good for anybody, obviously."

So, it's holding. It's sort of tenuous. Every now and again, you'll see a company pop up and say that it's going to try and claim incentives to hop back and forth from one state or another. It looks like it's going to break, but it is holding so far. Assuming that keeps holding, and I think it will, then that is a model for a larger solution to this problem because that's always the next step, right? So, what are we actually going to do about it? And unless we think that the federal government is going to use its power to come in and put the kibosh on this, which is...

Actually, we should maybe circle back to this. It accidentally may have recently. But I don't think —

We'll circle back to that.

I don't think it's going to do it affirmatively in any big way anytime soon. There is an effort amongst state lawmakers to form a compact that essentially is a sort of collective ceasefire where all the states will get together and say, "We're not doing this anymore. Every state that joins this compact agrees not to use state or local incentives to steal businesses from any other state in the compact." It's like multilateral disarmament, right? That's the problem, is that no one state wants to just say, "Okay, we're turning off the spigot," because there's going to be a political cost. Some governor next door is going to be a jerk about it, and start poaching all your businesses, and claiming that great things are happening. And you're going to look terrible and probably lose your re-election campaign. So, the great thing about the compact is everybody sort of puts the weaponry down together and says, "Okay, let's all do this at the same time."

They also agree to a bunch of data sharing practices, which I think would be really helpful just because it's just that much harder to play states off against each other because they'll be able to literally ask, "Hey, what's this corporation telling you? Oh, well, here's what they're telling us." It would improve a lot of things. There are bills in 13 states at the moment to form this compact. I believe a 14th is coming, though I won't get ahead of them, in a state that is pretty exciting, but I'll let them announce it and we can talk again when they do. That's up from this coalition working on this effort two years ago, when there were bills in five states and it's up to 13 now. This isn't going to happen this week or next week or next year, but I do think it's really promising. I've seen a noticeable uptick in interest in it since the pandemic, because state lawmakers, for reasons good and bad, are looking around and realizing that this is a giant waste of money and are looking for ways to sort of collectively get out of handing out these incentives. I think it's promising and it's just such a good model. It doesn't depend on the federal government doing anything. It's just the states agreeing to do it together at the same time. So, we will see!

That's cool. So, how did the federal government maybe accidentally stop corporate giveaways?

There's a provision in the most recent COVID relief package that says that any state that enacts a net reduction in taxes needs to pay back to the federal government an equal amount of relief funds. Essentially, if you decide to cut taxes by $100 million, give back $100 million in your relief funds, because you clearly didn't need it if you were cutting taxes. If you look at the way the law is phrased, I think it doesn't take a deep reading to say that it applies to most definitely new state and local corporate tax incentive programs, but even because it talks about administrative analyses being part of the equation here, also new awards under existing programs. I think there's a world in which you can very, very credibly claim that this provision should apply to incentive programs.

Most certainly any new incentive program that gets authorized, you should have to pay back the federal government by the same amount and maybe new awards under existing programs. This makes sense. This is the federal government trying to essentially ensure that members of other states didn't have to subsidize tax cuts in a particular state. I think it certainly applies, and the key is going to be what the Treasury says about it. Treasury will be issuing guidance on this provision about what counts and what doesn't and what you have to do to pay back. But if Treasury goes with what me and a lot of other folks are saying, and applies this to incentive packages, suddenly new incentive programs will be twice as expensive! So, if you authorize a $2 billion incentive program, it's not just those $2 billion out the door, it's also $2 billion in relief funds that need to go along with it.

It could be very interesting to see how states react. States are throwing a fit about this provision in general, but so far, Treasury has been pretty adamant about wanting it policed the way it's written in the law. We're going to see, but if Treasury goes along with that interpretation, there could be just a window there where these things have to slow down for a couple of years and hopefully give the folks who are working on a compact a little time to try and get it implemented instead of just having to play constant whack-a-mole, because that's sort of how you feel like working on this.

That every day, a new bad deal pops up somewhere and you're scrambling so hard to try and just address that, that there's no time to sit down and stop them systemically. The piece I did recently on that study about small businesses, I had sitting around for several weeks just because new bad deals kept popping up. I kept having to write newsletters about those and be like, "Oh, I have to push the study edition back another week." And that's sort of how it is on policy level all the time too.

So Janet Yellen, please make Pat's job easier. That about wraps everything up. Where can folks find you?

The newsletter is called Boondoggle, it's on Substack. I work at the American Economic Liberties Project and a lot of my work on not just taxes, but corporate power in general at the state and local level shows up there. And I am on Twitter @Pat_Garofalo, the underscore is really important because otherwise -

The most important underscore.

The most important underscore because otherwise, you're going to wind up following a conservative member of the Minnesota State House.

Got it. And you and he, I understand, have distinctly different opinions on corporate tax incentives.

On most things.

All right. Well, thanks again. I will be sure when I open up the Numlock Campus to call it a campus.

I hear you should move to Memphis. Move Numlock headquarters to Memphis and you're going to get a really sweet deal.


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Numlock News is a daily morning newsletter that pops out fascinating numbers buried in the news, highlighting awesome stories you're missing out on. Every Sunday, Walt Hickey interviews someone cool. Sometimes he records it in quality befitting a podcast.