Subscribe: Corporate Welfare
http://reason.com/topics/topic/139.xml
Added By: Feedage Forager Feedage Grade A rated
Language: English
Tags:
bank  basketball  espn  league  marijuana  million  new  nfl  players  sports  stadium  state  tax  team  teams  time  year 
Rate this Feed
Rate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feed
Rate this feed 1 starRate this feed 2 starRate this feed 3 starRate this feed 4 starRate this feed 5 star

Comments (0)

Feed Details and Statistics Feed Statistics
Preview: Corporate Welfare

Corporate Welfare



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



Published: Mon, 22 May 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Mon, 22 May 2017 15:27:48 -0400

 



How Madison Square Garden's $42 Million Tax Break Will Upend New York's NHL Geography

Sat, 13 May 2017 10:16:00 -0400

Every January, the National Hockey League rings in the New Year with one of the more unique traditions on the American sports landscape: The Winter Classic, an outdoor hockey game played in a football or baseball stadium. Next year, the NHL announced this week, that game will be an intra-state battle between the New York Rangers and the Buffalo Sabres, and the contest will be played at Citi Field, home of baseball's New York Mets. The stadium is located in Queens, less than 10 miles from Madison Square Garden, where the Rangers' normally play, but the Sabres will be the "home" team for the game, despite the fact that they hail from a city more than 350 miles away. The reason, as the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle uncovered this week: tax breaks. Specifically, one very peculiar tax break that applies only to Madison Square Garden. Thanks to state lawmakers in New York, the "most famous arena in the world" is also one of the least taxed. Madison Square Garden has a full exemption from property taxes, but the exemption is contingent on having both the National Basketball Association's New York Knicks and the NHL's Rangers remain full-time residents of the building. Playing even one home game somewhere else could cost the arena's owners—who also happen to own both teams—as much as $42 million annually. The special exemption was written into state law in 1982 in an effort to keep the Knicks and Rangers from following through on threats to leave Manhattan for a new stadium. It certainly accomplished that, but it's hard to justify such a narrowly tailored giveaway that benefits just a single business at the expense of all other New Yorkers. The Madison Square Garden Company, which owns the arena and the two teams, certainly doesn't need the corporate welfare. According to the D&C, the publicly traded company has a market value of more than $4.8 billion. New York City's Independent Budget Office—basically the city's number-crunching equivalent to the Congressional Budget Office—says the Madison Square Garden tax exemption is worth an estimated $42 million for the city's upcoming fiscal year (up from just $17 million in 2013, before a $1 billion renovation of the arena). There have been efforts to kill the tax exemption, most recently in 2016 when a proposal to eliminate the special giveaway was voted down in committee. For what it's worth, the NHL says the decision to make Buffalo the nominal home team in next year's Winter Classic was influenced by "a variety of factors." But when the Rangers played an outdoor game at Yankee Stadium—also as the road team, against the New Jersey Devils—in 2014, The New York Times noted that the Madison Square Garden tax break was likely the reason. Aside from highlighting one of the best examples of crony capitalism in New York's tax code, the whole situation says something about the unintended consequences of government policy. The state lawmakers who crafted this special property tax exemption for Madison Square Garden probably never intended to create a situation where the Buffalo Sabres would be playing a home game in Queens—for that matter, they probably never even considered the possibility of outdoor NHL games, something the league didn't start doing until the early 2000s. Policymakers can never foresee all the consequences of their actions. As unintended consequences of narrowly-tailored tax rules that benefit one special interest go, this is probably one of the least consequential. The fact that the Rangers will be the road team despite being closer to home won't affect the outcome of the game, and the loss of one true home game probably won't change the trajectory of Buffalo's season. Still, people and businesses respond to economic incentives. Apparently, $42 million of economic incentives are enough to invert the geography of New York State—at least for one day.[...]



Like Most Americans, NFL Players Think They Should Be Allowed to Use Medical Marijuana

Sat, 06 May 2017 10:26:00 -0400

Like the vast majority of Americans who watch them on television every Sunday during the last four months of the year, an overwhelming majority of professional football players believe medical marijuana should be legal. In a survey conducted by BudTrader.com, an online medical marijuana marketplace, more than 150 current and former professional football players were asked for their experiences with various types of painkillers, including opioids and marijuana. Though marijuana is current banned by the National Football League, 68 percent of the current and former players polled said they had used marijuana (either for recreational or medical purposes) during their career, while 87 percent said they would use it if the league allowed it (and 89 percent said they believed it would be an effective treatment for pain and other ailments). Sure, a business like BudTrader.com has an interest in seeing medical marijuana more widely accepted and legalized, which is why they do polls like this. But their polling of NFL players matches with national attitudes towards medical marijuana, which is now legal in 29 states. A Quinnipiac University Poll conducted in February found support for medical marijuana at 93 percent nationwide, with large majorities cutting across all demographics. According to Gallup's latest polling, support for legalizing recreational marijuana is at 60 percent, the highest percentage recorded in the polling firm's 47 years of tracking that question. The NFL's resistance to legal medical marijuana (like opposition in government from people like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Attorney General Jeff Sessions) increasingly runs against not only public opinion but common sense. Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, told ESPN last month that he supports a continued ban on marijuana because he thinks the drug could be "negative to the health of our players." That's pretty laughable, as Reason's Mike Riggs pointed out last week, considering that NFL players are playing a sport that is demonstrably more dangerous to their health than marijuana is. Add to that the fact that many NFL players are being loaded up with other forms of painkilling drugs, often dispensed by the same team doctors that are supposed to care first and foremost about the players' health. In the BudTrader.com survey, 91 percent of players said they had taken opiate-based painkillers like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and propoxyphene. Additionally, 45 percent of players said they had felt pressured into taking those drugs by team doctors, staff, and teammates in order to get back on the field (68 percent say they have been concerned about their usage of painkillers, and 74 percent say they've had negative side effects from using them). In fact, the NFL currently is fighting a lawsuit from several former players who allege that official team doctors literally handed out piles of opioids and other painkillers—ignoring federal laws for prescription drugs and disregarding medical guidance—before, during, and after games. Deadspin has all the details on the lawsuit, which includes several telling anecdotes about how team doctors allegedly hand out opioids like candy on NFL sidelines. As I've written before, the NFL's anti-pot policy might make a degree of sense if it was part of an overall effort to prevent teams from using painkillers of any kind, lest some players or teams gain a competitive advantage on the gridiron. That's hardly the case, as the lawsuit and poll demonstrate. A majority of states now allow medical marijuana as a treatment for at least some medical continues. It's time the NFL (and the federal government) get on board.[...]



Are High Taxes to Blame for Minnesota’s Championship Drought?

Sat, 29 Apr 2017 11:30:00 -0400

Of the 13 metropolitan areas in the United States currently hosting teams in each of the four major professional sports leagues, none have been waiting longer to celebrate a championship than the Twin Cities. One possible reason why? Minnesota's high personal income tax rate. "You get a lot of complaining about professional sports in Minnesota, because this problem is especially acute there," Dr. Erik Hembre, told The Washington Post this week. "People complain about, 'Oh, we can't get good free agents. It really hurts us.'" Hembre, an economist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, claims to have found a direct relationship between state tax rates and the success of professional teams based in those states. His research shows that, since the mid-1990s, a ten percentage point increase in income taxes correlates with a 2-3 percentage point decline in team's winning percentage. The effect is greatest in the National Basketball Association (where signing one major free agent arguably has a greater impact on a team's success than in any other major sport) and smallest in Major League Baseball, according to Hembre. Minnesota's high tax rate, Hembre says, costs the Minnesota Timberwolves a total of 4.5 victories per season when compared to pro basketball teams in low-tax states like Florida or Texas. Minnesota's state income tax is one of the highest in the country. The top marginal rate of 9.85 percent applies to anyone making more than $157,000 annually (or married couples making more than $262,000). That high rate might force teams in Minnesota to pay higher rate for the same talent, or might give highly-sought-after free agents a reason to play somewhere else. The Twin Cities last celebrated a major sports championship in 1991, when the Twins claimed the World Series with a dramatic extra inning victory in the seventh and final game. Since then, not a single Minnesota-based team has reached the final round of their respective league playoffs. Bad luck may be part of the answer. The Vikings of the National Football League reached the final round before the Super Bowl in 1998, 2000, and again in 2009, only to lose all three times (twice in overtime). The Minnesota Twins made regular playoff appearances during the 2000s, but only advanced past the first round on one occasion, which might say more about the comparatively random nature of Major League Baseball's playoff system than anything else. The Twin Cities' professional basketball and hockey teams have been occasionally competitive but never considered strong championship contenders since joining the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League in 1989 and 2000, respectively. (It should be noted that the Minnesota Lynx are something of a dynasty in women's professional basketball, having won WNBA championships in 2011, 2013, and 2015.) Other metropolitan areas with all four major professional sports have higher taxes than Minnesota does—the Los Angeles area and the San Francisco Bay Area in California, for example—but professional athletes might be willing to pay a premium, in the form of higher taxes, to live in places like that. As great as the Twin Cities can be (full disclosure: I lived there for three years and loved it), they have a hard time competing with South Beach and Hollywood for celebrity culture. "Professional athletes are paid very well and therefore they have large incentives to consider the tax implications of the teams they choose to play for," Hembre told the Post. Well-paid professional athletes are a particularly mobile sector of the workforce, and can more easily make decisions about where to live and work than most of us who can't slam dunk a basketball or throw a baseball at 90 MPH. Still, technology is making it possible for ever-larger segments of the workforce to have the kind of flexibility that once was possible only for those people with such specialized, and highly valued, skills. That's something that states should keep in mind when trying to attract talented [...]



ESPN Will Get Better, or Fail Trying

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 18:23:00 -0400

ESPN, which has lost millions of subscribers in recent years, announced it would be laying off 100 employees, mostly on-air talent, as The Hollywood Reporter reports—they are not the first big layoffs at the sports network, but represent ESPN's continuing efforts to respond to increased competitive pressure as fortress cable's hold on Americans' viewing habits continues to weaken. ESPN makes the majority of its money—two thirds of its revenue in 2013—on carriage fees. If you have a cable or satellite package with ESPN on it, the network gets a cut of your monthly bill whether you watch or not. The rest comes from advertising. In 2015, cable companies lost 1.1 million subscribers, four times the number they lost in 2014. Last year, 1.8 million people cut the cord. According to Disney, which owns ESPN, the network lost 3 million subscribers in 2015, and is down to 92 million from 99 million at the end of 2013. Competing cable networks don't always benefit—in February Fox Sports 1 lost even more subscribers than ESPN, and from a smaller base. Nevertheless, ESPN has the kind of long-term contracts for broadcasting rights other cable sports networks aren't saddled with. It spends more on content a year, $7.3 billion, than Netflix, which spends $5 billion. It's spending $166 million a year through 2036 on the ACC alone. According to Motley Fool, ESPN last year had $33.27 billion in long-term broadcast rights contract obligations for MLB, the NBA, the NFL, and the college football playoffs. ESPN has been successful for a long time, and according to Disney revenue and operating income for its cable networks still rose three percent in the first three quarters of 2016, as Motley Fool reported, a slowdown from previous years. ESPN enjoyed the benefits of being the first network to do what it did—dedicate its broadcasts entirely* to sports—and the benefits of the cable monopolies. Almost since its inception, the cable industry has been regulated at the local, state, and federal level. As a 1984 Cato report explained, federal regulations brought the cable industry to a near halt between 1966 and 1975. After courts and bureaucrats started rolling back these regulations, local governments stepped in with new regulations and controls. Clint Bolick noted in the 1984 report the danger posed by local regulation and franchising prompted by the fallacious idea that cable was a natural monopoly. Such predictions of natural monopoly formation, Bolick explained, tended to be self-fulfilling prophecies because of the government intervention they yield. By 2005, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) was concerned in the other direction, spending several years trying to combat the rising cable prices enabled by local government franchise regulations and the expansive bundles that came with them—George W. Bush's FCC wanted to force cable companies to offer more a la carte choices, but in the end, as Peter Suderman noted in 2015, it was market forces, and the internet in particular, that yielded the "great cable unbundling." ESPN's broadcasting rights binge may have been a response to those trends. Actual games are the currency of sports broadcasting. But ratings are down in many sports too. NFL ratings fell 9 percent last year (ESPN is paying $1.9 billion a year for the broadcasting rights to Monday Night Football through 2021). Major league has seen some ratings improvements after years of decline. At the same time as going all-in on being the home of broadcast sports, ESPN has moved away from the idea of all-sports coverage. Its own public editor reported of regular complaints about the network's foray into politics (generally of a specific left-wing variety). "Like it or not, ESPN isn't sticking to sports," Jim Brady wrote earlier this month. He repeated his assertion that disentangling sports and politics was a "fool's errand" while acknowledging that looking back at the last 20 years of ESPN's flagship news show Sports Center it was "noticeabl[...]



Pop Culture, Black Markets, Skateboarding, and Freedom

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 11:35:00 -0400

The first installment of Pop Revolution, a new web series from Freethink, looks at a dramatic transformation in Myanmar since the regime there started loosening its controls on speech and trade in 2011. The locals haven't just embraced elements of Western culture; they've transformed them, creating something that's part of the global pop landscape yet still distinctively Burmese. The episode focuses on the country's skateboarding subculture, which used to rely on illegally acquired goods and information—the video tips its agorist hat to black markets' liberatory potential—and now can operate more freely outside the shadows.

The video was written and narrated by frequent Reason contributor Thaddeus Russell; two more figures who should be familiar to Reason readers, Kmele Foster and Amanda Winkler, had a hand in the production. Enjoy:

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/YPG9phJ9TNk" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0">

Bonus link: Another short film about skateboarding, this one mocking the moral panics that the sport periodically inspires.




Major League Baseball's War on PEDs Is Still Petty and Pointless

Wed, 19 Apr 2017 17:15:00 -0400

Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Starling Marte was suspended Tuesday after testing positive for the testosterone derivative Nandrolone, an androgenic compound that increases lean body mass and strength, decreases fat mass, and expedites soft tissue repair. Prolonged use also causes left ventricular hypertrophy and high blood pressure, but it's the first set of effects that'll cause Marte to miss 80 games and render him ineligible for postseason play in the event the Pirates make it that far without him. Over at Yahoo!, MLB columnist Jeff Passan argues that Marte's suspension means we should revisit, for the millionth time, the MLB's policy on performance enhancing drugs. "The line between so-called PEDs and other drugs isn't thin. It just doesn't exist," Passan writes, citing the MLB's broad use of anti-inflammatories and other painkillers, which players can gobble without fear of getting their pay docked and being dragged through the mud. "The only reason PEDs are considered cheating is because federal drug policies stigmatized certain substances, and those now come with a scarlet S. Never mind that most players who take drugs today do so in order to deal with the rigors of a full season – of the grind, the travel, the responsibility to maintain playing shape in an environment that grows less conducive to it as the demands to do more increase." Baseball is America's most vengeful sport, governed by an esoteric code that allows victims of bat-flips and joyful baserunning to retaliate with violence, so it makes (some) sense that the reactions to Marte's rule-breaking have been Jeff Sessions-like, with one fellow MLBer suggesting that Marte's wages should be permanently depressed for the rest of his career: Historically, fans have been no more forgiving, at least when it comes to juice. Shortly after Pete Rose admitted to betting on games while managing the Reds, Gallup asked sports fans which offense was more serious. They chose PEDs by a mile: But I thought baseball was about rules! The MLB's drug policy is not uniquely stupid. Former players are suing the NFL for pumping them full of painkillers and NSAIDs to keep them on the field, a vicious cycle that former NFL wide receiver Nate Jackson gruesomely documents in his memoir Slow Getting Up. Are fans outraged about guys playing hurt? Maybe, but I suspect they care far more about players being better than they should be, like that time people could not shut the hell up about allegations Peyton Manning used HGH after neck surgery. Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills suspended a player last year for using medical marijuana, under a doctor's supervision, to treat Crohn's disease. Not even the NBA--arguably America's most socially liberal league (David Stern's racist dress code notwithstanding)--is above this nonsense. Last month, it suspended Knicks center Joakim Noah for 20 games after he used a research chemical to heal faster from an injury. There is no drug in existence that could make Noah worth the concrete boots of a contract he signed with the Knicks last summer, because there is nothing you can inject into a surgically repaired 32-year-old seven-footer that will make him less old, less tall, or less busted. (And besides, is suspending him really worse than making him play in front of the mouth breathers at Madison Square Garden, recently seen booing the best Knicks pick since Patrick Ewing?) Like Passan, I think it's time to revisit the PED standards for most sporting bodies, if only to bask in the dysfunction that's sweeping the globe. I speak of the Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE), in which the MLB has been a two-faced pioneer. Back in 2005, when the MLB announced it was going to crack down on amphetamine use--as deeply ingrained a baseball tradition as beaning guys for enjoying the game--it did so by allowing players to medicalize said use. Now, when the the MLB Players Association releases its annual report on drug testing in the l[...]



Publicly-Funded Ballparks Are for Suckers

Mon, 17 Apr 2017 12:00:00 -0400

Talk of a new ballpark for Richmond has all but disappeared in the past few months. Former Mayor Dwight Jones' plans for one imploded, and his successor, Levar Stoney, has trained his focus on the nuts and bolts of local government that Richmond has too long ignored: public safety, sidewalk maintenance, leaf collection. This is a good thing. To see why, look north to Hartford, Conn. A recent story in The Wall Street Journal lays out the unfortunate details. Hartford looks somewhat like Richmond: One third of its 124,000 residents live in poverty, and its unemployment rate is twice the state average. The city also has been wrestling with financial difficulties. Despite that, Hartford has built a new stadium for the AA-level ball club, the Yard Goats, and issued $68.6 million in bonds to do so—even though Dunkin' Donuts paid an undisclosed, but no doubt pretty, sum for the stadium naming rights. Mayor Luke Bronin has said the park by itself cannot recoup the investment. The city hopes ancillary development nearby will do so: There had been talk of a $350 million mixed-use development—shops and apartments and so on. You've heard it all before. But the development has not materialized. Richmond's poverty and unemployment numbers look better than Hartford's. But under Jones the city maxed out its credit card; there's almost no debt capacity left. Jones' vision for a new ballpark also relied heavily on ancillary development, both in Shockoe Bottom, where the park was to have been built, and on the Boulevard, where the old ballfield was to have been torn down to make way for "a gleaming, 60-acre complex of apartments, retail stores, restaurants, entertainment and office buildings," as a Richmond Times-Dispatch news story put it. Yet The Diamond still stands, as it has ever since the Richmond Braves left town in a snit almost a decade ago because they weren't getting a new stadium. The Braves ended up in Gwinnett, Ga., which built them the citadel they wanted. "We anticipate it paying for itself from Day One," said the county manager at the time. Well. As in Hartford, the project ran into cost overruns, and the county had to move $19 million from general-fund revenue to cover the hole. The stadium has been a disaster since its first year, when parking revenue came in at a mere 15 percent of projections. "Seven years into the experiment that is the Gwinnett Braves," reported the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2015, "the numbers make it clear: The county built it. They have not come." Coolray Field has the second-lowest attendance in its league. Just like Hartford, Gwinnett hoped the stadium would provide the catalyst for new development nearby. It hasn't happened. "None of the planned shops or restaurants has materialized," according to the AJC. And the bond payments for the stadium are bigger than the revenue it brings in. Gwinnett has had to take money meant for other functions to subsidize its money pit. A fluke? Hardly. Last year, in a story headlined "The Braves Play Taxpayers Better Than They Play Baseball," Bloomberg Businessweek reported on the way the Braves organization has turned public investment by others into its own private profit: Over the last 15 years, the Braves have extracted nearly half a billion in public funds for four new homes, each bigger and more expensive than the last. The crown jewel, backed by $392 million in public funding, is a $722 million, 41,500-seat stadium for the major league club set to open next year in Cobb County, northwest of Atlanta. Before Cobb, the Braves built three minor league parks, working their way up the ladder from Single A to Triple A. In every case, they switched cities, pitting their new host against the old during negotiations. They showered attention on local officials unaccustomed to dealing with a big-league franchise and, in the end, left most of the cost on the public ledger. Says Joel Maxcy, a sport[...]



MOABs, Russkies, Prog Rock, Jesus, Jackie Robinson, and the F-word: Matt Welch Hosts on Sirius XM 9-12 AM ET

Fri, 14 Apr 2017 08:00:00 -0400

(image) This morning from 9-12 ET I will be guest-hosting on Sirius XM Insight's Stand UP! with Pete Dominick show, which you can find at 121 on your channel-finder. (I will also be hosting next Monday and Tuesday at the same time, and in fact hosted Tuesday of this week as well.) It's a loose-limbed and interactive format, so call anytime at 1-877-974-7487 to give me some ideological backup (and fashion critiques), though of course it will also be jam-packed with guests. To wit:

* Delaware Dave Weigel, the beloved if commenter-controversial former Reasoner-turned WashPost politics guy. We will be talking mostly about his marvelously named forthcoming book The Show That Never Ends: The Rise and Fall of Prog Rock, with maybe some politics sprinkled in.

* Michael Weiss, editor in chief of The Interpreter, and author of ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror. We will be talking about the Russkies.

* Benjamin K. Bergen, cognitive scientist and author of the new What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves. We will be talking about self-censorship in book titles.

* Michael G. Long and Chris Lamb, academics and co-authors of the new book Jackie Robinson: A Spiritual Biography: The Faith of a Boundary-Breaking Hero. We will be mashing up Good Friday and Jackie Robinson.

* And finally, Michael Brendan Dougherty of The Week and The Slurve. We will be discussing our own personal Jesuses.




Trump's Budget Director Confirms: The Export-Import Bank Will 'Continue to Exist' (UPDATE: Trump Declares the Bank a 'Very Good Thing')

Wed, 12 Apr 2017 12:35:00 -0400

Were you hoping, against the odds, that Donald Trump would do an about-face and decide that he wants to kill the Export-Import Bank? If so, I'm afraid I'll have to be the bearer of disillusioning news: OMB chief Mick Mulvaney has now confirmed that the White House wants the bank to "continue to exist." Some background: The Ex-Im Bank uses tax money to finance and insure foreign purchases of American exports. Boeing and the bank's other beneficiaries think this is a great set-up; the foes of corporate welfare are less impressed. Some early drafts of the Trump budget suggested that the program might be among the items marked for death, but when the actual document was released the bank turned out to be very much alive. Apparently, America's most explicitly mercantilist president in years isn't about to eliminate a mercantilist institution. Go figure. After I wrote about that last month, I heard some maybe-he'll-get-to-it-later rumblings from some hopeful Trump disciples. Well, CNBC's John Harwood just asked Mulvaney about the bank; the short version of his answer is that Trump is more interested in "putting some people on there who are reformers" than in dismantling it. For the longer version, read on: HARWOOD: Have you accepted as a matter of administration policy that you're going to take money from taxpayers and give it to the Ex-Im Bank? MULVANEY: Yeah. We did talk about the Ex-Im Bank because, as you know, I was a fairly significant critic of that in my time on the House. And I'm very comfortable with where we got, which is I believe I have a commitment this from this president. He is interested in putting some people on there who are reformers, and who want to make sure the bank sticks to its knitting and doesn't experience some of the mission creep that many of our critics have seen. Secondly, he's given me and Gary Cohn permission to start talking to other export credit facilities around the world to see if we can lower the level of government interference in the marketplace from all sides. HARWOOD: But Ex-Im is going to continue to exist. MULVANEY: Yeah, it's going to continue to exist. That "mission creep" comment was a nice touch. The bank has been subsidizing corporate giants for decades. Just what original mission is Mulvaney pretending that they're going to restore? Other choice bits from the interview include Mulvaney's estimate of how much Trump will spend on infrastructure ("I'm assuming a $200 billion number") and his response when asked about Trump's pledge to eliminate the national debt ("It's fairly safe to assume that was hyperbole"). To read the whole thing, go here. Update: And now we have it straight from the horse's mouth. The Wall Street Journal has just interviewed the president, and it reports that Trump has "made a full reversal from the campaign by stating his support for the U.S. Export-Import Bank": As he courted these limited-government voters during the campaign, Mr. Trump said the agency was unnecessary, and referred to it as "featherbedding" for politicians and big companies. "Instinctively, you would say, 'Isn't that a ridiculous thing,'" Mr. Trump [now says] of the Ex-Im Bank. "But actually, it's a very good thing. And it actually makes money, it could make a lot of money."[...]



Arizona’s Terrible Hockey Team Wants a Third Taxpayer Funded Stadium Since 1996

Sat, 08 Apr 2017 10:30:00 -0400

The Arizona Coyotes are a professional hockey team that no one really wants, but taxpayers in Arizona might be forced to subsidize a third new stadium in less than 20 years as the National Hockey League chases the mirage of economic success in the southwest. A bill that would have committed $225 million in public funds—part coming from state coffers and part from the city of Tempe—does not appear to have enough votes to pass the state legislature, but lawmakers could still resurrect the stadium deal as part of the budget plan. The Arizona Republic reported this week that Senate President Steve Yarbrough (R-Chandler) says it's "unlikely" the legislature would approve the stadium in the budget bill, but, frankly, that's not good enough, because the whole idea should be rejected out of hand. There is no good argument for building the Coyotes another new stadium after they've failed to attract much interest from fans in Phoenix or Glendale, where they've played since 2003. Despite two decades of disappointments on the ice and at the turnstiles, the NHL is lobbying hard for a new stadium for the Coyotes, promising that this time things will be different. The new stadium "will create a true win-win for the team, the state, and the community," wrote NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in a letter to state lawmakers. "A victory that will generate new tax revenue capable of funding Arizona priorities like education and public safety." To believe him, you'd have to disregard the Coyotes' entire history in the Phoenix area, as well as the economic reality of building sports stadiums with public cash. Since the team is already in the area, building a new stadium would not create a new source of tax revenue for Arizona, says Victor Matheson, a sports economist at the College of the Holy Cross. Moving from Glendale to Tempe, Matheson says, merely would shift the economic benefits from one municipality to another. And that's only true if you buy the argument that subsidizing stadiums is a net economic gain, which it's generally not. "Independent economic research has typically not found that new hockey areas generate sufficient tax revenue to cover the cost of construction," Matheson told Reason this week. "Of course, even if it did, the question be why is it fair for an NHL team to direct its tax obligations towards its own facility while other businesses have to pay taxes that go to statewide governmental needs." The Coyotes relocated to Phoenix from Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 1996 and took up residence in the America West Arena (now known as the Talking Stick Resort Arena), which the city of Phoenix built in 1990, at a cost of $90 million, for its professional basketball team, the Phoenix Suns. Even after undergoing extensive, and expensive, renovations to fit a hockey rink into it—unlike most basketball-sized arenas in the country, the America West Arena had not been designed with hockey in mind, probably because no one thought there would ever be a hockey team in Phoenix—the arena soon was determined to be "sub-optimal" for a professional hockey team. By 2002, the Coyotes and National Hockey League convinced the nearby city of Glendale, Arizona, to put up $155 million in bonds to build a new arena for the hockey team. The Coyotes moved into Glendale's Gila River Arena in December 2003. After the Coyotes' previous owner put the team into bankruptcy in 2009, Glendale ended up paying the NHL $50 million over two years to keep the team from relocating. During that same period, the city had to lay off city workers, cut services, and raise taxes to close annual budget gaps. A new owner signed a 15-year lease with the city in 2013, but the city council voided that agreement in 2015 after determining that it was a bad deal for taxpayers, leaving the team without a long-term home. Voiding that deal w[...]



The Dallas Cowboys' Owner Is Right: NFL Should Change its Nonsensical Marijuana Prohibition

Mon, 03 Apr 2017 16:44:00 -0400

If a recent lawsuit filed by former National Football League players is to be believed, professional football teams hand out powerful painkillers by the handful on the sidelines before games, after practices, during halftimes, and just about any time a player complains of any injury or nagging pain. But while America's most popular sports league is awash in opioids, the NFL maintains a strict rule against players' use of marijuana—either for recreational purposes or as an alternative way to treat aches and pains. Sports are a mirror for the culture that watches them, and the NFL's contradictory positions on those two types of pain treatments certainly reflects both the rising opioid crisis in America and the ongoing effort to come to terms with the tragic and awful consequences of a decades-long war on drugs. Dallas Cowboys' owner—and the most powerful billionaire in the NFL's inner circle of powerful billionaires—Jerry Jones is pushing the league to reconsider those rules and loosen the ban on marijuana. According to anonymous sources cited by NBC Sports' Mike Florio, Jones raised the issue of marijuana at a closed-door meeting of NFL team owners last week. Jones "wants the league to drop its prohibition on marijuana use," Florio reported. "Jones was reminded that the issue falls under the umbrella of collective bargaining, which would require the players to make one or more concessions in exchange for significant changes to the marijuana prohibition." The current collective bargaining agreement runs until 2020, so its unlikely the league would be able to change it's policy until then. Still, it's good to get the discussion started. Jones probably has some self-interested reasons for pursuing such a change—Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas' superstar running back, was spotted at a marijuana dispensary last year when the Cowboys traveled to Seattle for a preseason game (because that's where almost any 21-year old with lots of disposable income visiting Washington State is going to end up, sooner or later), prompting a league "investigation"—but that doesn't mean the league shouldn't seriously consider what he had to say. The NFL's anti-marijuana stance simply doesn't make much sense as more state governments adopt more liberal views towards medical and recreational weed. A player on the Seattle Seahawks or Denver Broncos (or any of the California-based teams in the league) can buy and use marijuana legally in the state where he spends most of his time during the season, but could face a suspension and a fine if he's caught with it in his system. More than 60 percent of NFL teams (20 of them, out of 32 total) play in states where medical marijuana is legal. Again, this mirrors a society-wide debate over the relationship between legal recreational weed and employment contracts that prohibit the use of marijuana. The league, and individual teams, are within their rights to require certain behavior from their players as a condition of employment, of course, but given the NFL's troubled history with punishing more serious offenses like, say, serial sexual assaults or domestic violence by star players, enforcing an absolute prohibition against marijuana use seems like it should be a lesser priority. The league's anti-pot policy might make a degree of sense if it was part of an overall effort to prevent teams from using painkillers of any kind, lest some players or teams gain a competitive advantage on the gridiron. That's hardly the case. In fact, the NFL currently is fighting a lawsuit from several former players who allege that official team doctors literally handed out piles of opioids and other painkillers—ignoring federal laws for prescription drugs and disregarding medical guidance—before, during, and after games. Deadspin reported extensively on t[...]



Baylor’s Corrupt Athletics Program Takes Center Court in Disgraced

Fri, 31 Mar 2017 14:15:00 -0400

Disgraced. Showtime. Friday, March 31, 9 p.m. Last month, Baylor women's basketball coach Kim Mulkey, having just won her 500th game, felt secure enough to let everybody know how she really felt about the rape scandal that has swept through the school's athletic department like a tidal wave for the past 18 months. "I'm just tired of hearing about it," Mulkey told an arena full of fans, then added her remedy: "If somebody [is] around you and they ever say, 'I will never send my daughter to Baylor,' you knock them right in the face." As the fans roared, Mulkey triumphantly dropped the microphone. Presumably the targets Mulkey would like to punch out include the 17 women whose reports of rapes or assaults by Baylor athletes that school officials have admitted covering up since 2011. (Astonishingly, those may turn out to be low-ball numbers; a lawsuit filed in federal court by one victim says there were at least 52 rapes by 31 football players.) Mulkey seemed surprised that, outside the arena, not everybody was cheering. In the uproar that followed, she had to apologize, sort of. ("Knock them right in the face," she explained, was just a metaphor, though she didn't say for what.) But, if the history of Baylor intercollegiate athletics offers us any lesson, there was no need. When it comes to vicious, criminal behavior, the memory of the school's administration, coaching staff and fans can be measured in nanoseconds. Nobody, for instance, remembers Queso, the friendly alley cat who became a sort of informal mascot of Taco Cabana, a little Mexican-food joint just off the Baylor campus that was the hangout of a lot of the school's athletes. In 2011, two Baylor baseball players shot Queso with a pellet gun, beat him with a golf club and finally decapitated and skinned him. Penalty: suspension from the team for a little less than a month. Two years after that, one Baylor basketball player murdered another, a crime that triggered a deluge of revelations about cars, cash, and other goodies provided to the school's athletes by their coaches, under the table and massively in violation of NCAA rules. In an attempt to contain the damage, Baylor's then-basketball coach Dave Bliss tried to frame the murdered player as a drug dealer whose sideline explained his lush lifestyle. When one of the assistant coaches took exception to the frame-up, Bliss threatened to fire him, which turned out to be a catastrophic misstep: The assistant began wearing a wire, and the resulting tapes sank not just Bliss but the entire basketball program. The basketball scandal, too, has been little-mentioned in connection with the rape cover-up, though the parallels—an athletic department that considers itself above not only NCAA rules and state laws but even the standards of human decency—are obvious. That, however, may be about to change with Showtime's airing of Disgraced, a superb documentary that recounts the implosion of Baylor's basketball program in damning detail. At heart, the crisp and intense Disgraced is a true-crime documentary set against a backdrop of big-time college basketball. Better known as a bastion of Southern Baptist morality—dancing was banned on campus until 1996, and homosexuality was on its list of sexual misconduct as late as 2015—than as an athletic factory, Baylor decided in the late 1990s to end decades of basketball ineptitude. In 1999, ignoring hints that he'd flouted NCAA rules while coaching at nearby SMU, Baylor hired Bliss, who in a quarter of a century had amassed more than 450 wins in major-college basketball. Casting his nets far outside the sleepy boundaries of sleepy Waco, Bliss had startling success as a recruiter. And after three mediocre seasons, it looked as if his 2003-04 team might have a breakthrough year. But [...]



Trump Preserves the Export-Import Bank

Thu, 16 Mar 2017 15:15:00 -0400

(image) When early drafts of the Trump budget started to circulate after the inauguration, the Export-Import Bank—one of Washington's most notorious corporate-welfare programs—was among the agencies destined for the chopping block. Now the actual budget is out, and the bank has been spared the ax. The Washington Examiner's Tim Carney reports that this "follows many reports from congressional fans of Ex-Im that Trump had been persuaded to love the agency, which primarily subsidizes Boeing sales." (Barack Obama underwent a similar transformation, denouncing the bank as "little more than a fund for corporate welfare" while he was running for president but fighting to preserve it once in office.)

The budget plan does have some good news for foes of corporate handouts. Carney points out that the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (which "subsidizes U.S. companies that want to set up business overseas, such as a Ritz Carlton in Turkey or a Wendy's in the Republic of Georgia") is still slated to go, as is the U.S. Trade and Development Agency. The Community Development Block Grant Program, also marked for death, has a long history of funding officials' business cronies, as my colleague Scott Shackford noted earlier today. Poke through the proposals for the departments of energy, commerce, and agriculture, and you'll find some more subsidies being cut.

But the biggest hub of crony capitalism in Washington is the military-industrial complex. And that, alas, is set to expand: Trump wants to give the Pentagon a $52.3 billion spending spike. I'm glad for any small victories against the corporate state, but in the grand scheme of things they're getting swamped.




Brickbat: Thrown for a Loop

Mon, 13 Mar 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) For almost a decade, Montreal has hosted the Canadian championship in Brazilian jiu jitsu. But organizers had to cancel this year's tournament at the last minute after cops told them it would violate a Canadian law that says that only combat sports recognized by the International Olympic Committee are legal. The police threatened to arrest every athlete who took part in the event. Making things even more confusing, the law cops cited defines combats sports as those involving striking with the hands or feet. Brazilian jiu jitsu is a grappling sport that doesn't allow strikes.




Brickbat: Kingpin

Wed, 08 Mar 2017 04:00:00 -0500

(image) Newfoundland Youth Bowling has agreed to return gold medals to a team that won a recent tournament but not to overturn a ruling which disqualified them after the tournament was over. The team was disqualified because one 7-year-old bowler was wearing pants that were not the proper shade of black.