Baseball, Socialism & Communism. Steinbrenner Misses the Point
ESPN New York is reporting today that Hank Steinbrenner has compared MLB’s revenue sharing and luxury tax programs to socialism and communism, a comment that apparently drew a rebuke from Commissioner Bud Selig:
TAMPA, Fla. — Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner says baseball’s revenue sharing and luxury tax programs need changes, and that commissioner Bud Selig is open to the idea.Steinbrenner said on Monday that he doesn’t know what the final figure is, but expects the Yankees’ 2010 payments for the two to total about $130 million.“At some point, if you don’t want to worry about teams in minor markets, don’t put teams in minor markets, or don’t leave teams in minor markets if they’re truly minor,” Steinbrenner said. “Socialism, communism, whatever you want to call it, is never the answer.”
Now while I agree with Mr. Steinbrenner that socialism or communism is never the answer, I think he misses the larger point – his own hypocrisy and that of every other team and city, including my own favorite, Denver and the Colorado Rockies, that engage in socialism all the time to build sports arenas.
This year the Yankees moved into a new stadium. According to baseball economist Neil deMause of the excellent Field of Schemes website, the facility cost a stunning $1.56 billion, and the total project (including replacing 22-acres of parkland that had been destroyed by the construction) totaled $2.31 billion [pdf]. Both figures are all-time records in the history of sports stadia. “Of that,” deMause estimates, “the public—city, state, and federal taxpayers—are now covering just shy of $1.2 billion, by far the largest stadium subsidy ever.”The biggest three categories of government contribution were the following:• $417 million in property tax waivers from the City of New York.• $327 million in federal tax-exempt bond subsidies.• $232 million worth of land giveaways from the city.
If we truly want to understand the cost of government – and reduce those costs accordingly, we have to stop this corporate welfare, even for my favorite sport, baseball.