Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Who Thinks Subsidizing Rich Sports Team Owners Is A Good Use Of Public Funds?


I was elected freshman class president at college and the first vote I remember taking on the student council was to oppose spending student funds on moleskin-- a cotton fabric some sports team wanted because it's resistant to wind and abrasion. Let them get their own moleskins; I had Fugs, Doors, Country Joe & the Fish, Who and Otis Redding concerts in mind, not to mention lectures by Timothy Leary and Julian Bond. Conservatives on the council didn't agree with me-- not on that vote, nor on any others... not ever. But I find myself on the same team with conservatives today when it comes to sports stadium funding. I haven't changed my ideas about public money going into sports. But wasn't I surprised to see this OpEd the other day by the New Jersey and Oklahoma state directors of the Koch Brothers' Americans For Prosperity opposing public funds for sports stadiums! It's also a story about two senators, Cory Booker (D-NJ) and James Lankford (R-OK), both reliably pro-corporate... until this issue came up. The idea is that "Maybe bringing together two senators from vastly different states and from widely different ideologies-- U.S. Sen. James Lankford, an Oklahoma Republican, and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat-- will help inspire a fractious Congress to work together on a bipartisan bill to cut federal subsidies for sports stadiums."
The bill would end the federal tax giveaway for municipal bonds used to fund sports stadiums. It's a practice that has been going on for decades because shrewd team owners know that local politicians are under extreme political pressure from fans to make sure their beloved local teams don't move to greener pastures unless they get a handout.

Even if we ignore for a moment that such picking of winners and losers is a flagrant foul by the government, it's also a questionable use of federal tax dollars. "The federal government is responsible for a lot of important functions, but financing sports stadiums for multi-million dollar franchises is definitely not one of them," Sen. Lankford said in a statement.

Exempting the interest on municipal bonds from federal income taxes is a legitimate tool to lower the borrowing costs for cities to pay for public projects that serve to carry out core functions of government such as roads, sewer systems, and schools. Subsidizing ballparks for billionaire owners and millionaire players, however, shouldn't be part of the equation.

The carve-out hasn't been cheap. According to the Brookings Institution, the stadium loophole has cost federal taxpayers $3.2 billion for 36 professional sports facilities since 2000.

With the federal government $20 trillion in debt, excising this kind of pointless waste would seem to be the legislative equivalent of a slam dunk. But as with so much else in the federal tax code, it pays to be well-connected.

In 1986, when major tax reform was last enacted, there was a push to do away with federal welfare for stadiums. "We thought we shut down public financing to private sports stadiums in 1986," then-Sen. Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat told the New York Times a decade later, in reference to a similar measure introduced at that time.

But the subsidy lives on, like the hope that springs eternal in the fans of a team that gets to the championship game, only to see its dreams dashed yet again. (Sorry, Cleveland.)

So, here we are again, decades and billions of dollars later, and Congress is still trying to figure out a way to end this expensive handout.

It's a matter of simple fairness, according to Sen. Booker, whose home state lost the NBA's Nets to Brooklyn, where a new stadium was built with $161 million in federal subsidies. "It's not fair to finance these expensive projects on the backs of taxpayers, especially when wealthy teams end up reaping most of the benefits." The senator is right. Taxpayer subsidies mean that there are fewer state dollars to go around to address areas of true government need.

Congress should act to remove this misguided incentivizing of federal subsidies for stadium financing. If Washington gets out of the ballpark business, taxpayers will be the big winners.
These are the 10 current members of the Senate who have taken the biggest bribes from professional sports teams since 1990:
John McCain (R-AZ)- $583,380
Rob Portman (R-OH)- $225,083
Chuck Schumer (D-NY)- $219,100
Bitch McConnell (R-KY)- $174,200
Bill Nelson (D-FL)- $167,700
Marco Rubio (R-FL)- $135,865
Todd Young (R-IN)- $128,900
John Cornyn (R-TX)- $128,000
Mike Lee (R-UT)- $109,900
Richard Burr (R-NC)- $109,500
And here are the 10 current members of the House who have taken the biggest bribes from professional sports teams since 1990:
Charlie Crist (Blue Dog-FL)- $143,350
Tom Rooney (R-FL)- $107,985
Ron DeSantis (R-FL)- $104,502
Steve Chabot (R-OH)- $101,450
Paul Ryan (R-WI)- $88,214
Richard Hudson (R-NC)- $85,800
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (New Dem-FL)- $74,625
Steny Hoyer (D-MD)- $71,250
Fred Upton (R-MI)- $69,700
Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)- $68,900
Mostly corrupt Republicans with a sprinkling of 2 of the very worst of the corrupt conservative House Democrats, Hoyer and Wasserman Schultz. What else is new?

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At 3:36 AM, Blogger sandhosh said...

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At 10:30 AM, Anonymous ap215 said...

It's really sad to see all those good stadiums we used to like being torn down & replaced by advertisers with their corporate names on it nothing but greed for them shameful.

At 11:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No one who pays taxes will think so, but we know how little our will is reflected by the corporate stooges who hold office. Money talks, and the people get to clean up the mess on their own.


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