THE RAPE OF COMMUNITY BY BUSINESS

While Republican politicians, many civic leaders and the news media are zeroing in on the “greed” of public employees, the big theft of public dollars is quietly being done by our major corporations.

It’s just business being business-like. Or a robbery in progress.

School teachers, firefighters, police and other public workers are fair game. Overly wealthy business people, well, we’ll leave them alone. Just look the other way.

The robbery of public funds is taking place right before our eyes. Yet there is no outcry. You hear not a whimper of opposition from politicians, civic leaders or the news media.

We’ve been trained to let it all go by. There is no countervailing power to corporate greed. Certainly not in our obedient news media. Kowtowers all.

And while the Plain Dealer centers attention on the Board of Revision (rightly to some extent), other government bodies are giving away tons of public dollars. A good deal of it from the very public institutions in dire trouble – public schools.

A good example is the rapacious American Greetings Corp. The company has played government off against each other to get major subsidies. Gimmie more.

Where will they move? Where they get the best deal – and the ability to help themselves at Crocker Park where they have a financial interest. Isn’t that corporate responsibility as defined by corporate guys?

One subsidy is particularly destructive. Tax Incremental Financing. It uses property taxes to fund American Greetings escape from Brooklyn, which has help nurture them for more than half a century, into a more exclusive neighborhood in Westlake.

So much for loyalty. So much for past favors. Fifty years or more may be a long time, but so long it’s been good to know you.

The tax incremental financing is only a small part of the largess bestowed upon the wealthy owners of the card company. (By the way, I’ll be checking my card purchases to see they’re not American Greetings.)

The Plain Dealer last week outlined all the generosity our politicians have given to American Greetings.

It’s astounding.

Atop a 75 percent property tax diversion for 30 years, according to the Plain Dealer, American Greetings also gets a 15-year tax credit on its income taxes. The PD says that on $155 million annual payroll, “that credit would be worth about $775,000 a year –or $11.6 million over the full 15 years.” Or maybe until they ask for more.

Don’t rest now. The state offers an additional $93.5 million package of subsidies over the same 15 years.

When it comes to corporate welfare, the sky’s the limit. This one beats them all.

Maybe you missed the PD editorial blasting this massive gift of public funds to a private business. You did miss the spanking?

No, you didn’t. It didn’t happen. And don’t expect it ever to be seen or read.

Nor did I hear of any politician making hay of this massive gift-giving by government. Where’s the against-all-welfare Tea Party? Nor did I notice any labor leader outrage.

The silence is deafening.

The PD actually encourages such corporate blackmail.

The coverage is so unbalanced that it must be purposely done or they’ve brainwashed themselves.

And nobody even tries to assess the loss to community of constantly subsidizing new building and leaving the old to fester and die. What a community loss.

“Let’s face it - when a major employer even hints that it might be thinking about moving – especially to another state – it’s in the driver’s seat,” a PD editorial said when Gov. John Kasich signed the deal for millions of subsidies to American Greetings. Isn’t that a plea to accept blackmail?

“Credit Kasich for correctly reading the need for a decisive move,” the PD wrote.

How about some forthright talk about the blackmail and hostage taking by corporations which take tens of millions of dollars from the public. That’s from each of us. We pay more when they pay less.

Shouldn’t these blackmailers at least get an editorial slap on the wrist?

Instead, they get encouragement from the PD editorial board.

The PD has been totting up lots of misdeeds in government.
However, it apparently hasn’t the energy to tote up how much in public funds – via tax abatement and tax incremental financing – the schools, cities, counties and library systems lose to corporate greed.

It’s not nice to tell the emperors they have no clothes.

Property taxes from the Terminal Tower projects are still going to help pay off the debt on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The hall has been there since the mid-1990s. That’s just one of many such sweet deals that divert tax money to private interests.

The neglect of this kind of civic corruption by the news media can be called the hypocrisy of conventional journalism. Reporters and editors see plenty of dishonesty in the public sector but are totally blind to the private graft.

Private wealth automatically gets the blind eye.

* * *

ADDING INSULT TO INJURY

Don’t know if you noticed but there’s a little dispute between the Cleveland Browns and the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority.

Very interesting.

The issue is the cost of parking. Presently, the cost to the Browns of parking facilities owned by the Port Authority is $225,000 a year in rent. The Browns want a $25,000 reduction, and a $20,000 a game discount in case of a pro football strike.

Port officials thus far rightly decline the Browns offer to pay less. Bet that won’t last.

Here’s my thought. Did anyone think it strange that the Browns pay $225,000 a year for parking facilities around Browns Stadium.

Yet, the Browns pay only $250,000 for the use of the city’s entire 73,000 seat stadium, including loges and food and other sales. That’s a cheap price that doesn’t increase over the 30-year lease. What a sweetheart deal.

Furthermore, the football stadium sits on city lakefront land that is valued at $15 million. Each year the taxes on the land are some $400,000 (2009 figure). Who pays? Not the Browns. The city pays. The land, unlike the stadium, is not tax exempt.
I guess neither the PD nor the FBI was interested enough to examine why Diane Downing and Fred Nance – both worked with the Mike White administration on the stadium deal – later went to work for, yes, Lerner & the Browns, possessors of the sweetheart deal.

Once again no one at the Plain Dealer – editorial writers, columnists or other writers - seems to notice the massive piracy. More brainwashing, editors? Or does it just come naturally by now. I guess.

Isn’t there a single Council member – or even Mayor Frank Jackson –alert and courageous enough to call Randy Lerner to a committee hearing to ask: Why don’t you pay your taxes, Mr. Rich Guy?

It’s time someone put some pressure on Lerner.
Here’s one way. Why not insist on naming rights for the stadium with all proceeds going to the Cleveland school system. Or do we just rob from the Cleveland schools? That could earn the schools tens of millions of dollars over the rest of the 30 years.

Does anyone expect that to happen? Not me.
Here’s my advice:

Teachers, firefighters, police tighten your belts.
Randy, loosen your belt another notch. Isn’t that fair?

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