The New York Times (you know, the real Times) has kicked off a three part series on our nation's $80 billion a year in state and local government subsidies to businesses, and the impact on local economies and communities. It's not a pretty picture.

The Times has also included a handy little interactive database that allows you to explore these incentive programs state by state. For example, Washington State taxpayers spend $2.35 billion a year on incentive programs. That's roughly 15 cents per state budget dollar, or $349 for every man, woman, and child in the state. Imagine how different our education funding debate might look if our state had an extra $2.35 billion a year to spend on schools?

As Hallmark CEO Donald J. Hall Jr., put it it about the budget-depleting subsidy border war between Kansas and Missouri: “If you’re looking at the competitiveness of a region, the most important thing a region can do is to focus on education. And this use of incentives is really transferring money from education to businesses.”

It takes only a simple majority vote to grant a tax exemption or credit in Washington, but under current state law a two-thirds supermajority to repeal one, no matter how nonproductive. Not that we'd know if a subsidy was nonproductive. Every legislative effort to sunset exemptions or subject them to performance audits has been crushed in Olympia. So we're flying blind. And that's just plain stupid.

Which is also exactly how our corporate welfare queens want it.