Our president is about 30 years too late.
In his latest budget proposal, Barack Obama will call on Congress to put an end to tax exempt funds to finance stadiums.
This would have been really bad news for most of the zillionaire sports owners around the country who have benefited from what may be the biggest and worst political scandal in America over the last 35 years.
Hey, Mr. President, the horses just escaped, would you mind closing the barn door?
According to a story in Bloomberg News back in 2012, when the New York Giants were about to open the season against the Dallas Cowboys in their new stadium, there were 21 owners whose teams were playing in new or renovated stadiums built in the last 25 years with tax free public borrowing.
The story let Giants fans know that they had already helped Jerry Jones pay for his $1.2 billion, 80,000 seat stadium in Arlington, Texas.
How? Because every American taxpayer is forced to pay for new stadiums that are subsidized by tax free borrowing.
According to Bloomberg, tax exemptions on interest paid by municipal bonds for stadiums cost the U.S. Treasury $146 million a year. By the time all the publicly financed stadiums are paid for, taxpayers will have paid $4 billion.
And, of course, back in 2000, President Obama, when he was an Illinois state senator, was more than happy to vote in favor of the $587 million renovation of Soldier Field in Chicago.
That was one of the all time worst examples of government theft of taxpayer dollars to subsidize a billion dollar sports team.
Here’s what University of Chicago sports economist Allen Sanderson said at the time:
“If we started out to build the ugliest stadium in the country for the most money with the fewest alternative uses in the worst possible location, we’re pretty much there.”
The future president was part of one the worst taxpayer rip offs in history.
In Novemeber of 2000, while 99% of media attention was focused on Bush, Gore and the hanging chads in Florida, the Illinois legislature rammed the Soldier Field proposal through.
No public hearings.
One poll of 1,200 registered voters showed 66% opposed to the plan.
During a presidential debate in 2007, Obama defended his support of the Soldier Field debacle by saying that it led to economic development in Chicago.
Pretty amazing for a guy who is so quick to quote the consensus of scientists on climate change, to ignore the consensus of economists who believe that sports facilities and major events almost never lead to economic development.
Meanwhile, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is trying to talk the NFL into bringing the Super Bowl to his city and he wants to add 5,000 more seats to Soldier Field to reach the NFL’s required 65,000 capacity.
Who will pay for them? Who cares?
Meanwhile, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who is emerging as a strong candidate for the Republican nomination for president and who sells himself as a strong fiscal conservative, recently came out in support of a nice new building for the Milwaukee Bucks.
In their thank you statement to the governor, the Bucks promised “an economic catalyst for the entire state.”
George Will and Charles Krauthammer, two of the country’s most prominent conservative commentators are also two of the country’s biggest baseball fans.
Both spend lots of time at Washington Nationals games in their beautiful, new, government financed, voter-opposed ball park.
I did a lot of Googling and couldn’t find a column by either one that questioned the funding or called the Nationals beneficiaries of corporate welfare.
Meanwhile, back in Illinois: In December the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, by a vote of 4-3, made 30 year old Lou Bertuca its $160,000 per year Executive Director.
The four yes voters were all outgoing Governor Pat Quinn’s appointees. Beruca, who has no experience with sports facilities, was Quinn’s campaign manager.
It never ends.