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One gamble that’s a more certain loser than throwing your money at Las Vegas casinos is letting public officials throw our tax dollars into building new stadiums for profiteering owners of sports teams.
Yet, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and officials of Milwaukee County are betting the farm to subsidize a flashy basketball arena for the Bucks. The governor told the public that the bet was risking “only” $250 million of their money. But his glib assurance just explains why these scams are sure losers – officials like Walker are dupes for corporate hucksters.
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Add in interest payments and other hidden costs, and Wisconsin taxpayers are actually on the hook for $500 million, double what they were told. Plus, team owners are being sold an $8 million piece of land for $1, getting millions of dollars worth of site-development costs for free, being given a $35 million parking garage (from which they’ll collect half the revenue), and getting about $120 million for selling the naming rights for the public arena.
In brokering this corporate bonanza, Walker let the owners nix a public demand to have a referendum on the gamble, and also let them ignore the city’s demand that they pledge not move the team out of Milwaukee during the 30-year lease on the arena. That’s particularly stupid, since hedge funds make their money by underpaying for a property, goosing up its value with things like public subsidies, then selling it at a premium, and skedaddling with the profits. Even though the owners would have to pay a penalty for selling and scooting out of town, under Walker’s loose deal they’d still pocket at least $700 million in profit.
And this dupe now wants America to trust him to negotiate with Russia, Iran, and China? If a hedge-fund huckster can snooker him, think what Putin could do!
“Bucks’ Owners Win, at Wisconsin’s Expense,” The New York Times, August 15, 2015.