Yet progressive candidates talking tough about the harms of corporate tax incentives are likely setting themselves up for disappointment once elected, because the problem of tax incentives starts with high taxes. Democrat-run states like Connecticut and New Jersey watch businesses flee punishing corporate and property tax rates, and then resort to targeted tax breaks to draw new ones or retain incumbents.

This relationship between high taxes and targeted incentives seems to be lost on blue-state progressives. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo defends the $3 billion offer to Amazon as a worthwhile investment at the same time he accuses lower-tax states of “stealing” New York’s residents and jobs. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, who last month convened a task force to audit the state’s tax-incentive program, is slightly wiser. But Mr. Murphy has already raised taxes on businesses and high earners in his first year in office.

As these leaders struggle to sort out their priorities, the backlash against tax incentives continues to build.