My thanks to veteran business reporter David Smith of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, who covered the Monday annual meeting of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce. It featured a discussion by Stephens Inc. CEO Warren Stephens and Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone about the glories of capitalism and free enterprise.
The story didn’t make the paper until today, space presumably being tight these days in the incredibly shrinking American press. But it was worth the wait, with extensive coverage of the tycoons’ remarks. The best part came last, in the 17th and concluding paragraph:
Governments in central Arkansas help fund the Little Rock Regional Chamber’s economic development efforts, including $300,000 this year from the city of Little Rock, a chamber spokesman said. About $1.1 million a year in funding is designated for economic development.
After a taxpayer’s lawsuit got government subsidies of the chamber of commerce declared unconstitutional, then-Sen. Jon Woods, who’ll live the next 18 years in a federal prison for stealing state money, engineered an “economic development” amendment onto the ballot that increased government bond subsidies for business and also specifically authorized direct taxpayer subsidies for chambers of commerce statewide. Here in Little Rock, most of the money comes from sales tax pennies on life’s essentials.
In case you miss my point: Taxpayer corporate welfare from some of the city’s poorest people pays the salaries of people who organized the meeting at which capitalism was extolled by the billionaire heir to an Arkansas financial fortune and a man who once compared complaints about income inequality to Nazism.