In the United States of corporate subsidies, Washington is one of the biggest donors. Left behind everywhere are small companies.

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Data from the group Good Jobs First, underwritten by the Surdna Foundation and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, shows that Washington is No. 2 in the nation in giving subsidies for business. No. 1 is another “anti-business” state: New York.

According to the group’s Subsidy Tracker, Washington handed out $13.2 billion in subsidies, with Boeing, not surprisingly being the top recipient. Orca Bay Seafoods, National Frozen Foods, Microsoft, Amgen and Weyerhaeuser also are at the top. The database looks at subsidies in effect since 2003.

A new report from Good Jobs First says that the overwhelming number of subsidies from states go to big corporations, leaving small business behind.

“If subsidy programs disproportionately benefit large businesses, they reduce market competition and thereby make the economy less efficient,” economist Kenneth Thomas commented on his blog. In addition, in many states the subsidy programs are sold as a way to help small business.

That’s not the case here. Lawmakers and taxpayers know exactly what they are getting in handing out incentives to Boeing: preservation of high-paid aerospace jobs, which numbered 79,947 as of Sept. 24 (vs. 80,199 at the end of January). Moreover, big companies such as Boeing support hundreds of small vendors. Few states get as much for their money.

Still, Thomas’ points are well worth reading, as is the report. Yet until federal law prevents states from using subsidies as economic weapons, the practice is unlikely to stop.


Today’s Econ Haiku:

Walgreens buys Rite-Aid?

A prescription for lost jobs

And no poisoned pill