The billionaire boondoggle How our politicians let corporations and bigwigs steal our money and jobs

Pat Garofalo

Book - 2019

"The first comprehensive look at how politicians let the entertainment industry bilk taxpayers, hijack public policy and hurt economic investment, starting and ending with Trump. It is widely believed, that a city in possession of a fortune must be in want of a partner who will drive economic development and thus be worth a substantial dowry of tax abatements, subsidies, and grants. These partners always prove faithless, though, especially when it comes to the entertainment industry. Never date an actor, as they say. From stadiums and movie productions to casinos and mega-malls to convention centers and hotels, cities and states have paid out billions of dollars to the world's corporate titans in an attempt to boost their economie...s, create new and better jobs, and lure well-known events such as the Olympics and the Super Bowl to within their borders, not to mention give officials a chance to have their pictures taken with celebrities. That Big Entertainment drives bigger economies is a myth, however, one that has nonetheless permeated every facet of policy making despite the overwhelming evidence that it results in a raw deal for the taxpaying public. In The Billionaire Boondoggle, Garofalo takes readers on a tour of publicly-subsidized corporate America to explain how that myth came to be, how much money America's elected officials throw away, and why courting Big Entertainment just courts disaster"--

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New York, NY : Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin's Press 2019.
Main Author
Pat Garofalo (author)
First edition
Physical Description
278 pages ; 25 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • Introduction: The Billionaire Boondoggle
  • 1. The Blockbuster Scam: How Hollywood Is Ripping You Off
  • 2. Have a Good Night's Sleep on Us
  • 3. "Alexa, Can I Have a Job, Please?"
  • 4. Don't Go for Gold: It's a Waste to Host the Olympics or the World Cup
  • 5. Foolish Games: Why Lotteries and Casinos Are a Bad Bet
  • 6. The Stadium Swindle
  • 7. Don't Go Shopping for Big Retail
  • 8. The Mythology of the Corporate Tax
  • Epilogue
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes
  • Index
Review by Booklist Review

Many taxpayers may have a suspicion that corporations often make out like bandits when it comes to paying taxes, while the average Joe is left holding the bag. This book will confirm their suspicion. Garofalo specifically looks at how city and state governments have been manipulated into charging low or no taxes by the entertainment industry while studios reap big gains. His explorations include states that pay the movie industry to film on location; big hotel chains or retail outlets that receive tax breaks to locate in a city; large sporting events, such as the Olympics or World Cup Soccer, that make heavy infrastructure-building requirements of cities that host the event; sports leagues that blackmail cities into building new stadiums; how lotteries and casinos are actually a tax on the poor; and big corporations like Amazon that force cities to bid against each other for the privilege of housing company offices there. The final chapter discusses myths about corporate tax cuts. Garofalo's writing is straightforward and uncomplicated; the average reader will come away better informed.--Caren Nichter Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Garofalo, the former assistant managing editor for opinion at U.S. News and World Report, presents an astute argument against the courting of big entertainment by politicians and city leaders.The author asserts that this greed-driven entanglement is a mutually beneficial financial arrangement only profitable for those doing the handshaking, leaving community programs and employment forecasters with the empty promises of sizable funding that often fails to materialize. Armed with palpable outrage, Garofalo systematically supports his allegations with pages of fact-based, real-world examples. He begins with the Hollywood movie machine, which swoops into urban areas with the promise of an "economic renaissance" and reaps the benefits of tax breaks, funding that could be earmarked for government programs or underfunded schools. The author describes internet retail giant Amazon's epic search for a second North American headquarters location, which ignited a fiery bidding war in several major cities. Yet the company's proposal required aggressive corporate tax incentives to "offset initial capital outlay and ongoing operational costs." The location offering the sweetest deal wins, Garofalo acknowledges, but at the expense of funding local social services and infrastructural improvements that truly require the kind of financial support spent on corporate tax breaks. In a few of the author's most inspired and fiery rants, he skewers sports stadium "swindles" and hosting bids for the World Cup or the Olympics, which he colorfully describes as "an orgy of waste, spending, and unfulfilled promises." Refreshingly, he also discusses a concerted group of grassroots Bostonian activists who managed to deflect the entire bid away from their city. Though not entertainment-based, big-box stores and the public subsidies they receive also attract Garofalo's scrutiny. A robust closing chapter on the history and the dizzying facets of the corporate tax provides an appropriate coda to an intensive analysis. Though he advocates for swift policy changes and corporate tax reform, the base-level solution, he writes, is resisting shoulder-shrugging complacency and voting in local representatives who will resist this type of inequitable exchange.An alarming, fact-driven jeremiad urging change and action. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.