Neither the Rams nor the Patriots may have scored big on Sunday, but it looks like the city of Atlanta sure did — and at taxpayer expense.
In a column for Reason magazine last week, libertarian conservative John Stossel blew the whistle on big government.
The Super Bowl was being played in a stadium that was financed out of the pockets of everyday Americans, all so multimillionaires can toss around a ball.
“(T)axpayers were forced to donate more than $700 million to the owner of Atlanta’s football team, billionaire Arthur Blank, to get him to build the stadium,” the author and talk show host pointed out.
He was referring to Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the sophisticated but expensive home to the Atlanta Falcons and Super Bowl LIII.
Sure enough, a scandal over the stadium’s funding has plagued it since before construction even began.
“(T)he stadium cost the public at least $700m, more than any other building in NFL history,” reported The Guardian in 2017.
“Blank eventually acknowledged the present value of all this future money would be ‘close to $700 million,'” the newspaper stated.
“Add in a handful of other goodies — $30 million in sales tax rebates on construction materials, $24m in city-provided land, a pedestrian bridge that was supposed to cost $12 million but ended up coming in at almost twice that — and the final public tab could end up clearing three-quarters of a billion dollars,” the report continued.
It’s the kind of thing that both Republicans and blue-collar Democrats really should be able to agree on: Robbing Peter to pay Paul isn’t the way forward, especially when Paul is a fat-cat billionaire and Peter doesn’t even like football.
“Some NFL teams collect even more in government subsidies than it cost to build their stadiums,” Stossel pointed out. “So taxpayers, most of whom never attend a game, subsidize billionaires.”
It might be one thing if the tax subsidies used for grandiose projects like NFL stadiums made financial sense.
But that’s rarely the case.
“There is absolutely no way Georgia will earn back $700m, at least in the lifetime of any local taxpayer,” West Virginia University economist Brad Humphreys told The Guardian.
Stossel, in his trademark no-nonsense style, explained that taxpayer-subsidized projects are really indirect ways for elitists to buy votes — and that’s especially egregious when there’s plenty of market support for a popular sport like football.
“Politicians announce whatever project they fund with great fanfare, implying you should be thankful to them — as if football, or the arts, or whatever is unveiled in the latest ribbon-cutting ceremony, couldn’t exist without politicians moving money from your pocket to the pockets of their cronies,” he wrote.
“But really, government shrinks your ability to make choices every time it steers money away from what you might choose to spend it on,” he wrote.
Less money in your pocket, fewer choices, more work to pay for the bloated projects that politicians who disdain the public prop up with the public’s money.
The cycle repeats … but hopefully, more and more people like Stossel are starting to notice.
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