It is no great secret that Republicans can never find a penny for education, infrastructure improvements, social services, or safety nets, but they have a veritable endless supply of taxpayer money to benefit billionaires. It is typical of Republicans to rob taxpayer dollars to subsidize their favorite industries, and in Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker intends on forcing taxpayers to subsidize a sports arena to save a few billionaires hundreds-of-millions of dollars.
Scott Walker’s plan to build a new basketball stadium for the Milwaukee Bucks paid for with taxpayer dollars is, no matter how it is viewed, an outrageous example of corporate welfare and typical Republican corruption. Some proponents of the publicly financed gift to billionaires claim that taxing Wisconsin residents to build a new stadium is an opportunity to reinvigorate an “economically depressed city,” but their assertion falls short of any reasonable person’s concept of what “reinvigorating an economically depressed city” means. However, this is happening in the dysfunctional state of Wisconsin and the publicly financed gift to bolster the wealth of billionaires is being pushed by Scott Walker, so it is not meant to make economic or ethical sense to reasonable people.
According to Koch puppet Walker, the brilliant plan to build a new $500 million stadium for the billionaire owners of the Milwaukee Bucks basketball franchise forces taxpayers to pay for half of the cost. What is no mystery is that the initial $250 million taxpayer contribution, before the typical and significant cost overruns, is exactly the amount Walker and his Republican legislature have planned to cut from the University of Wisconsin system.
Even though the price of a ticket is far beyond the reach of most Wisconsin residents whether they live in Milwaukee or not, Walker explained that his plan rob $80 million from all Wisconsin taxpayers and the remaining $170 million will be pilfered from “a variety of sources at the local level and truly protects the taxpayers.” Walker also claimed that “It’s also something I can say is good for lawmakers anywhere in the state.” One state official who will benefit from taxpayers’ largesse to billionaires is Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, one of the key architects of the taxpayer-funded sports arena and gift to billionaires.
Abele, promised, with all his heart, that the brand new stadium would “generate millions of dollars in property value and provide a great return on investment.” There is a very good reason Abele raised the point about property value and a “great return on investment;” charging taxpayers to build the stadium will increase his property’s value and generate millions of dollars in income for him. Abele recently purchased a $2 million condominium directly next to the site of the proposed arena as well as the restaurants and stores developers plan to surround it with.
According to Milwaukee economics professor Michael Rosen, “The appreciation for that condo will go sky-high; it will appreciate like crazy when that stadium gets built. He has an interest in this, even though his job as public official is to look out for this community, but I’m not saying that’s why he bought it.” Fine, if Rosen is unwilling to say it, this column has no such reservations; Abele certainly bought the property next to a major development to take a substantial profit at taxpayers’ expense. It is why Walker and Abele’s plans to build the stadium is “an example of typical Republican corruption,” as well as a blatant example of “corporate welfare” funded by cash-strapped Wisconsin taxpayers; most whom will never be able to afford a $60 – $80 ticket to watch a basketball game.
Walker’s plan has been criticized by progressives and conservatives alike, and at a public meeting earlier this week, a large crowd rightly took exception to the idea of using hundreds-of-millions of taxpayer dollars to build a sports complex that only benefits billionaires. In fact, besides robbing taxpayer money meant for education, law enforcement, firefighters, and roads, the attendees were livid that public land worth $9 million was sold to the team’s billionaire owners for a measly 1 dollar. Walker claims that giving free taxpayer money, and public land, to billionaires is an incredibly wise means of investing in the Milwaukee economy even though economists claim that is patently false.
According to economics professor Michael Rosen, “You could do more for the local economy by taking a plane over the city of Milwaukee and dropping $500 million dollars down. That would generate more economic activity than building a stadium. People have a fixed entertainment budget. So if they go see the Bucks and spend $60 or $80 on a ticket, that’s money they’re not using to go to the theater or movies or out to eat. That’s why stadiums have no positive impact on economic growth.” Rosen also made an important point that since most Bucks’ players do not live year-round in Milwaukee, the “millions of dollars in their salaries will not benefit the community.”
Rosen, an economics professor is, of course, absolutely right according to a 2004 Cato Institute study criticizing taxpayer-subsidized sports’ stadiums. Dennis Coates and Brad Humphreys wrote that economic projections for subsidized stadiums are always vastly overstated; “The wonder is that anyone finds such figures credible.” In fact, over the years there have been several Cato studies that examined what they label “absurd economic claims of stadium advocates” and found that; “The lone beneficiaries of sports subsidies are team owners and players. Indeed, the results of studies on changes in the economy resulting from the presence of stadiums, arenas, and sports teams show no positive economic impact from professional sports.” However, there is always a very positive economic impact for developers and the politicians reaping campaign donations for pushing taxpayer-funded projects that benefit their billionaire donors.
Republicans never seem to lack ways of stealing from taxpayers, particularly the poor and middle class, to enrich the already wealthy whether they own corporations or sports’ franchises. Scott Walker is no exception and his antipathy toward Wisconsin residents, and education in particular, is epitomized by his crusade to build a sports stadium that benefits no-one but the Milwaukee Bucks’ billionaire owners and multi-millionaire players. As Michael Rosen opined, “Our elected officials need to better look out for the people of this community, who need parks, who need social services and health care.” However, Republicans are incapable of looking out for the people of any community because their entire focus is looking out for billionaires and in Scott Walkers’ case it is a cabal of billionaires who own the Milwaukee Bucks.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.