Corporate Welfare for Sports Moguls

Government finances are suffering, spending on the Iraq war continues to escalate while Social Security and Medicare continue to head over the financial cliff. Yet states and localities continue to throw money at the owners of sports franchises. The poor billionaire sports moguls–whatever would they do if they couldn’t force taxpayers to give them land and build them stadiums?

A number of activists are pressing Uncle Sam to step in to ban competitive state looting of their citizens in order to attract sports franchises. Reports the Associated Press:

Cities and states are offering billions in financial incentives to build stadiums to keep professional sports teams while neglecting bridges, roads and schools, advocates charged Wednesday.

Congress should end the ”economic war” among the states, said Arthur J. Rolnick, senior vice president and director of research for the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

Advocates pointed to the collapsed Interstate 35W bridge in that city as they argued for a ban on the use of tax-exempt financing for sports facilities.

”The Minnesota Twins got public funding approved for a new stadium just the year before the I-35W bridge collapsed,” said Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and a Democratic presidential candidate.

The Interstate 35W bridge collapsed Aug. 1, killing 13 people and injuring about 100.

Professional football, baseball, basketball and hockey estimate that the total public subsidy for stadiums opened from 1990-2006 is around $12 billion, Harvard University professor Judith Grant Long said. But when she added costs for public subsidies for land, infrastructure, capital improvements, municipal taxes and forgone property taxes, Long came up with a figure of $18.5 billion.

”There is absolutely no evidence that $18.5 billion in public benefits have been generated since 1990 to compensate,” she said.

At least advocates of government welfare and health programs can point to genuine social needs. What conceivable reason is there for government to transfer money from low and middle income people to enrich the millionaires and billionaires who typically purchase and manage sports franchises?

It’s time for Americans to say no. If their elected officials don’t listen, it’s time for American voters to choose a different set of politicians.