4 Fantastically Stupid Projects Pushed By Republicans Aiming to Please Their Corporate Masters
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As thousands of Americans protest the budget cuts and austerity measures being unleashed on their communities by their elected officials, states continue to issue tax breaks and deal out funding for an array of fantastically stupid projects.
1. Kentucky’s $43 million Bible theme park
In Kentucky, officials approved $43 million in tax breaks to complete a project for a Bible-themed amusement park. In addition to that subsidy, taxpayers may have to cough up another $11 million to improve a highway interchange near the site.
Gov. Steve Beshear (D) dismissed the concerns of separation of church and state hippies when he stated there’s nothing “remotely unconstitutional” about taxpayer dollars incentivizing the Ark park, unless you’re one of those extremists who take the “separation of church and state” part of the Constitution literally.
“The people of Kentucky didn’t elect me governor to debate religion. They elected me governor to create jobs,” [said Beshear]. Daniel Phelps, a geologist and president of the Kentucky Paleontological Society, called the governor’s support of the proposal “embarrassing for the state.”
It’s unclear how many jobs exactly The Ark Encounter amusement park will actually create, but it is obvious Kentucky badly needs funding in other areas. The state has gone through eight rounds of budget cuts over the past three years, including massive cuts to education (Kentucky is one of nine states that cut per-child spending by more than 10 percent), and a pay freeze for all teachers and state workers. The state also recently cut funding for Medicaid.
The bankrolling of a religious scheme occurs at a time when 16.9 percent of tthe population lives in poverty, according to Community Action Kentucky, a community-based agency that implements several government programs, but also partners with private entities to help lift people out of destitution. Additionally, 23 percent of all children in Kentucky under the age of 18 live in poverty.
As for any benefits the park might bring, other states aren’t convinced such endeavors are sound investments. Tennessee declined not to give tax breaks to a similar Bible park following concerns the project wasn’t a good use of taxpayer dollars.
2. Texas’s tax breaks for yacht owners
Then there’s the decision from the Texas House of Representatives to issue a tax break for its state’s Galtian overlords who wish to buy yachts costing $250,000 or more.
It was only last month that non-yacht-owning Texans held a daylong vigil outside the state Capitol in response to proposed massive budget cuts to healthcare and education that were called “historic.” Ultimately, the Legislature cut healthcare by about $10 billion and delayed any decision on Medicaid until the 2013 session so they can focus on the pressing matter of funding billionaires’ floating third homes.
3. Gov. Christie’s Money Pit
New Jersey’s Gov. Chris Christie, AKA the Fiscal Conservative Messiah, made a name for himself by slashing spending by eliminating hundreds of millions of dollars in education funding and going to war with public workers. Yet, Christie didn’t mind ponying up hundreds of millions of dollars in state dollars for the Xanadu Meadowlands money pit that has been in endless construction since 2003.
Originally a private venture, the Xanadu entertainment and shopping complex quickly fell behind schedule, motivating Gov. Christie, who previously expressed hesitancy at using public funds to save a private undertaking, to intervene. In July 2010, the governor announced it was time for the state to step in, and in the end, that decision would cost New Jersey taxpayers big time.
Named “the ugliest damn building in New Jersey and maybe America,” the $1.9 billion Xanadu Meadowlands complex – complete with indoor water park, skating rink, and 600-foot ski slope -- remains unfinished, and Christie recently announced the company that built the Mall of America intends to rescue the deteriorating project.
Part of the crappy deal Christie struck on behalf of New Jersey taxpayers includes the agreement to forfeit future sales tax revenue to developer Triple Five,a Canadian conglomeratethat owns the 5.3-million-square-foot West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton, Alberta, and the 4.2-million-square-foot Mall of America in Minnesota.
4. Public funding of union-busting corporations
And then there’s the public funding of private companies that take preternatural pleasure in battling workers. For example, Boeing received a tax refund of $137 million from state and local governments after raking in $4 billion in pretax profits, according to Philip Mattera, research director of Good Jobs First. South Carolina leadership initially lured Boeing across its borders to build the Dreamliner aircraft with the promise of a staggering $900 billion subsidy package and the use of a non-union plant, a move the National Labor Relations Board calls an illegal retaliation.
Much like in the instance of the Ark park debacle, Boeing claims it is a job creator, which should for some reason grant it special permissions to steamroll workers. Alas, such claims rarely hold up to scrutiny. South Carolina’s unemployment rate remains above the national average in a state with some of the country’s least generous jobless benefits. Meanwhile, thousands of residents are currently protesting officials’ plans to cut $700 million from the state’s Medicaid and education programs.
The official narrative that there isn’t enough money to go around simply isn’t true. That’s why in state after state, legislatures are able to find hundreds of millions of dollars for the pet projects of yacht-owners, and for the every whim and desire of their corporate masters.
The truth is that America’s vast resources aren’t being spent in an efficient manner. Officials throw money at big, glamorous-sounding Xanadu fantasies, or to bible-thumping constituents and strong-arming corporate cronies who make unfounded claims of trickle-down prosperity. Politicians do this in order to build monuments for their own legacies in a pathetic effort to obtain immortality, or to buy off the right players in attempts to seize power again in two, or four years, so they can prop up more extravagant headstones.
But in no way is this system meant to provide for the majority of American citizens. In fact, from what we see by examining these spectacularly stupid projects, the opposite is usually the case.