Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Facebook: subsidizing the ultra-rich

Now that Facebook filed for its initial public offering on the stock market where it may net the social network's founder Mark Zuckerberg about $28 billion, one question needs to be asked: Why does Facebook need tax breaks from Crook County and the state of Oregon to run a data complex near Prineville?

Meanwhile, the Oregon Legislature convened today for a one-month session where it will try to figure out how to make yet more cuts to the state's budget and, ultimately, to school districts across the state.

Oregon currently has a $15 billion two-year budget, but must cut another $300 million because of declining revenues. The legislators' "jobs" plan includes getting rid of 400 government jobs.

In Prineville, the school district can't pay for sports or basic maintenance like roofs or fixing tennis courts so that they're no longer dangerous to use.

Facebook has a tax-exempt status in Crook County, but in October the state said it could assess a property tax and calculated $390,000 for the Facebook site. State officials revised that figure the next day, to $26,000 or what Zuckerman will make about every 26 seconds.

But that wasn't good enough. How could Facebook possibly maintain the data facility when it would have to pay property taxes that could change from year to year? Facebook needed "certainty."

Well, the state agreed last week and gave Facebook some "certainty": no taxes for 15 years.

Isn't that special?

Companies, from small businesses to mega-corporations, always say they need certainty in order to grow their businesses. Evidently, they think no one else needs any certainty in their lives.

This much is certain: Taxpayers, with lower wages and diminishing government services, need to subsidize Facebook, one of the soon-to-be richest companies in the world.

These are the priorities we value. And, this is what's wrong with our country.

Mitt Romney, fresh off his Florida victory, stated it more succinctly: "I'm not concerned about the very poor."

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