Apple of our eye

by YES! Staff

Perhaps you didn’t know that last week Gov. Beverly Perdue signed SB 575, which changes the way state tax liabilities for certain types of corporations are calculated.

Perhaps you don’t care — surely people have enough on their plates these days without becoming absorbed in the minutiae of state tax code. But SB 575 is more than a bill. It is an allegory, representative of the new world order in which corporations are more powerful than the governments under which they operate. SB 575 is a tightly worded piece of legislation that grants tax incentives to companies that meet a rigid set of criteria, including the ability to invest $1 billion over nine years. Not too many companies have the muscle to lay out that kind of capital, maybe a small handful in the entire world. And the NC General Assembly made no secret of the fact that this piece of legislation was crafted with just a single company in mind: Apple Computers. Yes, this law was drafted, debated and passed while Apple held the promise of a server farm over our heads. And within hours of Perdue applying her signature to the bill, Apple announced it would build its server farm in the Old North State. We can’t say that the outcome of this favorable treatment is entirely undesirable. We use Apple computers exclusively in the production of YES! Weekly, and we know it to be solid and innovative company. SB 575 stipulates that the server farm be built in one of the state’s poorest counties — probably in Catawba or Cleveland counties, where unemployment is at nearly 15 percent — where pay will exceed the community average. The server farm will create about 50 jobs. Having Apple’s presence in North Carolina is probably a good thing. But there are many things to recommend North Carolina as the site for a corporate entity besides economic incentives. We have lots of relatively inexpensive land. We are located in the middle of the Eastern Seaboard, geographically ideal for a distribution hub. We have lots of universities and community colleges that put out trained workers and managers. The weather is great. And our state taxes are already pretty low. We are one of 13 states that do not collect state property taxes, and our existing corporate tax structure is a flat 6.9 percent, slightly better than the national median. We protest on sheer principle. Crafting legislation to appeal to a single corporate entity sends several messages, chief among them that North Carolina law is something that is for sale, and that the state’s existing business owners, large and small can’t afford it. More disturbing is that the move sees the government adapting to the will of the corporation instead of the other way around, a disturbing trend that, if it goes unchecked, makes a mockery of any attempts to govern large corporations under the rule of law.