Last year, United Technologies, a big war contractor that also makes homey gadgets like air conditioners, earned profits of $5 billion, after tax.
Last week, the company said it would keep 800 jobs at its Carrier Corp. furnace plant in Indiana, instead of moving them to Mexico, after President-elect Donald Trump helped persuade it to accept $7 million from the state to update its works, and repeated his call for lower U.S. business-tax rates.
DuPont Co. and Dow Chemical Co., which plan to merge, earned $6 billion last year, after tax. On Tuesday, the New Castle County Council agreed to pay them $7.5 million to keep their scaled-down postmerger headquarters in Delaware, instead of leaving town. That's on top of tens of millions in state tax relief.
I've asked lots of governors how they feel when they give big, profitable companies cash not to leave. "That's what makes this country great: We're not afraid to compete," Pennsylvania's Tom Corbett once told me, after paying a Philadelphia brokerage millions so it could move across Market Street. If states couldn't hand corporate taxpayers back strategic cash from time to time, "we'd get fat and lazy."
More typical was Delaware Gov. Jack Markell: "We would be so much better off investing the money in workforce development and quality of life. But I'm not prepared to compete with my arms tied behind my back."
All the other states do it! Our next president shows he can play the game, too.
Of course, conservatives and liberals complained Trump can't throw money at every employer that threatens to leave.
But look past the sideshow: For United Technologies, general corporate-tax relief would be worth lots more than Indiana's few million.
Maybe we can afford lower business tax rates, if that includes incentives to invest and hire at home. And why stop there? Fix health insurance, so it doesn't discourage bosses from adding full-timers. Update roads, ports, schools, and other "public goods." Regulate utilities and basic services, efficiently. Make opportunity more profitable for all, not just a few examples.
"FREEDOM LIVES," writes Vernon W. Hill II, founder of the former Commerce Bank, from his part-time exile in London, where he runs Metro Bank PLC.
Federal bank regulators pressured Hill to leave Commerce in 2006. Later, they quashed his attempt to merge Pennsylvania banks. So Hill started his next company in England, where it's growing rapidly.
I asked Hill if he's going to try America again, now that Trump, his old golf buddy who helped Commerce trash-talk JPMorgan and Citi, is heading to the White House; and Steve Mnuchin, ex-Goldman Sachs banker and mortgage investor, is Trump's pick for secretary of the Treasury/bank overseer, and turnaround king Wilbur Ross, a Hill admirer, is Trump's pick to head the Commerce Department.
He's gotta be thinking about it, like other guys who like to live big and build in a rush.