So Scott Walker, conservative governor of Wisconsin, fighter of the good fight, protector of the public’s money–who hates to see the state spend money on stuff like, oh, higher education–signed a bill today giving $250 million in taxpayer money to the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team so that they can build themselves a new place of business (i.e., an arena).

Now, the Milwaukee Bucks ownership group is not exactly destitute. Among the owners are hedge fund investors with net worths in the billions of dollars. You really mean to tell me that they can’t afford to fund the upgrade of their own place of business? Of course they can. But heck, if they can get the state to pay for it, then why wouldn’t they? And it’s actually pretty easy to do. There’s a playbook for it: You simply threaten to move your team to another state if you don’t get the public’s money.

Another member of the ownership group, Jon Hammes, is the co-chair of Walker’s presidential campaign fundraising effort, and during the arena funding negotiations a Walker super PAC received $150,000 from a corporation register to Hammes’ son. Not that this would sway a man of Walker’s character.

From Paul Waldman of the Washington Post:

[O]ne might have expected more from a politician who is basing his presidential campaign on his eagerness to “fight.” This combativeness is central to Walker’s appeal — but it turns out that he’s only interested in fighting people like union members. Extortionist plutocrats, not so much.

And Walker’s justification — that ponying up for the stadium will be worth it because of the economic impact — has been disproven by just about every analysis of stadium financing. When taxpayers put out hundreds of millions of dollars for shiny new stadiums, they don’t make back the money in increased tax revenue. If you want to argue that it’s worth paying for solely because people love sports even if it costs taxpayers a great deal, then go ahead and make that argument. But no politician does.

Even more fundamentally, one has to ask why “small government” conservatives — as Walker and every other Republican candidate considers himself — think that government should be in the business of building stadiums. Don’t they believe in the power and wisdom of the market? If the shrewd businessmen who own the Bucks would increase their profits by building themselves a new stadium, then they’ll do it. If it wouldn’t increase their profits, then they won’t, and the market will have spoken.

Yes, one has to ask why Walker thinks the government should be funding the place of business of his cronies. Well, maybe not, because I think we all know the answer to that question, don’t we.

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Comments
  1. Oh, I forgot. This was done with state taxpayer money. See, the Constitution doesn’t explicit including building arenas as one of the federal government’s enumerated duties, but state and local government? According to our conservative genius, they can do anything they want! Yes, that was the rationale they gave for when the billionaire owners of the Chicago Cubs baseball team wanted the city to pay to upgrade their place of business, Wrigley Field.

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