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Corporate Welfare



All Reason.com articles with the "Corporate Welfare" tag.



Published: Thu, 22 Feb 2018 00:00:00 -0500

Last Build Date: Thu, 22 Feb 2018 14:07:04 -0500

 



Why It's a Good Thing We're Fighting Over Coverage of Kim Jong Un's Sister

Mon, 12 Feb 2018 10:10:00 -0500

"North Korea has emerged as the early favorite to grab one of the Winter Olympics' most important medals: the diplomatic gold." So declared Reuters after the Winter Olympics' opening ceremony, during which Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, waved a lot while seated behind U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. "Without a word, only flashing smiles, Kim Jong-un's sister outflanked Vice President Mike Pence in diplomacy," tweeted The New York Times. It was younger media outlets and personalities such as Buzzfeed and CNN's Jake Tapper that called bullshit on such stories. Buzzfeed insisted Kim Yo Jong was "a garbage monster" and asked, "What the hell is wrong with you people?" Tapper tweeted, "If you hate US leaders more than you hate the Kim Jong-un regime, you really need to read up on North Korea" and supplied a link to Human Rights Watch's analysis of North Korea. Fox News contributor Stephen Miller (not THAT Stephen Miller) tweeted: Reuters looked strong in bringing home the gold for North Korea today but coming through late, the New York Times. Think Progress will have to settle for the bronze #olympics pic.twitter.com/fIEoqmTs37 — Stephen Miller (@redsteeze) February 11, 2018 At the New York Post, Bethany Mandel laid into what she called "the perverse fawning over brutal Kim Jong Un's sister at the Olympics" even as NBC fired opening-cermonies analyst Joshua Cooper Ramo for having himself fawned over the Japanese economy during the Games' first big night. "Ramo said that 'every Korean' respected Japan for their recent achievements as a nation, insinuating that South Korea had forgotten about the 35 brutal years of Japanese rule that ended after World War II," said The Hollywood Reporter, which incensed South Korean residents and officials. NBC failed to catch the gaffe before Ramo's comments aired 14 hours later on tape delay in the U.S. and announced that "it was 'grateful' Pyeongchang's organizing committee accepted its apology." And so it goes. This sort of side drama, which doesn't involve anything about sports, is what the Olympics has always done best. We should never forget that the modern Games were explicitly created as a showcase for nationalism, not individual achievement. That's why athletes compete for their countries of birth (or, increasingly, whatever country gives them the best chance of getting to compete). As journalism professor and historian Michael J. Socolow reminded Reason readers just a few days ago, "Sports, and sport broadcasting, can never be apolitical when nations are going head-to-head on the field of play." Indeed, the French aristocrat who restarted the Games in the late 19th century, Pierre de Coubertin, "figured his country could better avenge its ass-whupping in the Franco-Prussian War on playing fields rather than battlefields." Which leads to statements such as this one: "What's the difference between propaganda for tourism - like in the Los Angeles Olympics of 1932 - or for a political regime?" -Baron de Coubertin responding to criticism that 1936 Berlin Games were exploited to make Nazis look good https://t.co/lG7Li0cMHO — Michael Socolow (@MichaelSocolow) February 12, 2018 The good news in all of this? Overall viewership for the Olympics is in decline. At least in the United States, we seem to care less and less about nationalist spectacles, at least when they appear outside of our nation's borders. Deadline reports: Garnering a 13.8 in metered market results for Saturday's primetime coverage of the official Day 1 of the XXIII Winter Olympics, the network was down just over 9% from the first day of Sochi just over four years ago. That February 8, 2014 night of tape-delayed coverage was even with the first official day of the Vancouver Winter Olympics back in 2010. With the overall viewership numbers just in, last night's Day 1 coverage on NBC snared an audience of 21.4 million from 8 – 11:10 PM ET. That's down 15% from what the first day of Sochi delivered four years ago and a drop of 20% from the first official day of the 2010 Winter Games in Vanc[...]



The Dark Side of the Olympics—and How to Fix it

Fri, 09 Feb 2018 10:25:00 -0500

This week marks the start of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The Olympic games are a great sports event, featuring amazing athletes. Sadly the games also have a terrible dark side. Most of what I wrote about it in this 2016 post, written at the time of the 2016 Summer Olympics, remains relevant today: Host cities routinely lose enormous amounts of money on the games, and end up with decaying stadiums that have little or no value. Even worse, governments often forcibly displace large numbers of people from their homes and businesses in order to make room for Olympic venues. Over 1 million people lost their homes for the 2008 Beijing games alone. Brazil has similarly evicted large numbers of people for the currently ongoing Rio Olympics, and even more to build stadiums for the 2014 World Cup. Most of those evicted are the poor and people lacking in political power. The Olympics also often become propaganda showcases for authoritarian regimes, as happened with the 2008 Olympics in China, and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.... These problems are not inevitable results of holding a major international sports competition. I outlined some ways to eliminate, or at least cut back on them: None of this has to happen. We can reform the Olympics to put an end to it. The forcible evictions are perhaps the easiest problem to fix. The International Olympic Committee and the international community more generally should insist that organizers commit to building the necessary venues without forcibly displacing residents. If a city cannot or will not do that, it should not be allowed to host the games. No sports event is worth the forcible displacement of innocent people from their homes. We can also put an end to the economic harm caused by the Olympics by insisting on private funding, instead of government subsidies. The 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, almost the only modern games to avoid massive losses, did so by relying on almost entirely on private funds. Government subsidies for sports facilities have a strong tendency to cause more economic harm than benefit. Private investors have stronger incentives to use resources efficiently, since their own money is at stake. And if they do err, at least the taxpayers won't be left holding the bag. Finally, we can end the use of the games as propaganda tool for repressive regimes by limiting host rights to liberal democracies. If the IOC again awards the games to authoritarians, the West should boycott. The mere threat of a large-scale boycott might well disincentivize such regimes from trying to host in the first place, and prevent the IOC from awarding them the games if they do bid. There is even a way that all three problems can be solved simultaneously: instead of rotating to a new city every four years, the summer and winter Olympics can each be held at a permanent host site. That cuts down on construction costs and potential evictions by eliminating the need to build new facilities each time. And it should be possible to find permanent homes that are located in liberal democratic states, thus eliminating the problem of authoritarian propaganda. Over the last few years, potential host cities have become increasingly reluctant to bid for the Olympics, because of their notorious history of cost overruns. That may force some much-needed fiscal restraint on the notoriously wasteful and corrupt International Olympic Committee. Sadly, less attention has been paid to the other two major flaws of the games: authoritarian propaganda and forcible displacement of local populations. Much remains to be done to banish the dark side of the Olympics and other sports events with similar shortcomings, such as the World Cup.[...]



The Olympics Can't Transcend Politics. Just Ask the Nazis.

Fri, 09 Feb 2018 00:01:00 -0500

This week, all eyes turn to the Korean peninsula. Not for the regular reason—that nuclear apocalypse seems likely to begin somewhere near the DMZ. No, it's the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang that are providing us this thaw in geopolitical tension. And all over the world, television executives are hoping Pyeongchang can restore some traditional primacy to the old media in a new media universe. The management at NBC, America's Olympic network, very much wants American television viewers to forget all the recent warmongering, Presidential tweeting, and Matt Lauer for a few weeks. "I do think the Olympics is unique in that it transcends politics," NBC Olympics host Katie Couric told the press last month. "I feel that this is one instance when domestic politics are really going take a back seat. This is going to be a really wonderful opportunity for the country to unify, and stand together, support the athletes and really help celebrate their stories." Clearly some Olympic stories are worth celebrating, and others aren't. NBC is probably in no mood to discuss Olympic gymnastics anytime soon, with endemic corruption within the governing body of the sport recently exposed in the Larry Nassar trial. News about the sexual abuse of athletes, and doping, and IOC malfeasance doesn't really help sell ads. But the larger issue Couric alludes to—that the Olympics offer an opportunity to ignore our fractious national politics—represents a hope that's been continually dashed since global Olympic broadcasting began in 1936. That was the year Germany's Nazi administration assembled the world's most technologically-sophisticated broadcasting operation in order to delight a global radio audience estimated at 300 million listeners. The Nazis understood the Olympic Games offered a unique propaganda opportunity, and they seized it. Ever since, every dictator and totalitarian government dreams of impressing the world through the supposedly apolitical lens of sports broadcasting. But sports, and sport broadcasting, can never be apolitical. To argue that sports can transcend politics is to miss the obvious fact that politics often structure our shared experience of sports. The greatest moments in American sports history—like the 1980 Miracle on Ice hockey victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War, Joe Louis knocking out Nazi Germany's Max Schmeling in 1938, and Jesse Owens winning four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games run by Nazi racists—were all intensified by the political context in which they took place. Ironically, it was Nazi broadcasting advances that created the global superstardom enjoyed by Owens. But his legend wouldn't be the same had he won his gold medals in, say, Ecuador. Context matters. He won in front of Hitler, just as the 1980 Miracle on Ice hockey team won when the Soviet Union seemed ascendant and the Carter administration weak and vacillating. The Olympics have always been embedded in politics, and that's what makes them worth watching. Well, that and curling. Both NBC and CBS struggled with how to present the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Even before those Games began, NBC downplayed advance programming and promotional opportunities because a domestic boycott movement proved enormously popular. "Keep as far away from any controversy as possible," NBC's programming chief, John F. Royal, warned his staff when preparing them for Olympics coverage. Talk of official Nazi antisemitism, or totalitarian restrictions, would ultimately be severely constricted on the American airwaves. Instead, American listeners heard all about how great the "new" Germany had become. "Everywhere anyone goes in Berlin there is a great sense of joyful freedom," CBS's Bill Henry told a nationwide audience just before the games began. "Everybody seems to think that this is a wonderful holiday for all those who are in Berlin." The master propaganda plan developed by Josef Goebbels succeeded, and it provides the model for Olympic broadcasting as we know it today. That's why having beaut[...]



The Super Bowl, Brought To You By Taxpayers

Sat, 03 Feb 2018 09:00:00 -0500

When the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles meet Sunday for the Super Bowl, they'll play inside the newly completed U.S. Bank Stadium near downtown Minneapolis. The $1.1 billion stadium was built with almost $500 million from state and local taxpayers, with the city paying an additional $7.5 million each year for operations and maintenance. Taxpayers got soaked again when the National Football League (NFL) picked Minneapolis to host this year's Super Bowl. The city had to negotiate against the NFL's 153 pages of specifications, which include 35,000 free parking spaces within one mile of the stadium, shouldering the cost of providing police and emergency services, and priority over all other city snow removal in case of a major storm. No matter who wins the Super Bowl, the 2017-2018 football season will be remembered for headlines about off-field issues, from how it treats concussed players to whether those players stand or kneel for the national anthem. Yet public subsidies for the sport and its annual championship game are often glossed over. That should change. People who care about the NFL's role in society—and taxpayers who care where their money is spent—should question the generous government support lavished on the NFL and its teams. Money that is spent on football stadiums could instead provide safer neighborhoods, better schools, improved infrastructure, or enhanced access to health care in their local communities. The NFL and team owners often shakedown taxpayers by threatening to relocate a beloved team. By design, these threats create bidding wars between municipalities fighting over limited franchises. Faced with the threat of being remembered as the hapless losers who cost a city its beloved hometown team, mayors, city councils, governors and state legislatures all too often respond by offering lucrative "inducement payments." That's exactly what happened in Minnesota, where NFL commissioner Roger Goodell personally warned state lawmakers in 2012 that the Vikings could skip town if the team didn't get a new stadium. More recently, an enormous taxpayer-funded bribe convinced the Oakland Raiders to move to Las Vegas. The city promised $750 million, paid for by a hotel room tax increase of 0.88 percent, towards an ultra-luxury $1.9 billion stadium. The Raiders' former owner, the late Al Davis virtually wrote the NFL's playbook on extorting money from local communities. In 1980, Davis was refused public funding to renovate the Oakland Coliseum, so he moved the Raiders to Los Angeles two years later. In 1995, Oakland coaxed the Raiders back north with $200 million in taxpayer money for stadium renovations. But in 2015, Davis' son threatened to move the team again unless the city paid for a new stadium. In an attempt to prevent a repeat of history, Oakland and the state of California offered the Davis family 55 acres of land adjacent to the Raiders' current stadium to be developed as a stadium and mixed-use retail and residential property. They also offered to invest heavily in transit links to make that property development more valuable, including improvements to mass transit highways, and parking. In the end, the offer could not match the $750 million in cash offered by Las Vegas. For two decades after the Raiders departed, the NFL held the threat of a move to Los Angeles over many cities, extracting massive subsidies. Voters in San Diego eventually rejected a 2016 ballot measure to pay $1.15 billion for a new $1.8 billion stadium with a staggering 4 percent hotel occupancy tax. In response, the Chargers announced that they were moving to LA. The City of San Diego had already paid $68 million to renovate the Chargers' football stadium in 1997, and was spending an additional $5-7 million each year for repairs and to subsidize operating costs. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stated, "I know [Chargers owner] Dean Spanos and his family did everything they could to try to find a viable solution in San Diego." Forbes estim[...]



Pittsburgh Tried to Hide Its Amazon Proposal by Claiming It Was a 'Trade Secret'

Thu, 25 Jan 2018 09:55:00 -0500

Officials in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, want Amazon to set up its second headquarters in their city, so they've crafted a proposal to lure the company to town. What's in the proposal? We don't know: When a reporter requested the information, the city refused to release it on the grounds that it's a "trade secret." When the same reporter put his request to Allegheny County, which surrounds and encompasses Pittsburgh, he was told the same thing. Trade secrets are indeed exempted from Pennsylvania's open records law. But that's meant to protect proprietary information owned by companies who do business with the state. It's not meant to allow public officials to keep secrets from the public. Fortunately, Pittsburgh's claim was laughed out of the state's Office of Open Records yesterday. The city now has 30 days to turn over a copy of the proposal to Paul Van Osdol, a journalist at the Pittsburgh-based WTAE-TV. There's a certain humor to the Office of Open Records' final decision in the case—humor of the laugh-so-you-don't-cry variety. "The proposal is not related to any business or commerce being conducted by the city or the county; instead, through the proposal, the county is hoping to attract Amazon to the region so that it may engage in commerce," writes Kyle Applegate, the state's open records appeals officer. "Therefore, the proposal cannot constitute or contain trade secrets." If the city has a shot at landing the headquarters, there's a good chance it's offering a lot. Atlanta has promised Amazon $1 billion in the form of grants, tax breaks, and transportation improvements. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is trying to lure Amazon to Montgomery County with a $5 billion incentive package. Newark, New Jersey, has offered $7 billion—considerably more than the $5 billion Amazon has promised to invest in its new headquarters—in state and local tax breaks. Many other cities on Amazon's shortlist have refused, at least so far, to disclose their proposals. In Pittsburgh's case, the city and county may very well have known that trying to keep the proposal secret was going to fail. The important thing is how long it took to fail. Osdol submitted the initial requests for the proposal way back on October 19, shortly after Amazon published a list of locales that submitted bids for the headquarters. Under state law, public entities have five business days to respond to a request, but they can give themselves a 30-day extension for a variety of reasons. In this case, Pittsburgh and Allegheny County waited until November 27 to respond. By the time an appeal to the denial was filed, it was already December 1. The city and county dragged out that appeal for another month. By the time the 30-day deadline to turn over the proposal to Osdol is over, it's possible Amazon will have made its decision. In the meantime, the public will have been kept in the dark about what Pittsburgh was willing to offer Amazon during a crucial four-month period when public opposition might have sunk the deal. It may not be a trade secret under Pennsylvania state law, but crony capitalism is certainly a trade full of secrets. src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/H_eG7leM6ew" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0">[...]



Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan Takes Cronyism to the Next Level With $5 Billion Bid for Amazon Headquarters

Mon, 22 Jan 2018 14:35:00 -0500

Amazon has narrowed the list of places where it might put its second headquarters down to 20. Maryland's Republican governor, Larry Hogan, is so excited that Montgomery County made the shortlist that he's offering Amazon a new $5 billion package of incentives. "Amazon sent a clear signal that Maryland truly is open for business by selecting Montgomery County as one of an elite group of contenders for this transformative project," Hogan said today as he unveiled the sycophantically named Promoting ext-Raordinary Innovation in Maryland's Economy (PRIME) Act. The PRIME Act offers a lot of sweeteners. It includes 10 years of tax credits against any state and local property taxes, plus a 10-year exemption on any sales taxes owed by Amazon on purchases of construction equipment and warehouse equipment. Maryland would also give Amazon a 10-year tax credit to cover state income taxes paid by any employee Amazon hires within 17 years of setting up shop in the state, as long as that employee earns between $60,000 and $500,000. And it's not just tax abatements. The proposal offers the online retailer $150 million in direct grants. Add the legislation's road, transit, and infrastructure upgrades, and the whole package comes to $5 billion—the same amount Amazon plans to spend on the new headquarters. Luring businesses with corporate handouts is a long-lived American tradition. For instance, Washington state—home of Amazon's current headquarters—has given the aviation giant Boeing $11.9 billion to stay in town. Likewise, Amazon's competitor in the retail market, Walmart, is notorious for scooping up development grants, tax abatements, and any other form of pork it can from the jurisdictions where it sets up shop. The group Good Jobs First calculated in 2011 that Walmart was pulling down $70 million of these incentives annually. The inevitable justification for these giveaways is that they will more than make up for the costs by bringing new jobs, new spending, and new investment to an area. Hogan, for example, says Amazon is offering "the single greatest economic development opportunity in a generation, and we're committing all of the resources we have to bring it home to Maryland." Hogan is indeed bringing all the resources he can to bear with the PRIME Act, which at this point is the second most generous incentive package to be offered in the Amazon bidding war. (New Jersey had offered the company $7 billion.*) Yet every dollar the governor is offering will have to be paid by someone. If the PRIME Act passes and Amazon comes to Maryland, residents and businesses without the political clout of a multi-billion-dollar multinational will suffer a higher tax burden. Maryland Senate President Mike Miller (D-Calvert) has already criticized Hogan along those lines, telling the Washington Post that he'd like to see the state give more aid to Baltimore and higher hospital funding in Prince George County before it offers billions to one of the world's wealthiest corporations. Hogan won the governorship in deep-blue Maryland in part on his promise of creating a more business-friendly, fiscally responsible state government. His PRIME Act betrays those promises. And it encourages the other places on Amazon's shortlist to stoop even lower to cinch the deal. Reason TV highlighted highlighted the dangers of that in a recent, all too realistic, video: src="//www.youtube.com/embed/H_eG7leM6ew" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="314" frameborder="0"> CORRECTION: The original version of this article stated that no New Jersey cities made the final list of prospective Amazon HQ2 sites. Newark, New Jersey is still in the running.[...]



A False Accusation and Unfair Investigation Derailed This Student Athlete's Life

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 14:30:00 -0500

In 2014, a white female student at the University of Findlay accused two black athletes of sexually assaulting her. The university expelled the two men—a basketball player and a football player—24 hours later, without bothering to interview witnesses who would have contradicted the accusation. According to the two men's lawsuit against Findlay, investigators didn't even interview the young woman. In my original write-up of the lawsuit, I called it perhaps the most blatantly unfair Title IX case I had ever covered. (Title IX is the federal statute prohibiting sex-based discrimination in education.) That dispute is still working its way through the courts. In the meantime, one of the young men—Alphonso Baity, now 23—was finally able to find a basketball program that would let him on the team: Duquesne University. That was quite an accomplishment; students expelled for sexual misconduct can have a tough time earning admission to another school, no matter how farcical the charges against them. But Baity recently got some bad news. The National College Athletic Association won't let him play. "This young man is being punished again," says Don Maurice Jackson, Baity's attorney. "Not by Duquesne, because Duquesne actually wants the young man on the floor. They want him on the floor. He's been victimized by the NCAA." The issue is the "five-year clock" rule. Student-athletes have a maximum of five years in which they can play a sport for four seasons. Once a student is enrolled in any academic institution, the clock starts ticking, even if the student ends up transferring or missing years of school. Baity's case seems exceptional. But when Duqesne requested a waiver so that Baity could play, the NCAA denied it. A refresher on the initial dispute might be useful. In September of 2014, Baity and Jordan Brown—both juniors at Findlay—shared a bedroom in a five-room house in Findlay, Ohio. They had become friends with another student, a white woman known as "M.K." in the lawsuit. M.K. was well-known to the people who lived in the house, and had a sexual relationship with "Q.J.," another basketball player who resided there. On the Saturday night in question, a group of people—including Brown, M.K., other men, and other women—returned to the house after a party. M.K. and Brown retired to the bedroom, where they had sex. A number of people saw them go in together and heard them having sex. They also heard M.K. loudly consenting to sex, even using the word "yes," according to the lawsuit. Baity returned to the house, waited until he heard a lull, and entered the bedroom to retrieve his phone charger. M.K. invited him to stay and began performing oral sex on him while Brown remained in the room. Once again, M.K. was a willing participant—the initiator, in fact. And once again, people outside the room—including two other women—could hear that consent was given, according to the lawsuit. M.K. also gave no signs that she regretted the encounters the morning after. She remained on good terms with the men of the house. She spoke of the encounters positively—even "boastfully." But 10 days later, she had a change of heart, possibly because she felt slut-shamed. And so she filed a complaint. Again, these details come from a lawsuit designed to portray Baity and Brown in a maximally positive light. But it's clearly true that there were several individuals in that house at that time who might have supported their version of the story. Findlay investigators specifically avoided talking to many of them, reasoning that other black men would stick up for Baity and Brown. Investigators presumed two of the white women who were present that night would agree with M.K.'s account, but these witnesses instead gave the university "information and statements corroborating Plaintiffs' version of events," according to the lawsuit. It didn't matter. Findlay expelled Baity and Br[...]



Amazon Announces Shortlist for New HQ; Abandon Hope All Ye Who Live in These Cities

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 10:30:00 -0500

Amazon, the mega-site that controls more and more of our daily life by giving us stuff we want at low prices, has announced a shortlist of cities that it's considering as the location for its "HQ2," or second headquarters. The list includes the following cities, culled down to 20 from over 200:

  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Austin, Texas
  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Dallas, Texas
  • Denver, Colorado
  • Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Miami, Florida
  • Montgomery County, Maryland
  • Nashville, Tennessee
  • Newark, New Jersey
  • New York, New York
  • Northern Virginia
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Toronto, Ontario
  • Washington, D.C.

A decision on the $5 billion project is expected by the end of the year. Be happy if your hometown is not on the list, which promises to be the century's biggest crony-capitalism deal. Without any inside information, I'd say Toronto and D.C. are the top two, simply because they are in the eastern time zone and seats of growth and power. Toronto is the coolest city in North America, simultaneously foreign but familiar. Both the provincial government and Canada's federal government will do whatever it takes to land it and, unlike a lot of the Rust Belt cities vying for the prize, they've got deep pockets. The Washington area is a region that's among the very wealthiest in the United States because, as all readers of The Hunger Games understand, the Capital District always brings home the bacon. Being on the opposite side of the continent from Seattle and within walking distance of legislators who control all sorts of tax codes and labor laws has got to very attractive, and that's even before local goverments bend frontwards and backwards to accommodate Amazon. Texas is a strong bet too, given that state's economic and population growth and relatively low cost of living.

All the finalist cities have been going bananas in offering the online giant all sorts of subsidies, tax breaks, and bribes. Dallas is saying the HQ2 would have bullet-train station, for instance, while the city of Newark and the state of New Jersey are promising a combined $7 billion in tax breaks. Southern California is talking a billion dollars in subsidies and Philly, home to long-suffering sports fans, really nasty people (love them all), and great food, is talking about 28 million square feet spread over several linked sites.

Which brings me to quite possibly the best Reason TV video of all time (IMAO). From the feverish minds of Austin Bragg and Andrew Heaton, here's "Desperate Mayors Compete for Amazon HQ2." This is life-changing.

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/H_eG7leM6ew" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0">




Brickbat: Have You Ever Been in a Turkish Prison?

Tue, 02 Jan 2018 04:00:00 -0500

(image) Turkish prosecutors have indicted NBA player Enes Kanter of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erodgan. They plan to try Kanter in absentia. Kanter could be sentenced to up to four years in prison if found guilty.




The Senate's Rejection of Export-Import Bank Critic Shows How Entrenched Crony Capitalism Is in Washington

Wed, 20 Dec 2017 11:15:00 -0500

The Senate Banking Committee voted 10–13 yesterday to reject former New Jersey Rep. Scott Garrett to head the Export-Import Bank, an institution that has become synonymous with corporate welfare. Two Republicans on the committee—Sens. Mike Rounds (R–S.D.) and Tim Scott (R–S.C.)—broke ranks to vote against Garrett, who had called for the bank's elimination while he was in Congress and who had promised to reform the institution if tapped to lead it. Scott cited Garrett's "long history opposing the Ex-Im Bank" in explaining his vote. Scott's state contains a plant for the aviation giant Boeing, whose customers get some 40 percent of the Export-Import Bank's financing. The institution is sometimes called "Boeing's bank." In opposing Garrett's nomination, Scott and Rounds made common cause with their Democratic colleagues. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D–Wash.)—whose home state also contains major Boeing operations—said in a statement that she "applauds" the banking committee's rejection of Garret. "If we want to create jobs across America, we need a fully functioning Export-Import Bank approving these deals from manufacturers that are ready to close sales and hire workers." Sen. Sherrod Brown (D–Ohio), the ranking Democrat on the banking committee, called Garret's nomination "inappropriate," adding that "the National Association of Manufacturers, Chamber of Commerce, Aerospace Industries Association and the Ohio Manufacturing Association all oppose his nomination." The Bank works by giving low-interest loans—backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. taxpayer—to foreign customers of American exporters. It also issues guarantees to private banks making loans to foreign purchasers of American products, promising to cover these banks' losses should these foreign debtors fail to make good on their obligations. Because of these direct taxpayer subsidies for corporate sales, critics have long derided the bank as one of the worst examples of crony capitalism. The Competitive Enterprise Institute's Daniel Press calls it "one of the capital's greatest boondoggles." Veronique de Rugy of the Mercatus Center—a Reason columnist—has frequently suggested that the bank should be scrapped. On this point, Garrett was once in agreement. While in Congress, he voted repeatedly to eliminate the Export-Import Bank. He has described it bluntly as an institution that "embodies the corruption of the free market system." If Garret had been approved—and if he kept that reformist spirit—he could have used his perch to expose bad deals and improper conduct. Since 2015, operations of the Export-Import bank have been largely stalled, as empty board seats have left it without the quorum it needs to approve larger deals. The silver lining to Garrett's rejection is that the Bank will continue to be hobbled in conducting many of its ordinary operations. Regardless, the Senate's refusal to confirm him demonstrates how entrenched, and indeed how bipartisan, corporatist interests in federal government are. For all his faults, President Donald Trump has appointed a number of reformist, free-market-minded officials to staff his administration, including Neomi Rao at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and Scott Gottlieb at the Food and Drug Administration. But Garret proved a bridge too far. Big business, progressive Democrats, and conservative Republicans closed ranks to prevent him from getting his hands on Boeing's bank.[...]



The Nanny State vs. The Nanny Goat

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 16:45:00 -0500

The nationwide craze for goat yoga, recently banned in the nation's capital, has improbably reared its horned head in the state capital of Connecticut, smack dab in the batting cages of the beleaguered, taxpayer-funded baseball stadium of the Hartford Yard Goats. For a $40 fee, a non-Berra yogi will guide you through asanas and flows near home plate, while as many as fifteen goats graze the unfriendly confines of Dunkin' Donuts Park. src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/7wAYntHqGXs" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0"> While economists differ as to whether society has achieved peak goat, they're in agreement that taxpayer-subsidized stadiums are poor investments. Since Dunkin' Donuts Park was first proposed in 2014, Hartford city hall has fleeced its citizens for ever-increasing sums—from the original $46 million price tag to the current $71 million and a projected $120 million after pending litigation. A grand vision of new neighborhood development surrounding the park has been marred by missed construction deadlines that delayed the park's opening by a year. The city responded by firing the project's developers, leading to a web of lawsuits, counterclaims and an FBI investigation into the woolly state of the stadium's finances. All this in Hartford, a city that operates under the constant threat of bankruptcy. But all hope is not lost. Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin (D), who was never a fan of building the stadium, negotiated successfully to get the park construction back on track. Ever a man of the sheeple, Bronin is committed to turning things around financially. "No matter what you thought about the stadium deal," the mayor bleated during a state of the city address earlier this year, "now is the time to rally together, to embrace this stadium and team that are now ours, and to make it a success." For all the tortured history of Dunkin' Donuts Park, there's good reason to share in Mayor Bronin's optimism. By my calculations, at the current ticket price, it will take only 1.4 million goat yoga enthusaists to pay off the stadium in full. And with the first goat yoga class already sold out, the stadium is only 1,399,980 ticket sales away from achieving financial stability. src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/VMQsYENfWJ8" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0"> By shear coincidence, the unlikely confluence of two goat-related stories also brings together two unrelated Reason videos. I had the pleasure of producing two videos about the separation of goat and state: Another Troubled City, Another Troubled Stadium (about the building of Dunkin' Donuts Park) and Goat Yoga Gets Baaaaa-nned (about the banning of goat yoga). Let me state for the record, I believe this makes me the premier journalist in the world covering the libertarian goat beat.[...]



The Winners in the AT&T-Time Warner Merger Will Be Consumers

Mon, 04 Dec 2017 12:30:00 -0500

On October 22, AT&T and Time Warner announced they had reached an agreement to merge the two companies. The deal, valued at about $85 billion, would create a vertically integrated company that produces content (movies, TV shows) and provides access to content (through cable, fiber-optic, DSL and wireless Internet connections). But on November 20, the Department of Justice brought suit against AT&T and Time Warner, seeking to block the merger on the grounds that it would inhibit competition, harming consumers. AT&T and Time Warner formally responded to the suit last Monday, refuting these claims and arguing the merged company would be investing in innovations that would expand consumer choice. The DOJ's case is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the dynamics of the market for both access and content. If it were to succeed it would likely impede competition, resulting in less innovation and choice for consumers. Consumers are shifting away from the kinds of access and content bundles that so concern the DOJ. And they are doing so because such bundles poorly match their preferences. AT&T recognizes the trend of falling subscription rates for its traditional TV bundles. That's why it wants to expand into content. It could have done that by licensing legacy content from others, arranging syndication deals for new content, and building its own studio, as Netflix and Amazon have done. It chose instead to merge with Time Warner. At the heart of the DOJ's complaint is an assumption that the merged entity would use its market power to raise the price of content currently owned by Time Warner, or threaten to withhold programming, including hit shows such as Game of Thrones and NCAA March Madness. Time Warner could already make such threats, but the DOJ claims it would have greater incentive because it could benefit from some subscribers switching over to AT&T's networks (DirecTV, U-verse and DirecTV Now). A merged AT&T-Time Warner could, in principle, refuse to supply content to some distributors in order to drive consumers to purchase its own access and content bundles, but it would not be in the merged company's financial interest to do so. As Geoff Manne notes in the WSJ: "More than half of Time Warner's revenue, $6 billion last year, comes from fees that distributors pay to carry its content. Because fewer than 15% of home-video subscriptions are on networks owned by AT&T … the bulk of that revenue comes from other providers. In other words: Calculated using expected revenue, AT&T is paying $36 billion for the portion of Time Warner's business that comes from AT&T's competitors. The theory seems to be that the merged company would simply forgo this revenue in a speculative hope that withholding Time Warner content from distributors would induce masses of viewers to switch to AT&T—and maybe, one day, put competitors out of business. That this strategy would actually work is unfathomable. "Game of Thrones" is good, but it isn't that good." When Comcast merged with NBCUniversal in 2013, the DOJ employed a "consent decree" (a legally binding agreement between the DOJ and the merged entity) to mitigate concerns regarding the potential for the merged entity to use its market power to charge more. AT&T and Time Warner have now made a similar commitment, as they told the DOJ: "contingent only upon the closing of this merger, Turner has formally and irrevocably offered its distributors licensing terms that, for seven years after closing, (I) entitle the distributor to invoke "baseball-style" arbitration if it is unable to reach a satisfactory distribution agreement for Turner Networks and (ii) forbid Turner from "going dark" on any Turner distributor during the arbitration process." This "eliminates even the theoretical risk that[...]



Today at SCOTUS: Does the Federal Ban on Sports Gambling Violate the 10th Amendment?

Mon, 04 Dec 2017 07:45:00 -0500

(image) The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 made it illegal for "a governmental entity to sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license, or authorize by law or compact" sports betting. In oral arguments today in the case of Christie v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether that federal law runs afoul of the 10th Amendment and its underlying principles of constitutional federalism.

On one side of Christie v. N.C.A.A. stands the state of New Jersey, whose voters amended the state constitution in 2012 in order to legalize sports gambling. Garden State lawmakers responded by partially lifting the existing state ban on the practice at casinos and racetracks.

On the other side of the case stands the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the National Basketball Association, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, and the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, all of which seek to prevent the state's legalization efforts.

The sports leagues argue that New Jersey is illegally flaunting the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act and should be stopped. New Jersey argues that that federal law is overreaching and unconstitutional.

The outcome of the case is likely to turn on the Supreme Court's application of two precedents from the 1990s. In New York v. United States (1992), the Court held that "while Congress has substantial powers to govern the Nation directly, including in areas of intimate concern to the States, the Constitution has never been understood to confer upon Congress the ability to require the States to govern according to Congress' instructions."

Five years later, in Printz v. United States (1997), the Court continued in this vein. "The Federal Government may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the States' officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program." In short, "federal commandeering of state governments" goes against the Constitution.

The legal question at the heart of Christie v. N.C.A.A. is whether the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or PASPA, violates the anti-commandeering doctrine set forth in New York and Printz.

New Jersey argues that PASPA does violate the doctrine and should therefore be declared unconstitutional. "Under our Constitution," the state argues, "if Congress wishes for sports wagering to be illegal, it must make the activity unlawful itself. It cannot compel States to do so."

The sports leagues take the opposite view. "Congress' power to regulate gambling on a nationwide basis," the leagues maintain, "is as settled as its power to prohibit states from undertaking or authorizing conduct that conflicts with federal policy, and nothing in [New Jersey's] arguments calls either commonly exercised power into question."

Which side will prevail in this dispute, federalism or federal power? We'll get our first indications during today's oral arguments.

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Will SCOTUS Bet on Federalism?

Fri, 01 Dec 2017 12:00:00 -0500

New Jersey is on a constitutional collision course with the federal government—and with some of the biggest names in professional and college sports. At issue is whether Congress violates the 10th Amendment by forbidding the Garden State from partially repealing its statewide ban on sports betting.

Christie v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, which comes before the U.S. Supreme Court this term, has the makings to be one of the biggest federalism cases in years.

In 2012, New Jersey voters amended the state constitution to legalize sports betting at racetracks and casinos statewide. Lawmakers responded by partially lifting an existing ban on the practice.

But then the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the National Basketball Association, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, and the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball filed suit to thwart the effort. They argue the state has contravened the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which made it illegal for "a governmental entity to sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license, or authorize by law or compact" sports betting.

That federal law did contain exemptions for states such as Nevada, where sports gambling was already legal, and for Atlantic City, New Jersey. But the overall purpose was to prevent states from legalizing sports betting. The Garden State is now fighting to get the feds off its back. "Never before has federal law been enforced to command a State to give effect to a state law that the State has chosen to repeal," New Jersey told the Supreme Court in its petition for certiorari.

The sports leagues, which oppose legalized betting on the grounds that it will lead to bribery and corruption among athletes and officials, insist that the federal government has every right to control the states in this manner. PASPA is "an unremarkable exercise of Congress' settled power to regulate commerce in sports gambling," they claim. The Trump administration takes an equally broad view of federal power.

A nationwide ban on sports betting would probably be upheld by the Supreme Court under existing precedent, which recognizes broad congressional power to regulate economic activity. But that is not the sort of regulation being challenged here. In this case, Congress has effectively dictated the terms of a state law in order to further its own regulatory goals. The Court has repeatedly said federal commandeering of the states is not permitted under the Constitution.

Soon we'll learn which the justices will put first—federalism or federal power. Place your bets now.




Coming Soon to SCOTUS: Federal Sports Betting Ban vs. the 10th Amendment

Thu, 30 Nov 2017 10:45:00 -0500

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Monday in a 10th Amendment case that pits the state of New Jersey against both the federal government and the biggest names in professional and amateur sports. It will be a constitutional clash between federalism and federal power.

The case is Christie v. National Collegiate Athletic Association. In a new video produced by the Federalist Society, I explain the legal issues at stake in this high-profile dispute. Does the federal government have the lawful power to prevent New Jersey from partially legalizing sports betting in its casinos and racetracks? Or does the 10th Amendment shield the state from the federal government's reach? Click below to watch.

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