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Jewish World Review May 25, 2001/ 3 Sivan, 5761

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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Baseball has not been so good to me -- IT'S a multi-million dollar behemoth just beyond my backyard that lies fallow 334 days each year. Only during the merry month of March is there activity. It represents America's national ménage a trois: taxpayers, sports and government subsidies. It is the Chicago Cubs' spring training stadium, built during one of those sports franchise tantrums when club owners seeking returns on someone else's investment threaten to take their toys to St. Petersburg, Florida or Peoria, Arizona or any winter paradise with gullible rubes ready to ante up.

Jesse Ventura's rise to power is not such a puzzle if you know your Minnesota Twins history. Taxes built an indoor stadium about 20 years ago when the Twins whined about the weather. Then, sacre¢ bleu! Global warming! The Twins now stamp their spikes demanding an outdoor stadium's ambiance.

Stadiums are aggravating monuments not just to sports infatuation but economic ignorance. We taxpayers foot $100 million bills for the thrill of seeing guys with mullets pitch and chew. Their haircuts and Copenhagen purchases are about the extent of the ripple effects, too. A 2000 study in the Journal of Economic Perspectives found virtually no evidence of economic development from publicly subsidized sports facilities. You don't need an economist to tell you that an investment in a multi-million dollar facility that will see 12 football games per year is not going to be a cash cow.

Taxpayers have coughed up two-thirds of the $21.7 billion, give or take a few hundred million in change that has been spent on 95 stadiums and arenas since 1990. The return to taxpayers for their investment by conscription will never happen. The very structure of these deals, particularly in baseball, makes it impossible for a ROI. While a new stadium has its complementary sales revenue (think $7 hot dogs), that revenue is a ballplayer's field of cash because salaries are tied to those marginal increases. Dear taxpayer, when Alex Rodriguez lands a $252 million contract to play in a stadium that never sees beyond red, don't whine. These mega-contracts are your tax dollars at work.

Over the next decade, professional baseball owners have pledged $3.7 billion in salaries. They can afford it with no facilities overhead. Taxpayers are rent-free landlords, lenders who forego a piece of the action, minimal though it may be both on and off the field. Rodriguez struck out three times at bat on opening day for the Rangers.

Yet voters keep subsidizing, losing money and heeding team threats. The love affair with taxes grows steamier. Even as I write, sea to shining sea is awash in fear because Congress might reduce the marginal tax rate in the 39% bracket to 36% over the next six years. Oh, what times are these when we propose a risky scheme of lopping off $1000 from a tax bill of $100,000. Is there no decency?

But like all affairs, this one defies logic. The government doesn't create new revenues; it spends. Mistaken that taxes are magic dust to be inhaled, hallucinating voters see government as the ultimate do-gooder, our goodly godparent who provides home run entertainment.

This past week I visited Vancouver the day after the party in power there was ousted by, oddly, the Liberals, who promised tax cuts. Canadian angst over the thought of cutting taxes was palpable. Featured on television that night was my hotel clerk fretting, after disclosing her $11,000 (Canadian) annual earnings, over the tax cut because she didn't want government to suffer. In her young life she had known nothing other than the Canadian government as hero and provider. She could not wean herself from government despite meager wages. Tax cuts threaten her "good life."

The government cannot deliver the good life. It can't even deliver mail as a monopolist and make a profit. Lemmings continue to believe government can spur economic development by paying for stadiums running 1/12 of the year. So strong is the addiction to taxes and government that we voted here to spring for a new Cardinals' stadium because Bidwell and his bandits threatened to leave.

The addiction grows. One man, interviewed on CNBC, said that he would rather not have a tax cut because he wants his taxes to help the needy. Ah, mandatory noblesse oblige. This fiscally misguided soul can, along with Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, Sr., who oppose elimination of the death tax, give all of his money to the government. I'll take the tax cut and give the money to charities that will be more effective, efficient and certainly more compassionate. Government is not our caregiver, provider, or sponsor of all sporting events. One expects this dependency among Canadians - they are a socialist democracy. I thought we were different, but an empty stadium near my house says otherwise.

JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments by clicking here.


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05/11/01: Selective precaution
05/04/01: Grades: Equality of students, by students, for the students
04/27/01: The Horowitz revelations as seen by a college professor
04/20/01: First, let's kill all the tests
04/13/01: The continuing mistake of underpricing electricity
04/06/01: That pill, Julia Roberts
03/29/01: If it weren't for the parents, we might accomplish something
03/23/01: The melt down of the academy
03/15/01: Columbine redux: Moral infants
03/09/01: The lessons of Tom and Nicole
03/01/01: Pardon the temporary outrage
02/23/01: In defense of homework
02/20/01: A Message for faith-based organizations: Don't take the money, just run
02/06/01: Enough already with the Clintoons
01/26/01: The challenge to be better than we have been
01/19/01: Where have you gone Frieda Pushnik?
12/29/00: The year that was
12/23/00: Litigation: It's the American way
12/15/00: In defense of rhetoric
12/06/00: The company we keep: Lawyers and elections
12/01/00: Liberals' art of trashing of women
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11/08/00: ELECTION 2000: I SURRENDER
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09/15/00: The taming of the shrew: Gloria Steinem takes a husband
09/09/00: Why rich folk don't bother me none
08/28/00: Survival of the not-so-fit but conniving
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08/18/00: Resenting the accusations of racial prejudice
08/04/00: Women: Their own worst enemy
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07/07/00: I wanna be around
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06/14/00: Sex and the City: The shallow but vulgar female
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05/12/00: Taking your lumps
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04/18/00: Womyn who want it both ways
04/11/00: The monsters we're raising with the ergo proposition
04/05/00: Endowing the Hooters Chair for Literature Appreciation
03/28/00: Dr. Laura: The passive/aggressive kid's mom
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03/14/00: The volunteerism of conscription and pomp
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01/25/00: Stroke of the pen, law of the land: Clinton's Camelot
01/18/00: Off the Rocker Rorschach Test
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12/14/99: Drop-kicking the homeless
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09/21/99: The Diversity Hoax
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09/09/99: Selective censorship
09/01/99: The village, the children, judicial imperialism and abortion
08/24/99: Naughty Newt?
08/17/99: In defense of Boy Scouts and judgment
08/10/99: Ruining the finest health care system in the world
08/03/99: Nihilism and politics: ethics on the lam
07/26/99: Of women, soccer and removed jerseys
07/23/99: Not in despair, a mere mortal doing just fine
07/20/99: "Why me?" How about "Why us?"
07/13/99: Bunk, junk & juries
07/06/99: An Amish woman in a Victoria's Secret store
06/30/99: That intellectually embarrassing Second Amendment
06/24/99: Patricia Ireland eat your heart out --- but check out the recipe in 'women's mags' first
06/22/99: Dems and the Creator coup
06/17/99: True courage is more than just admitting troubles

© 2000, Marianne M. Jennings