Confessions of a Serial Tax Abater

From Volume 8 Mar 2011 Issue of the Journal

The Editor is a serial tax abater. This must be known to the reader at the very start of this issue or nothing good will come from it. I freely confess that I deprived libraries of books, students from a proper education, robbed unwilling and ill informed tax payers, semi-corruptly and incompetently negotiated deals with fat cat capitalists, bankrupted cities and towns, and served at the beck and call of the infamous “growth coalition”.

It was a good life – and it lasted for decades. But retirement is a time for reflection. Did I do well or was I as evil and ignorant as many proclaimed. Did the alchemy I practiced actually work? Or was it an inefficient distortion of policy and municipal fiscal soundness. Should I rue my past, wander through my remaining, hopefully short life ringing a bell and crying “tax abater”, or perhaps repent my sins and ask for forgiveness?

Or should I stick to my guns and point with pride to my life’s work?

To answer my questions we offer three sets of articles on incentives and tax abatement. At the outset this explanation must be stated: the titles of these sections do not describe the quality of the articles or the merit or reputation of the authors. The articles, and authors, are well respected, excellent researchers of considerable note in the tax abatement/incentive literature. Their articles are regarded by many as among the very best. The title refers to their “attitude” or perspective toward the use of tax abatements and incentives only.

The first section, “The Ugly”, reviews two articles reflecting what, in our view, is the dominant perspective (hatred) of many academics, particularly those adhering to what we label as “the customary approach”.

The articles in the second section, “The Bad”, recognize that however evil and misshapen tax abatements may be, incentives and tax abatements are not only here to stay, but are probably growing. The question they pose is, “Why?

The third set of articles, “The Good”, accept tax abatements and incentives and try to figure out how they can make them better.

The final section, “Behold a Pale Rider”, is more or less an essay/final comments/wrap up on the three sections.

Depending upon the reader’s gluttony or the lack of anything better to do, she is free to choose whichever sections she wants/agrees with/or gets mad at. If he wants to read all three we recommend starting with the Ugly, proceeding to the Bad, and finishing with the Good. But no matter what order you choose, each section to a large degree stands on its own. “Behold a Pale Rider”, however is NOT a summary and should be read in conjunction with at least one of the three sections.

Why the Clint Eastwood motif? Why not? Next month is Humphrey Bogart!

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