Yes, it was a semi-cheesy, made-for-media event two state legislators standing in front of a strip club to complain that it got corporate tax breaks meant to help the poor.
But Monday's event in front of Deja Vu Showgirls in Sacramento featuring Sens. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, who also represents Merced, and Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo dealt with a real issue: the evolution of economic development programs into crony capitalism.
Two years ago, Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature did away with local redevelopment agencies that had gone down the same path. A post-World War II program to clean up urban "blight" had become a vehicle by which local politicians could subsidize development projects proposed by those with pull.
Redevelopment was, in effect, shifting billions of tax dollars that should have been spent on schools, police, fire protection and other services into welfare for the wealthy.
City officials screamed when redevelopment was erased, and legislators are busily attempting to resurrect it, albeit under other names. It will be interesting to see whether Brown stays the course.
Meanwhile, the governor also set his sights on "enterprise zones," another vehicle that allows local officials to hand out goodies to favored businesses with the tax benefits, about $750 million a year, coming directly out of the state treasury.
As with redevelopment, there's a well-oiled machine to defend enterprise zones as boons to the economy, including local officials, businesses that benefit from its tax breaks, and "consultants" who advise businesses on how to claim the credits, even retroactively, and take a cut of the action.
Every objective study meaning those not paid for by the enterprise zoners has found that these tax breaks have no net positive effect on job growth. Sometimes they're just paying businesses to shed jobs in one locale and create them elsewhere.
Hill became involved when a company in his high-cost district moved to a low-cost rural area and claimed job creation credits. He's allied with unions in complaining about the misuse of enterprise zones in that and other such cases.
Enterprise zones were created nearly three decades ago on the assumption that it would encourage businesses to expand into high- unemployment areas. But it has morphed into just another way to hand out subsidies with little or no proof that they do any good.
The bill that Cannella, Hill and their allies propose would not end enterprise zones but rather place some limits on their use that would, they say, focus benefits on creating real new jobs.
Unfortunately, there are always clever people out there willing to bend such programs to their benefit, rather than the public's.
Contact Dan Walters at (916) 321-1195 or follow him on Twitter @WaltersBee.