Thursday, October 17, 2013

The new welfare

The other day, while perusing Gregg Easterbrook's Tuesday Morning Quarterback site, I came across a link to an article he penned for The Atlantic last month regarding the way the NFL acts as a conduit for transferring money from the poor to the very, very rich.

We are, of course, talking about subsidies handed out like candy to NFL owners who want to build expensive new playpens for their teams without reaching into their own pockets. The most glaring example is that of Tom Benson and the New Orleans Saints.

The Saints play in the Superdome which is in the middle of downtown New Orleans. For those of y'all who remember Katrina, you will remember that the Superdome suffered severe damage as a result of not only the storm, but also the aftermath. It took millions of dollars to rebuild - and that money came courtesy of the taxpayers in Louisiana. In return, Mr. Benson pockets all, or damn near all, of the game day revenue in exchange for a mere pittance of rent. He also pockets millions of dollars of national television revenue. And, as if that wasn't enough, the taxpayers in Louisiana pay him about $6 million a year NOT to move the team somewhere else.

So, let's get this straight. The city of New Orleans is still rebuilding after the storm. There is still widespread unemployment and poverty throughout the city. But the state can't afford to spend any money rebuilding infrastructure and homes. The state doesn't have the money to provide good paying jobs rebuilding the city. But the state has plenty of money laying around to lavish on a billionaire who owns a football team that uses the city's name.

And, as Mr. Easterbrook points out, the NFL copyrights all images from the games played in the Superdome and charges a fee to use them. Let us not forget that the Superdome is a publicly funded stadium paid for by the taxpayers of Louisiana and yet none of the taxpayers see any revenue either from the NFL's television deals or from the copyright fees charged by the NFL. All of that money finds its way into Mr. Benson's pockets.

Disgusting doesn't even begin to describe it.

And that's just one example. All across the NFL extremely wealthy owners are threatening to move their teams if local municipalities and states down pony up the money to build new playpens. Then there are also the infrastructure improvements needed to support the stadium that are also paid for with taxpayer dollars. Not mentioned in Mr. Easterbrook's article is the ways in which cities exercise their powers of eminent domain to force landowners to sell their property at less than the going rate. Should a person who owns property the city needs to build the stadium dare ask for a premium price due to the value of his particular parcel of land, the city will step in and threaten to use its powers to take the land from him at a discount to what he could/should have made.

But that's not all. The price of admission to one of these grand gridiron palaces has become out of the reach of the ordinary football fan - the football fan whose tax dollars are being funneled straight into the bank account of the billionaire owner. So, not only are the taxpayers being fleeced by the NFL, they are also being denied entry into the buildings they paid for with their hard earned money. Nice.

We have all of this money being transferred from public coffers to private entities so that the owners can reap a fortune from their association with the NFL. At the same time cities and states are cutting the amount of money spent on social services, infrastructure improvement, housing and education.

We are told by the NFL and the media that these benevolent titans of football made their money the hard way - they earned it of the exploitation of others. They are capitalists to be admired. They are willing to part with vast sums of wealth in order to entertain us with football. No. They are nothing more than welfare queens who preach that unbridled capitalism is good for the masses while they belly up at the trough of the public till.

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