Pay For Your Own Damn Stadium
Back in 2011, the Texas legislature cut funding to its school system by $5.4 billion. In response, 600-plus schools across the state banded together to file a lawsuit alleging inadequate funding of public schools, as well as an unfair distribution of the few remaining funds between poor and rich schools.
That lawsuit was shot down by the all-Republican state supreme court this week, which defended its decision by offering the ringing endorsement that the state’s school system, “satisfies minimum constitutional requirements,” while also admitting the system is an “ossified regime that is ill-suited for 21st century Texas.” Students across Texas now get the honor of spending their days in minimally adequate schools.
You may be asking yourself, ‘Why am I reading about this on a baseball website?’ Well, recently, the Arlington City Council unanimously approved a plan to help build a brand-new, $1 billion baseball stadium for the Texas Rangers, and half the tab will be shouldered by local taxpayers.
Now, the citizens of Arlington will get to vote on whether or not they want to pay $500 million to replace the Rangers’ current stadium, which opened just 22 years ago and was, at the time (and arguably still is today), considered state-of-the-art. It’ll be their choice, and they can decide whether keeping the Rangers in Arlington is more important than properly funding schools.
The need for the new stadium, according to team management, arises from the fact that it gets too hot in the summer in Texas, which limits attendance. So, of course, they need a new stadium with a retractable roof and air conditioning. Because, you know, Texas being hot in the summer is a recent phenomenon. Thanks a lot, global warming.
The real problem is that people are being asked to make that choice in the first place, and it’s a choice people across the country are being asked to make on a regular basis. It happened in Miami back in 2013, where it might actually end up costing taxpayers billions of dollars.
It happened in my hometown of Detroit, where billionaire owner Mike Ilitch forced a proposal to publicly finance a new Red Wings arena down the city’s throat less than a week after it had filed for bankruptcy. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, since, as owner of the Little Caesar’s pizza chain, Ilitch knows a thing or two about forcing garbage down people’s throats.
You can find similar situations happening in Arizona, Atlanta, and Seattle. In Seattle’s case, Paul Allen, owner of the Seahawks and one of the richest men in the world, wants the city’s residents to pay $200 million toward a new retractable-roof stadium to combat the totally unforeseen problem of rain in the Pacific Northwest.
As the article I linked to in the previous paragraph points out, public financing of professional sports stadiums is one of the few issues pretty much every economist agrees on. Their nearly unanimous conclusion? It is ALWAYS a terrible deal for taxpayers.
So why does it keep happening? Why do we keep allowing ourselves to be duped into subsidizing billionaires with our tax dollars, then do it all over again when we spend half our paycheck to go see the games live, or contribute an extra $10 a month to our cable bill in order to fund their cozy TV deal?
We are seeing a lot of righteous anger directed at the political system this election season. But we’re the ones who keep swallowing this bull while wearing a toothy grin on our collective face. Whether it’s funding sports stadiums or voting for Donald Trump, too many of us keep falling for the big con.