“Ho, ho, ho, boys and girls. Christmas was last week, but Blaine House Santa’s gonna make dreams come true for some special kiddies. My little elves are all set to help me grant your Christmas wishes.”

Maine’s cutest corporations — 4,840 of them — danced with glee.

“Ho, ho, ho,” jollied Santa. “Who’s first? Don’t be shy. Hey you over there in the suit and tie, I know you, you’re Verso Paper’s kid, right?”

“You betcha, Santa,” said Davey Paterson, eyes a-glimmer with anticipation.

“What would you like this year, little man?”

Davey paused, counted on his fingers for a moment and said, “Santa, I’d like $14.7 million in property tax abatements. See, my top four corporate brothers and I received only $4.8 million in compensation last year. Mom and Dad Verso really need a break. Can you make this Christmas a little brighter?”

“No problem, my boy. You and your sibs have been so good I’ll not only grant you the property tax abatement, I’ll make sure Michigan Santa gives you another $7.96 million in tax breaks. How’s that sound?”

“Oh Santa, that’s wonderful.” And with that, Davey jumped off Santa’s lap and hugged Mama Verso.

“Ho, ho, ho,” chuckled Santa. “I just love making the little ones happy. Who’s next?”

Jeff Geiger, eyes alight, jumped into Santa’s lap.

“Ho, ho, ho, you look familiar, Jeff, my boy.” Santa snapped his fingers. “Got it. You’re from BIW. I know your older brother, Jay Johnston over at General Dynamics. He’s great. And I’ll bet you are, too. What can I do for you this Christmas?”

Jeff piped up, “Santa, if you could shell out $10.1 million in tax reimbursements, I’d be the happiest fellow in Bath.”

“Consider it done, little one. Be sure to tell your brother’s friends at General Dynamics that Santa was wicked tickled to see that Jay and all awarded themselves over $16 million in pay last year. Ho, ho, ho. And revenue — shazam — after raking in over $32 billion, tell Jay that Santa says merry Christmas.”

The elves helping Santa tried hurrying things along. “Come on, boys and girls, let’s get a move on. Santa’s sack is still plenty hefty.”

The Katahdin tyke received $9.88 million, delightfully wrapped in Cate Street Capital ribbons. SD, son of Mother Warren, scored $8.42 million. Nestle wasn’t nearly so thrilled with his $7.63 million take at the Blaine House. Why, his sibs around the country finagled over $116 million from 20 other states’ Santas.

National Semiconductor, on the other (mistle)toe, rejoiced when Santa forked over $6.94 million.

Such heartwarming generosity in this season of giving. Oh, the happiness. Oh, the joy.

Then one of the elves whispered into Santa’s ear, “Hey boss. Don’t you think you should lighten up on the presents? There are still 4,834 kids in line.”

“Ho ho ho, my little elf friend. Don’t you worry. Blaine House Santa’s got $504 million to give away. And I’m determined to give it all. No one’s gonna call me Scrooge.”

“OK, Santa,” said the elf. “But what are you going to give to all those girls and boys whose parents aren’t businesses? Got anything for day care, well-child visits, home-heating assistance or just a couple more warm meals? The food thing sounds good, Santa. After all, about 200,000 people in Maine aren’t sure when they’ll have their next meal, and that includes one in four kids. Santa, Maine’s kids are the hungriest in New England. Doesn’t that matter? After all, the goodies Blaine House gives to businesses are 17 percent of every dollar in the state budget. Can’t you get behind the meal thing?”

“Oh, little elf, you crack me up! If we give those kids food, or decent housing or day care, they’ll just grow up to be moochers, dependent on government handouts.” And with that, Santa asked the next business tyke what he wanted.

The kid in his lap fidgeted and wiggled.

Santa said, “It’s OK, little one, relax. I know your parents, the Waltons from Arkansas. We go way back. In fact, they just hosted a Blaine House party. What sweeties they are. So kid, what’s your special wish?”

“Santa, I have my heart set on $4.14 million in tax reductions. Please don’t think that’s too much. It’s not. Five other Santas gave my sibs heaps more. New York Santa coughed up $27 million and Florida Santa forked out $15.6 million. So what I’m asking for is no big deal.”

Santa snapped his fingers. “Make it so elves, make it so. Ho, ho, ho. And while you’re at it bring me a cold drink. It ain’t easy giving away $504 million.” Santa stopped for a minute for a good hard think. “Why, my little elfies, I hope the people of Maine appreciate me. What I give to corporations averages out to $397 per person. I bet I’m one of the most giving Santas in the whole country!”

Hearing those words the elves whipped out their smartphones and madly punched in numbers. Disappointed, the head elf looked up. “Sorry Blaine House Santa, you’re not the most generous. Seven Santas are in front of you. The West Virginia Santa gives business gifts amounting to $845 per capita.”

“Wow. You’re right,” Santa mulled, stroking his beard. “The $405 million I already give in sales tax refunds isn’t nearly enough. And I’d better grant more than $67 million in business property tax abatements. And if I don’t start giving corporations more than $22.5 million in income tax breaks, the state might have a budget crisis!”

The elves nodded sagely. As they ushered another round of kids up to Santa, the littlest elf muttered, “This business gifting is out of control. Santa’s giving away the farm. For what? I sure don’t see much public benefit from all this corporate bling.”

The other elves turned and shook their fists in his face. “Come on buddy, you just don’t get it. Christmas is the season for giving. We all know it’s far better to give than to receive. Santa has a good heart. He doesn’t expect a thing in return.”

The smallest elf looked up, smiling. “I do get it! It’s all about giving. These favors are tributes of esteem. Blaine House gifts to business are awesome.

“Santa, you’re the best. Even the Grinch’s heart would warm if he could see the smiles when you give $3.83 million to L.L. Bean and $2.19 million to TD Bank and $2.6 million to Hannaford and $2.38 to Fairchild and $2.06 million to Shaw’s and $1.32 million to Cianbro and $1.2 million to Unum.

“And even more are gonna smile,” he added, “when Santa’s $166 million in tax cuts kick in next year.”

Susan Feiner is a professor of economics and women and gender studies at the University of Southern Maine.


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