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Monday, February 28, 2011

Federal Subsidy for Anti-Poverty Development Goes Elsewhere

David Dietz documents the perversion of the New Markets Tax Credits program in his Bloomberg article, ' Rich Take From Poor as U.S. Subsidy Law Funds Luxury Hotels '.

Some excerpts :

The landmark Blackstone Hotel in downtown Chicago, which has hosted 12 U.S. presidents, opened in 2008 after a two-year, $116 million renovation. Inside the Beaux Arts structure, built in 1910, buffed marble staircases greet guests spending up to $699 a night for rooms with views of Lake Michigan.

What’s surprising isn’t the opulent makeover: It’s how the project was financed. The work was subsidized by a federal development program intended to help poor communities.

The biggest beneficiary of taxpayer help for the Blackstone revamp was Prudential Financial Inc., the second-largest U.S. life insurer. The company got $15.6 million in tax credits from the U.S. Department of the Treasury for helping to fund the project, according to Chicago city records, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its March issue.

JPMorgan Chase & Co., the second-largest U.S. bank by assets, also took in money by serving as a lender and the monitor of Blackstone construction financing, city records show.

Since 2003, some of the world’s biggest financial companies, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc., U.S. Bancorp, JPMorgan Chase and Prudential, have taken advantage of a federal subsidy that will cost taxpayers $10.1 billion -- and most of the public has never heard of it.

Investors have used the program, called New Markets Tax Credits, to help build more than 300 upscale projects, including hotels, condominiums, office buildings and a car museum, on streets far from poverty, according to Treasury Department records released through a federal Freedom of Information Act request.