Short shots

| Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012, 8:49 p.m.

America will get what it voted for and soon. Two, to wit, to start:

• Russian President Vladimir Putin quickly reminded President Obama of his promise to show greater “flexibility” in U.S.-led missile defense system negotiations — translation: capitulation — should Mr. Obama win re-election. The neutering of American defenses and emboldening of Russian offensive capabilities begun under New START will rapidly accelerate.

• There's chatter anew for a “carbon tax” of, say, $20 per metric ton on carbon dioxide emissions. Advocates tout it as relatively “neutral” for business and industry because it would swap taxes, income for carbon. But it also would dramatically increase energy prices and likely require “compensation,” a euphemism for public subsidies, to offset the damage from those rising prices. As per usual, interventionism begets interventionism, doing more damage than good. ...

Two questions should be answered when the Pittsburgh Steelers and Sports & Exhibition Authority go to Allegheny County Common Pleas Court on Nov. 19 in their dispute over how the cost of a nearly $40 million Heinz Field expansion should be split:

• What will be the total cost of the taxpayer-guaranteed bond issue, principal and interest, being demanded by the Steelers to cover the lease-required two-thirds share?

• How long will it take the Steelers to recoup the total cost of this project through increased revenues generated from personal seat licenses, tickets, private club receipts and new scoreboard advertising?

One would suspect that when the latter term is subtracted from the former, the depth of this latest public shafting will be shockingly fully revealed. ...

While the usual suspects are all smiles over the “funding gap” being closed to build an $11.5 million Shop 'n Save grocery store in Pittsburgh's Hill District, the “financials” of this deal still don't add up.

The fella who's going to operate the store has a quite negligible $1 million in the deal with the balance coming from public and public-aided nonprofit sources. Just under $2 million of the gap will be closed with money from the federal New Markets Tax Credit Program. That is, investors will give money to the grocery store project in return for a tax credit.

Which, as Jake Haulk, president of the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, notes, “is just (another) way for the feds to pour more tax dollars into the grocery store.”

“More dollars,” the Ph.D. economist reminds, “that will not have to show any return on investment.”

Haulk says the store's construction costs already are above the industry norm and says “there is no chance it will ever generate adequate revenue to justify the investment.”

And to that end, Haulk ponders if the next step will be for Hill House Association, the organizing nonprofit behind the project, to seek tax-exempt status for the store.

“Property taxes on $11 million will be $330,000 per year. Who will be responsible for the payment? Of course, the store will ask to be valued based on income it generates. If that happens, no taxes ever will be paid.

“Now that's real development,” Haulk wryly notes.

Colin McNickle is Trib Total Media's director of editorial pages (412- 320-7836 or

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