Tuesday, February 08, 2011

The Socialist Football League

Lawrence O’Donnell criticizes and mocks people pretty freely for accusing Obama of being a socialist, and then he leveled that same charge with an even greater degree of idiocy at the NFL. The basis for his charge is that cities build stadiums for them to play in at taxpayer cost and that if the league did not have these “socially owned facilities” in which to operate they could not survive.

First of all, to call a league whose teams, with one exception, are owned by billionaires and which severely limits the number of teams in order to keep prices at sky high levels a socialist organization is without question the must absurd accusation I have ever heard in my life. The NFL is as close to being the direct opposite of socialism as anything could possibly be.

Even his claim on the building of stadiums is idiotic. The taxpayers did indeed pick up $325 million of the $1.15 billion total cost of Cowboys Stadium, they did so because local college teams will play their games in the stadium. The college teams using the stadium are owned by taxpayers.

The Packers’ stadium was built 100% with taxpayer money. Of course much has been made this past week about how those same taxpayers also own the team, so I’m not sure why they should not pay for the stadium.

The “best deal ever” for New York is indeed a stadium built in New Jersey, the most expensive stadium ever built, Meadowlands at $1.6 billion, and it was built entirely with private funds. O’Donnell didn’t seem to feel like mentioning that might be significant. So it was destroyed before the bond was paid off. It had outlived its usefulness. Have you never traded in a car before the loan was fully paid off?

Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts, was built by the state and city, but it hosts a great deal more than the NFL football team. High school and college football games are played in the stadium, as are college and professional basketball games. There are motor sports events held in the stadium, along with state fair events, marching band competitions and conventions of types too numerous to list. Seems like the stadium was a pretty good investment. Oh, and the Colts contributed $100 million to the $720 million cost. After paying 14% of the cost of building the stadium, they occupy it about 3% of the time.

As to outrage over cities providing land on which to build or tax incentives, give me a break. Cities have been doing that for industries of all types for decades in the name of attracting jobs to their city. It is standard practice, and the NFL receives no more of that type of favoritism than does any other major employer.

Update and response: I'm not sure our commenter understands the meaning of the term "socialism," a problem that may be endemic to our political discourse. It is not just a generic term expressing general unpleasantness or "I don't like it." It refers to an economic and political theory advocating "public or common ownership and cooperative management of the means of production and allocation of resources." How do we have that condition when private money has paid for anywhere from two-thirds to 100% of the cost of a football stadium, and private money is entirely responsible for the operation of the team itself?

As to the leveled stadium, if you blow the engine of a car that has an outstanding loan balance, is the loan cancelled? It is not. In fact, even if insurance pays for the car, it only pays what the car is worth, not the balance of the loan. Where is the value for New Jersey taxpayers in the demolished stadium? It's in the 40+ years that the stadium was in use.

Will the taxpayers of New Jersey receive profits from future games? Of course not; they didn't pay to build the stadium, and they are not paying the expenses of the teams playing the games.

The economic value of cities kicking in to build stadiums is certainly questionable. San Diego is asking that question right now, and I am opposed to it. But to call the NFL a form of socialism because some, not all, of its games are played in publicly owned stadiums is utterly ludicrous. First, not all of the stadiums are built with public money, and second, most of the stadiums are used for a great many civic purposes beyond the NFL football games that are played in them.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:15 AM

    I saw the piece and I have watched O'Donnald in the past so I know his style and where he comes from.

    I think part of what he was saying is that the word "Socailism" in our culture is a lable that carries a negative stigma or connotation. I believe he is in part (albeit sarcastic) suggesting there is plenty of good socialism out there. Although most of it is kept under the radar. He is trying to bring it out in the open. I think you will agree from your reply.

    His comment about the NJ tax payers still paying the multimillion dollar debt on a leveled stadium( The Meadowlands) is valid. Where is the value for all NJ tax payers in this deal?

    Will all NJ tax payers share in the profits from future Giant and Jet games and all other stadium events? I don't know the answer but it is a good question.

    You are dead on about Greenbay. Incidentally the bylaws of the NFL prevent any other franchise from being owned by a municipality. Why is that? Up untill this past week this fact has been kept pretty quiet. Why is that?

    I trust you did you homework on the Dallas stadium and all of those college home teams will infact be Texas State Universities. I assume the college does not have to pay rent to the Cowboys.
    Where do the profits for other events i.e. a bowl game or concert? Will that Texas tax payers get about 1/3 of those profits? You are implying they own about 1/3 of the stadium.

    There are more questions that need to be answered and cleared up before a clear verdict can be made on the meritts to the tax payers. You have not addressed enough to pass judgement. But maybe you can.

    Socialism can be a good thing if done right.