Florida Pilot

A compendium of random thoughts from a former Washington Beltway insider who is now having a lot more fun flying small airplanes in Central Florida.

Friday, December 24, 2004

setting priorities

The extent of the taxpayer subsidy proposed to relocate the failed Montreal Expos baseball team to Washington DC and rename it the Nationals is staggering. It looked for a while last week, however, that Linda Cropp, city council Chairman, was going to stand up on behalf of city taxpayers and demand that baseball pay at least a small share of the cost of a new stadium. It now appears that her opposition was only a token one, evidently taken primarily to better position herself for a run against current "mayor-for-life" Anthony Williams.

But, when push came to shove, Cropp settled for what appears to be a meaningless provision requesting but not requiring private some private funding for the stadium. Of course, what private group is going to provide funding when the government stands ready to do it if they don't. So, the fat cats in baseball land get a major Christmas present courtesy of DC taxpayers.

But, although I haven't been in the area for a few years, the largesse of the city to the barons of baseball seemed to be inconsistent with their previous unwillingness to pay for improvements to DC city schools. In fact, while the city is going to spend something over $10 million to temporarily "rehab" the city's 43 year old RFK stadium for baseball's use for a few years while the new $500 million or so baseball palace is being constructed, my recollection is that the city claimed an inability to find the money to rehabilitate or replace school buildings over 100 years old.

The web site referenced above shows the city poor-mouthing and asking for the federal government to subsidize city school repair and reconstruction. Do you think the city will withdrawal this request now that they have figured out how to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for a stadium? I can't imagine Congress or the administration supporting additional subsidies for the city given generous giveaways to baseball billionaries.

But, RFK stadium, to be fixed up for interim use by the baseball team, is the most recent example of the city throwing money at the baseball barons and getting nothing in return. RFK stadium only housed baseball for 10 years until the team it was built to house left for greener pastures.

Perhaps John McCain might figure out a more intelligent way to solve the drug use in baseball. Right now, the focus appears to be on threatening to pass laws making already illegal drug use by ballplayers extra-special illegal. But, as long as the top tier of plays can make tens of millions of dollars per year more than merely "good" players, the incentive to use illegal drugs will be irresistible. If, however, public subsidies to baseball (including stadia and other subsidies) were eliminated, owners would be under economic pressure to reduce salaries, perhaps to a level that would discourage drug use. Maybe McCain could introduce some legislation to outlaw public subsidies for professional sports.


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