STILL WAITING: Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Chinese investors at 2016 announcement of a giant pulp mill to be built near Arkadelphia. It's a corporate welfare giant, an economist writes. But it still isn't under construction.

Corporate welfare has burst into this news this week with Kimberly-Clark holding Wisconsin and Arkansas hostage for sufficient taxpayer tribute to keep a plant open in one of the states and with enormous handouts to Amazon to locate new facilities in New York and Virginia. This naturally brought to mind the promised Chinese pulp mill announced almost three years ago for Clark County.

Jeremy Horpedahl, a conservative economist at UCA with a unit financed by Koch money, is a critic of corporate welfare. He figures corporations can build their own plants on the usual budgetary principles (a low tax rate wouldn’t hurt, of course). He links to a website that puts the corporate welfare subsidy for the billion-dollar installation at $167 million for 250 jobs. But that is almost certainly a low-ball figure because some tax credits for which the mill will qualify can’t yet be quantified.


And will the mill, to be owned by a Chinese communist billionaire, be built? Local officials continue to have their hopes up, though ground can’t be broken until air and water permits are in place and it was only last week that Sun applied for a new type of air permit. Here’s the application. It’s necessary because initial plans for a pulp mill have now changed to a plant to produce linerboard (the stuff used to box up Amazon shipments.) That will set in motion new studies and another round of public hearings. I’m told the company also will have to apply for a new type of water discharge permit as well. No construction can begin until permits are approved. Local governments will have to build a water treatment plant for the wastewater. Still, they say, a project manager from China visits monthly and the process proceeds.

Yes, the matter of Trump’s tariff war with China has delayed progress.


And speaking of corporate welfare: Gov. Hutchinson says if we can just cut our taxes enough we’ll become an economic magnet. The Amazon search is instructive. It chose a high-tax city for a big part of its expansion and spurned many multiples of the welfare payments Virginia will pay in rebuffing Maryland. The winning cities have in common infrastructure, amenities, enlightened laws and a wealth of educated people. Among others, neither has a law protecting discrimination against LGBTQ people.  Neither is a right-to-work jurisdiction either. But still we believe if we punish working people enough, punish minority groups enough, cut taxes on the wealthy enough, lavish working-class dollars on Chinese communists and beggar state services, from schools to highways, prosperity will follow. We do reflect our educational stature, don’t we?