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The great American tradition of feeding at the public trough

Scott Reeder at the Atlantic has an article about how two sporting goods stores–Cabela’s and Bass Pro–have received massive doses of state and local taxpayer money. Basically, if these stores want to open in your town, they first demand all sorts of subsidies. Cabela’s, for instance, often gets the town to build parts of the store. And since the town owns them, the company doesn’t pay tax on those parts. In the past 15 years, Cabela’s has received $551 million, and Bass has received $1.3 billion.

I only have one thing to add to the article: Bass is a private company, so I don’t know how much it makes, but Cabela’s profits are public knowledge. Since 2003, which is as far as the data I could locate goes back, Cabela’s has made around $750 million in profits (more or less; I was eyeballing).

Now: The subsidies have averaged $37 million per year (551/15). Profits have averaged around $75 million per year (750/10). Or about twice the subsidies.

To put it another way: half of Cabela’s profit has come from taxpayers.

If you add the $400 million in Federal financing, it’s more than half.

Now: This isn’t all that unusual, and the problem is not that businesses get government help (although no business should get as much as Cabela’s gets). The problem is when we pretend that only welfare queens, unionized teachers, and Solyndra get government help, and that private enterprise is a realm of self-reliant Ayn Rand heroes who make their own way in the world.

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