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Sunday, December 11, 2005


National Scam

As you've probably heard by now, Washington, DC (where I live) has tentatively agreed upon a lease for a new baseball stadium. I don't roll out the soap box very often here, but in an effort to keep my blood pressure down, I'm making an exception. Let me first say that Major League Baseball belongs in DC. There's a historical precedent for it, and fans are ready for a team. I have no hard and fast personal rule when it comes to public financing of stadiums. I would say that I am generally against it, as owners who build the stadium out of their own pockets get enough corporate welfare in the way of tax breaks, easements, and other things (ahem, Busch Stadium III) that the public always shares a little bit of the cost. Before baseball was allowed to return to DC, Selig forced the city to approve a stadium deal, a negotiating chip made that much more powerful by the fact that the team was owned by MLB. Mayor Condo, er I mean Williams, adamant that baseball be his legacy and political calling card, obliged. Skip forward a year, after some contentious wrangling and woefully inadequate cost estimating work, and here we are. Okay, okay, why am I pissed off? How exactly will the public foot the $535 million bill (likely to be more)? From the Washington Post:
"The bulk of the money would be paid through a gross receipts tax on businesses as well as taxes on utilities and stadium concessions."
Hmm, I'm perfectly willing to let money collected from the beers (which constitute an ample number) I purchase at the games go to paying for the stadium. However, I am not particularly excited to see an increase in my utilities, and the effects that tax increase will have on numerous other expenses. An additional tax on businesses hits the wallet as well, making all the crap we buy even more expensive. DC is an incredibly expensive place to live, and I've lived in Aspen, Colorado. Finding a one bedroom apartment here that rents for less than $1100/month is damn near impossible. But the expenses are not limited to that, groceries are costly, and the fuel prices are among the most expensive in the nation, and throughout the summer they were THE most expensive. For many people here, heating oil and gas are used to heat homes. Taxing utilities so that baseball and whatever owners wind up winning Bud's lottery is ridiculously unfair. Niether my wife or I could afford to live here are all on just one of our individual salaries. However, we are among the relatively fortunate here, as most residents in the city work in the service sector for low wages that can't keep up with the rising costs of living. Poverty is incredibly high, and the cost of living makes it very difficult for working people to join the ranks of the middle class - and they can forget about ever owning a place of their own. Anyway, without delving further into urban sociology, guess who really gets hit with a tax on utilities? The very people that can rarely afford to go to the Nationals games, except as folks making $6/hour selling concessions or cleaning the stadium. It's a rip off, pure and simple. MLB and the new owners are going to make a mint off of owning a stadium and a team, MLB even gets a cut of the parking dollars for chipping in a paltry $20 million and guaranteeing the rent in case of strike or terrorist attack, true patriots, only supporting the greater good if they can benefit from it. I don't suppose the new owners and Bud would chip in for my rent, utilities, and transportation costs, so can get to work and back to make the money I'll need to pay the taxes for the stadium. Fortunately, we live in a democracy, and as a citizen I can make my voice heard before the city council votes on the deal this month. Yap, I can make my voice heard at the public hearing to be held Tuesday morning at 10 a.m., when, like most people, I'll be at work. Yessir, democracy is a great thing! Maybe the we can get the cities homeless population, numbering around 30,000, to fill the hearing, except they'd have to register by 5 p.m. on Monday to attend the meeting. I really pulled for baseball to be in DC, and I still think it should be here. However, I won't have Selig, the new owners (who you know Seilg has already selected), and the city government hold me upside down and shake out my pockets in order to get baseball to stay here. Fuck it. Move the team to Las Vegas if this is how it has to be done. As a Cardinals fan, it adds a little salt to an open wound, as the owners stand to make some money on this, money that could well have been used to upgrade the team's roster.
Taxing utilities to fund a luxury item is pretty sick, especially when roughly 2/3 of the city's population can barely make ends meet or worse.

I love baseball but let's face it: a new stadium IS a luxury, especially when there's a stadium already in use.
MLB fleecing the public? Say it ain't so...
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