An alert reader pointed out that this week Bloomberg.com, that bastion of liberal thinking, ran an article called Four Reasons Taxpayers Should Never Subsidize Stadiums. In case you’re running late, here’s the TL;DR:
1. Competition: Sports and live music are incredibly successful and profitable businesses overall. These venues should be able to compete on their own for consumer dollars. If a venue can’t generate the needed revenue, that tells you that it is either poorly managed or not needed by the marketplace. In either case, the local tax base should not subsidize it.
2. Riches for the rich: Sports teams are extremely valuable properties. Why should nonowners subsidize businesses that can easily afford to build their own facilities? The taxpayer subsidies also distort the market calculus, destroying the signals that supply and demand are supposed to send. So not only do rich owners avoid the full cost of paying for their venues, but they also get all of the appreciation in the value of their teams. And by lowering the actual cost of operation, the subsidies make it much easier for rich owners to earn a profit.
3. Economic impact: The academics have looked at the data, and there is little doubt: Stadiums add little or nothing to the local economy. It certainly isn’t worth giving away billions of dollars to these businesses. The return on investment for the public is nil. These wasteful subsidies have demonstrated little if any positive economic impact on the municipalities and states.
4. Priorities: Given the state of the nation’s infrastructure, one would imagine that there might be projects with higher priority for taxpayer dollars. Bridges are collapsing, tunnels are on the verge of failure, highways are not being properly maintained, rail lines are obsolete, the electrical grid is an antiquated patchwork and our ports are still vulnerable to terrorist attacks. This is before we even consider making our transportation system smart and capable of handling self-driving cars — or even just more efficient at traffic management.
Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.