Friday, March 14, 2014

Living on the dole

We've all been taught to love capitalism. Such a wonderful system it is. It rewards those who work hard and take chances. Come up with a good idea or a better way of doing things and you can go from sweeping the streets to the penthouse in short order.

Our media has a love affair with the so-called titans of industry. They're rolling in dough so we must adore and worship them. They are proof that hard work can lead to wealth.

Sports broadcasters are in love with the owners of franchises. During every game there is the obligatory shot of an owner sitting in a luxury box with his fellow millionaires and billionaires watching their teams play on a football field that was subsidized by the very folks who can't afford to buy a ticket to sit in their pleasure palaces.

These billionaires who love to throw their money around on the newest and shiniest toys are able to blackmail cities and states into building their factories with taxpayer money while the working poor suffer from budget cuts.

The latest farce is here in Houston. Our local electricity provider, Reliant Energy, purchased the naming rights to the Astrodome years ago and then purchased the naming rights to the new stadium being built to house the Houston Texans and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Since then the company was purchased by NRG which has decided it's time to market itself and slap its name and logos all over the building.

According to the Houston Chronicle:
County sources say NRG, which acquired Reliant's retail operations in 2009, is planning a rebranding effort that will involve swapping out every sign bearing the Reliant name. The name change would apply to all facilities in the Harris County-owned park, including the Center, the Arena and the Astrodome, according to NRG.
What we know as Reliant Stadium was built on the public's dime. Bob McNair - a ridiculously wealthy man who professes his love for capitalism - put up a token amount of money and the county picked up the rest of the tab by taxing folks who stay in hotels and rent cars. The stadium, and the ground on which it sits, is owned by Harris County.

But here's the part about the name change that caught my attention:
Reliant bought the naming rights for the Houston Texans' stadium and surrounding buildings in 2002 for $300 million, the most lucrative deal of its kind at the time. 
The 32-year agreement required Reliant to pay about $10 million a year, with 75 percent going to the NFL team, 15 percent to the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo and 10 percent to Harris County. Those terms remain the same.
Interesting, Bob McNair takes home 75% of the bounty for the naming rights to a stadium he neither owns nor paid for. Yes, the Texans pay a yearly lease for the right to use the stadium ten weekends a year. But that just makes them a tenant - since when does a tenant get a bigger piece of the pie than the landlord?

As for the Rodeo, for those of y'all who aren't familiar with the three-week long extravaganza currently going on, it is one of the biggest charitable organizations in the state. The Rodeo pays out millions of dollars to state and local charities and in scholarships for young people. The share of the naming rights going their way is going to a good cause rather than someone's back pocket.

You see, Bob McNair and his ilk love to preach the virtues of capitalism. They will tell you that just handing out money to the poor will never solve the problem of poverty. Government assistance just breeds more dependence, they'll tell you. It weakens the soul, it creates a culture of dependency.

But don't get in their way when they're running to the window to get their hand-out. Nope, we can't expand Medicaid coverage, we can't increase school funding, we can't raise the minimum wage, we can't build more affordable housing, we can't put a public works jobs program into place, but we can damn sure hand out millions of dollars a year to the wealthy.

That's capitalism for you.

1 comment:

Lee said...

Paul, I completely agree with you that greed has poisoned our capitalist economy and little good often comes from it. The wealth of our nation is heavily polarized and there are many unemployed. My question is if you think it would be any better on the opposite side of the economic spectrum of communism or socialism? My point is that human greed and violence will poison any economic system.