12/06/2009

Corporate Welfare

Robert Reich supposedly invented the term "corporate welfare," back when he was Secretary of Labor in the first Clinton Administration. He started a firestorm of CEO whimpering and whining that somehow convinced Clinton to get his nuts clipped and back off of any sort of meaningful reform for the next 8 years. Bush, of course, was the world's greatest supporter of corporate welfare, having been the recipient of millions in handouts as an "oil man" and a part-owner of the Texas Rangers MLB team.

It remains to be seen where Obama stands on corporate handouts, but early signs are not good. His administration has treated the bankers and investment speculators as if they were valuable contributors to society. He's protected GM and Chrysler from the results of decades of lousy management and a half-century of embarrassing engineering. Of course, the bankers threatened the country's economic stability and Republicans and the right wing media wouldn't have tolerated treating them any differently. The car manufacturers hold the keys to hundreds of thousands of jobs and the country has no other middle class worker industry with which to replace it. It's possible that there were no good choices either with the banks or Detroit.

Locally, we're arguing about the most despicable of all forms of corporate welfare; publicly financed sports stadiums. In 1990, the state gave the NBA joke team, the Timberpuppies, the new $120 million Target Center. In 2000, St. Paul and the state handed the NHL and the Wild a welfare check for $120 million with the Xcel Center. Minneapolis smoke-filled-room-crooks robbed the city's taxpayers for the Twins' new $400 million stadium last year and the bill for that boondoggle will haunt taxpayers for thirty years.

Because too many middle class kids could almost afford the state's University of Minnesota system, our worthless state government (under Pawlenty) stuck taxpayers and students with a $300 million football stadium, higher tuition costs, higher state taxes, and an opportunity to become a 1st tier football school and a 3rd grade educational organization. The nation's football colleges are notorious for being party schools with a plethora of "communications majors" and MBAs and the associated worthless contribution those degree holders make to society.

Now, the Vikings have their paws out and their deadbeat "fans" want the rest of us to cough up a half billion during a time when the state is running a $1.2 billion deficit and has cut back education, state and city services, and taxpayers are suffering the worst employment crisis since the 1930's. While the state's head crooks are pretending that they care about the plight of the working class in these hard times, there is no question where this is going. The NBA holds LA out as the threat against any city or state that pretends to a conservative fiscal policy. Minnesota is just another place in the land of sports wimps. It's gonna happen, it's just a matter of when.

The fact is, pro and college sports do not contribute anything meaningful to a city's economy. Usually, they do the reverse. A few politically connected development crooks scrape off some taxpayer money, some politicians get closed door handouts in exchange for votes, the team gets a free ride, and the nation's IQ continues to drop through the floor. The rest of the city and state cough up welfare for both the team and the fans who refuse to pay ticket prices that will support the extravagant lifestyle the pros expect. In the meantime, our education system continues to decline from lack of attention and funding. Our economy stagnates while the rich Romans watch the gladiators as the city burns. Bridges collapse, working people lose their jobs and homes, businesses move from the area as the quality of life degenerates, and, eventually, we'll be a cold Omaha; except that Omaha has a much more robust economy without the deadbeat overhead of a half-dozen pro sports teams.

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