Public outrage over the mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida, has led to the #BoycottNRA campaign, which pushes companies that have business deals with the NRA to cut those ties. More than a dozen companies, including car rental agencies, airlines, insurance companies and at least one bank, have joined the boycott.
Among the biggest names to sign on is Delta Air Lines, which used to offer fare discounts for NRA members. Delta is based in Atlanta, and Georgia’s lieutenant governor, Casey Cagle (R), is not pleased. Tuesday afternoon, he tweeted a threat to nix Delta’s state tax breaks unless the airline gets back with the NRA.
Sigh. Here we have a politician openly using his elected office to strong-arm a private company into supporting his preferred political stance. He’s not even subtle about it! This isn’t blackmail in a smoky back room. It’s on Twitter, right after a tweet in which he claims having to pay the same price for plane tickets as everyone else is “viewpoint discrimination.”
The tax break Cagle likely has in mind is a sales tax exemption for jet fuel. Delta has been lobbying for it, and though it would apply to other airlines, the size of Delta’s Atlanta operations would make it the primary beneficiary.
Now, special tax breaks aren’t the same thing as outright government subsidies to businesses. Issues of deficit spending aside, I’m generally supportive of lowering taxes; but special tax breaks like this exemption are an unfair manipulation of the market to benefit some favored businesses. And as libertarian journalist Radley Balko pointed out, they’re here serving as an opportunity for blatant abuse of power:
Despite these real differences of detail, the situation reminds me of the mess in Dallas, where the NRA is holding its annual convention this year. Dallas offered the organization huge subsidies for the event, and now many Dallas taxpayers who don’t like the NRA and don’t want their money supporting it are understandably upset.
The solution in both places, of course, is to stop manipulating the market. Be neutral. Let Delta decide how to best serve its customers; let the NRA pay for its own parties; and don’t give the state so much power to abuse.