Subsidizing retailers | Arkansas Blog

Sunday, June 4, 2006

Subsidizing retailers

Posted By on Sun, Jun 4, 2006 at 8:03 AM

The Jonesboro Sun editorial page today has a good review of a study out of UALR last week on retail sales in Arkansas. It said that six counties account for half the retail sales in the state, with Pulaski County well in the lead (please note NWA chauvinists, that Pulaski has far more than the combined sales in Washington and Benton counties). Garland, Sebastian and Craighead are the other biggies.

The Sun is happy about Craighead, naturally, and hopeful that Bruce Burrow's new taxpayer-subsidized mall will increase the county's clout still more. Undoubtedly it will and the tax revenue will be god good for Jonesboro. But .... that money is not new money. It's retail spending siphoned off from somewhere else, to the detriment of the areas that lose it. That's not illegal. It's capitalism at work. But there is no reason that state taxpayers should subsidize it. There's no reason Eudora should pay for the transfer of underwear purchases from Turrell to Bruce Burrow's mall.

We couldn't believe it when a lawyer popped up at the UALR session to say that what this state needs is more incentives to build retail shopping centers. The incentive is the market. Let it work. Why should state taxpayers help Bruce Burrow pull customers in North Little Rock away from next-door Sherwood? The gain in NLR revenue will be but a veil for the loss somewhere else. There is a finite market for underwear. You don't create more by shifting where it is sold.

(We don't know about you, but we buy socks on the Internet. Now there is a subsidy -- digital shopping is tax-free in many cases -- that also deserves some attention.)

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