Taggart Gobbles Up Kentucky Subsidies?

Maybe “Taggart” isn’t the best name for a company that may well devour $300,000 in special-interest tax breaks from Kentuckians. From the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce press release:

Taggart Solar, LLC has announced its plans to locate a new manufacturing facility in the Edmonson County Industrial Park in Edmonson County in a 10,000-sq-ft leased building. The company will employ 30 individuals when the project is complete. The project’s announced capital investment is more than $440,000.

And the company’s president is … oh dear.

“We’re extremely excited to announce our plans to locate in Edmonson County,” said Dagney Johnson, president of Taggart Solar. “We’ve been very impressed with the community, the leadership of the elected officials, and the assistance that everyone has provided to make this project happen. I’m confident that South Central Kentucky is going to be a place of success for Taggart Solar.”

Emphasis mine. That’s right, a woman named Dagney is president of a company named Taggart that will get special tax treatment courtesy of Kentucky taxpayers. So much for not living at the expense of others. Am I right, folks?

The company has been given approval for as much as $300,000 in tax breaks to create an impressive 30 full-time jobs. At a price of $10,000 in tax breaks per job, even a big-time Washington insider like Wesley Mouch would be envious of whoever brokered such a sweetheart deal.

How to Oversimplify, Big Mac Edition

Here’s a chart I found at My New Roots’ Facebook page. I don’t want to pick on them, if only because it looks like they have some delicious recipes to offer. I suspect they didn’t create it themselves, but passed it on to their fans.

This particular item appears to be an object lesson in oversimplification. The point is that subsidies to meat and dairy and grain producers make their products relatively cheaper, thereby lowering input costs for McDonald’s or other so-called restaurants, thereby making you fat by making terrible food so very cheap.

But subsidies aren’t the only factor that goes into the price of fast food. One, it’s harder to freeze fresh vegetables, especially seasonal vegetables, than it is to freeze meat, dairy or grains. Two, vegetable crop yields are less dependable than they are for dairy, grain and meat products. The fact is that fresh (read: extremely perishable) foods just tend to be a bit more expensive for large-scale uses at fast-food restaurants.

I appreciate the intention of the chart. Subsidies make bad foods easier to consume, and so they may well contribute to all sorts of ill health effects. This chart doesn’t make that point very well.

(As a side note, does anyone believe that the largest share of our diet should be made up of grain?)

The Price of a Shaving

The distorting effects of subsidies don’t get much more clear than this:

It sounded like a good idea: Provide a little government money to convert wood shavings and plant waste into renewable energy.

But as laudable as that goal sounds, it could end up causing more economic damage than good — driving up the price of raw timber, undermining an industry that has long used sawdust and wood shavings to make affordable cabinetry, and highlighting the many challenges involved in decreasing the nation’s dependence on oil by using organic materials to create biofuels.

In a matter of months, the Biomass Crop Assistance Program — a small provision tucked into the 2008 farm bill — has mushroomed into a half-a-billion dollar subsidy that is funneling taxpayer dollars to sawmills and lumber wholesalers, encouraging them to sell their waste to be converted into high-tech biofuels. In doing so, it is shutting off the supply of cheap timber byproducts to the nation’s composite wood manufacturers, who make panels for home entertainment centers and kitchen cabinets.

In the article, I didn’t find much handwringing on behalf of people who buy cabinets, especially low-income people who tend toward buying lower-quality cabinets made out of wood shavings. The concerns instead were from people like Senator Tom Harkin on behalf of the biomass industry:

“My bottom line is we have to examine those rules and make sure the payments incentivize the use of new, additional biomass for energy,” Harkin said, “which is the objective Congress intends and wrote in the law.”

It’s not quite “Let them eat cake.” It’s more like, “Let them use cinderblocks and two-by-fours.”