A legislative task force today released results of its year-long study on fighting poverty. You can get a full rundown from Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.
Problem is, these advocates for the disenfranchised think too small. They talk, for example, about a program of small loans and technical assistance to small businesses, particularly in rural areas and for minority operators as a small-bore strategy that attacks poverty where it lives. Don't they know that trickle-down is king in Arkansas?
In Arkansas, the prevalent philosophy is to give the rich money — the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, say; or Bass Pro Shops; or whatever industrialist (foreign-based OK) currently has a hand out for millions in tribute on top of our non-union wages and brutal workers comp law. We'll give them buckets full of tax money because we know goodness and mercy will trickle down on the rest of us before long. Look no farther than North Little Rock and its TIF districts, which rob school taxes to spur economic development. Why, city officials are quoted today as saying that 2011 sales tax revenues in the city may — MAY — match 2006 revenues (not counting inflation). How's that for economic pump priming? In the meanwhile, the city will continue to raise taxes on its citizens, without a vote, through electric rates.
But I digress. The poverty task force talks of wonderful ideas: better health care for kids; better schools, beginning pre-K; a higher college going and graduation rate. But, again, this is so pre-Tea Party. Such investments in Arkansas people cost real money. Handouts to the rich make ever so much more sense.
Speaking of handouts: Roby Brock has an interview with downtown North Little Rock developer about hopes for more taxpayer support for downtown developers — an investment tax credit for any investment, even a parking lot, and perhaps legislation to divert sales tax revenue to private developments, be it a retail store or whatever. Cities are awash in money and would happily give up sales taxes to private companies because they know trickle down works. Mayor Stodola talked about it, I'm sure, during his working Parisian dinners with the chamber president. Free enterprise is all about keeping government from providing services to poor folks so that money is available for the deserving.