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Sunday, April 30, 2006

I, STADIUM Part 3: Failed Arguments For Taxpayer Assisted Ballparks

The arguments for building a sports stadium for any professional or collegiate team may or may not have some degree of validity. What it depends on is if that stadium is being built with private money, public money, or a combination of those two funding sources.

Often, the arguments are the same, or slight variations, of previously worn out reasons promoting the building of these stadiums. The key is whether or not public money - taxes - should be included in the building of the stadiums. Further, should taxpayer money be funneled from legitimate purposes - highways, bridges, schools, infrastructure, etc. - or should revenue from new taxes be devoted to building stadiums for professional sports teams?

1) The most frequently heard argument for putting public money into a stadium is that having a professional sports franchise "adds a quality of life" to the area. Well, I've often heard this argument but no one is able to define that "quality of life"? What do proponents mean by this?

Do you mean that a city or state with a professional sports team is better than a city or state without a professional sports team? How so? This is a very subjective means to measure "the quality of life", isn't it? It is as subjective as saying any city, state or region with a natural landmark - a waterfall, the Grand Canyon, Old Faithful - is better than a city, state or region without those landmarks. Better than what and how? What tool is being used to measure the argument?

If you mean that the "quality of life" is better with publicly funded stadiums because a mentality of
"if you build it they will come (and the new stadium will pay taxes"), your good intentions are misguided because no business pays taxes. The tax always is passed on to the consumer. Businesses don't pay taxes. Professional sports is a business, the taxes it pays are passed on to the consumer.

For those of you who think public money is such a good investment in helping fund stadiums, why don't you voluntarily pony up the extra money yourselves and make regular, voluntary, out-of-pocket donations to the stadium(s) of your choice rather than attempt to pass the cost onto everybody via taxation? This is the same as those who think taxes should be increased at federal, state and local levels for education, public transportation, and social causes. Why not just cut a check yourself, out-of-pocket, and make YOUR CONTRIBUTION to your special, favorite pet cause or project?

2) Another frequent argument used by supporters for public tax dollars for stadium welfare is the threat that "the owner will move the team out of state". So...you're saying all it takes is a threat to move the team for you to succumb to paying more taxes? Sounds like a threat of extortion to me.

You have a loyal public that has supported the hometown team for years and years, supporting the team during its poorer performing seasons as well as supporting the team in playoffs and, perhaps, a World Series, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup or other championship season. And the owner threatens to move the team if "the public doesn't help build a stadium"? This is the tantrum-throwing child threatening "to hold my breath unless you buy me that toy" threat. When the threat to move a team elsewhere is used by the team owner, it tells the public more about a lack of loyalty by the owner to the region, the fans and the populace in general, than anything else.

With this argument you have a team owner, who claims to want to keep the team in your city or state, but on the other hand is willing to move the team elsewhere, depending on a higher bidder. Do you really think that that team owner is a good "corporate citizen" of your city or state when they will resort to attempts to blackmail the public for taxpayer funding? Do you realize how pathetic this argument is, trying to get the public to cave to a threat of relocation blackmail? And you buy into it?

3) "Well, you know, the Team enriches the community", is another argument supporters offer for their tax-aid for new, Taj Mahal-like stadiums. Please define "enriches". Enriches how and whom? By means of what I wrote above; a "if you build it they will come" mentality? Not only is that a deeply subjective argument, it is one that is very hard to prove true. This could only be proven an accurate and legitimate argument after completing exhaustive and onerous studies that people spending money at the new stadium wouldn't spend their money somewhere else within the city or state. And those studies haven't been done. A stadium "enriching the community" is a highly speculative argument at best.

4) "Everybody benefits by the building of a stadium with public funds." Again, another very subjective argument. Tell me, how does a motel, hotel, restaurant, bar, tavern, grocery store, department store, convenience store, gas station or any other retail venture in the northeastern or southwestern part of the state in Minnesota benefit from a stadium in the Twin Cities?

Further, tell me how a motel, hotel, restaurant, bar, tavern or any of the other retail businesses I mention benefit if they are located outside the seven county metro area, let alone the immediate area surrounding a stadium?

Sure, the businesses near a stadium benefit, and good for them. They should! I'm happy that they do. But businesses out of the immediate radius of a stadium - or a shopping mall - reap no tangible benefit from that enterprise.

How does the ordinary taxpayer benefit from a stadium being built with taxpayer funds? Please explain with details. Oh, I know what's coming, it's part of the same argument as "Everybody benefits", right? You're going to answer me with "it's the revenue that the stadium puts back into the community". Well hell, it should! The taxpayer gives up "XX Dollars" of money. A publicly funded stadium
should put that money back into the community because it just took it from the taxpayer!

This is nothing more than a shell game or a check-kiting scheme of an argument. If I give you $100 and you give me $100, is the result a net increase to either party. No. If the taxpayer gives me $100 and I spend that $100, does either party have a net gain? No. Have I put any more money back into the community than was given to me? No. As a matter of fact, the argument could easily be made that the $100 that I spend in the community is of less value than the $100 given to my by the taxpayer when you factor in the cost involved in giving me that $100!

There are a number of businesses that are facing some tough economic choices, not only here in Minnesota, but everywhere. Some of these businesses deserve some type of tax break. Some struggle day-to-day on very thin profit margins. Many are small, family operated businesses. Many are small businesses that employ one-hundred people or less. They do not get, nor do they ask for, the type of incentive that is being promulgated by the Twins, Vikings, and Gopher organizations, lobbyists and their fan base. The small businesses cannot afford to lobby the government year after year after year as has been done by the Twins, the Vikings and the Gophers.

What the smaller businesses do seek is a fair playing field in the business and commerce arena. Much of the time, they fight a losing battle. Ask any small business owner about their concern in meeting their payroll, paying their quarterly taxes and the multi-level bureaucracy of government regulation that they deal with every day.

Yes, there exists a few common lobby groups for small business owners. Yet there is a huge group of cohesive and organized lobbyists for sports teams and their millionaire and billionaire owners. I tip my hat to those who have had the good fortune to become millionaires and billionaires. They worked hard, took risks and excelled in a business niche amassing a fortune through their labor and hard work. And they deserve the rewards for which they've worked, make no mistake about that.

But it is no longer the time to subsidize them in growing their enterprise with taxpayer money. If anything, it's time for them to subsidize the people and the community who helped them grow over many, many years by building and paying for their own stadiums with their own money.

I've never met anyone who has said, "I don't pay enough in taxes." But if you are one of those who do feel this way, I encourage you to voluntarily write a check and pay an extra amount to the government or to the special interest, perhaps a stadium, that you hold so dear.


Previous Posts on The Stadium Issue:
Minnesota Twins Stadium: Why Should Carl Pohlad Pay His Fair Share?

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dude...please....enough stadium rants.
I want to see two more.
nico, what can I say. I did the below MrsSatan/Hitler image with you in mind. This stadium thingy may go on for quite sometime.

donnab , where have you been, my one and only, donnab. I thought a socialist like you would be for increasing taxes for "the public good", no matter what that "good" may be. Shhhhaaaaa - am I wrong ?
Your points are noted. However, if you are going to rant against public subsidies for stadiums then please post a diatribe about how we need to do away with funding for museams, theaters, libraries, public parks, any public plaza, any commissioned piece of public art. Basically, anything that might conceivably "enrich the community". While we're at it, lets rent out the monstrosities downtown (capital buildings) and build non-descript steel buildings for our government to operate out of. Wait, that actually sounds like a good idea.
We need increased investment in the children, for schools and education. We do not need higher taxes for a stadium.
Modesto...damn boy, how'ed you manage to get those handcuffs off and type that?

OK, I'll respond: libraries and some parks, of course, should have public funding. Museums, theaters, etc - maybe - it depends on if they are entirely private or a private-public enterprise. PBS is subsizided although they should not get a dime. MN is actually trying to get an amendment that public TV SHOULD always be a recipient of tax dollars so those dollars can never be removed. Talk about "Special Liberal Interest".

Plus, I think people should be forced to pay higher taxes for the golf courses that (I used to) play on because GOLF is my special interest. Or was. The liquor store and the bar down the street improve my quality of life, without a doubt.

donnab you should start your own blog. The kids have enough money, it's time they pay their own way.
Modesto, Modesto, Modesto!

A stadium enriches a ball club owner, not the community. Parks, libraries, etc., actually enrich THE PUBLIC.

A red light district wouldn't hurt, either.
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