Billionaires' Boondoggle


In the first Bob Herbert piece I've read all the way through in recent memory, the New York Times columnist lays into Mayor Michael Bloomberg's outrageous plan for a New York Jets stadium on Manhattan's West Side:

The rail yards on which the stadium would be built are owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and the development rights have been valued by the M.T.A.'s own appraisers at $923 million. But the M.T.A. has agreed to sell the rights to this publicly owned property to Mr. Johnson and the Jets for a mere $250 million. That's a subsidy of nearly $700 million for the mayor's fabulously wealthy buddy.

When you add that subsidy to the $600 million in public funds that the mayor and the governor had pledged from the beginning to hand to [billionaire Jets owner Robert Wood Johnson IV], we're talking about a giveaway of $1.3 billion. The rascals used to do this sort of thing in back rooms, while worrying about headlines, indictments and handcuffs. Now they've figured out how to do it legally….

What we have here is a multibillionaire owner of a sports franchise that is so successful it is completely sold out for a decade. And he has the brass to come to the city and the State of New York with his hand out. It's like Donald Trump's asking the Partnership for the Homeless to help finance one of his luxury towers.

In Reason's May issue, Daniel McGraw finds grounds to hope that boondoggles like this one day will seem as quaint as Tammany Hall-style graft.