Super Bowl

Cal Bigwigs: Bankrupt State Needs Stadium, Train, World's Fair


A coupla white dudes sittin' around talkin'.

If you thought California's fiscal situation—a structural deficit of $20 billion a year and growing, bankrupt cities, accelerating flight of business and human capital—had forced the state's leaders to get serious about reining in spending, have we got a multibillion-dollar project to sell you.

First up: The city' most connected movers and shakers want Los Angeles taxpayers to cough up $1 billion in matching funds for the project that never fails to bring prosperity: a spiffy new stadium for an NFL franchise to be named later.

"This is simple," AEG president Tim Lieweke said at a meeting of developers Tuesday. "If the private sector is going to step in and spend a billion—and we're going to have to do that,  that's only way it's going to happen—then shouldn't we as a community spend a billion dollars where it has the greatest impact." Who can argue with that? Certainly not Eli Broad, the practiced expropriator of public funds who is bent on remaking L.A. into an echo of New York with "millions of people navigating a cleaner, denser and more pedestrian-friendly urban fabric via bicycle, light rail, streetcar, subway and bus."

For the record, Los Angeles is beyond bankruptcy, and its banana republic political leadership is desperately shuffling expenses to make the city's balance sheet look less dire. Former L.A. Daily News editor Ron Kaye looks at the City of Angels' unfortunate history with pigskin boondoggles:

This is a town that has twice fumbled the NFL ball and lost the Rams and Raiders to other cities, a town that lost hundreds of millions of dollars on its debt-burdened Convention Center, invested untold billions in building a skyline and is now in a class with such NFL losers Detroit and Cleveland for poverty and unemployment.

This is a town with a rotting infrastructure of roads, sidewalks, pipes and power lines, a town that can't pay its bills and guts basic services, a town whose leadership has lost all credibility and now want us to believe $1 billion of our money would have the greatest impact if we spent it for a football stadium.

How many lower income tenants could become homeowners with that billion dollars? How many deteriorating neighborhoods could be revived? How many small businesses could thrive with a little help if their vision, not the vision of billionaires and fat cats, were driving city policies?

Arnold auditions Mr. Conductors for the Chinese adaptation of Thomas the Tank Engine.

Is a stadium not grand enough for you? Then how about a magical train? We already knew Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger came away from his recent Asia junket with a conductor's cap full of big ideas for the California High Speed Rail project. But he also seems to have picked up a taste for open government policies modeled on those of the People's Republic of China.

The governor recently vetoed a set of reporting and accountability requirements that were a direct response to the CHSR Authority's long history of shoddy research and murky disclosure. Schwarzenegger at least expressed a sense of shame about the move, noting in his signing statement, "While the Administration supports these reporting requirements, making the appropriation contingent upon receipt and approval of this report by the Legislature could result in project delays, jeopardize the Authority's ability to meet already tight federal deadlines and result in increased state costs."

The High Speed Rail project is 14 years old and has yet to drive a single spike in the ground, so you can understand the governor's hurry. The project needs to break ground by September 2012 or lose $2.25 billion in federal funds for the project.

Dibs on the fried Snickers!

But the governor picked up something else in China, a taste for corn dogs and funnel cakes. Last week Schwarzenegger announced his plan to bring the World Expo to California in 2020. "Shanghai has demonstrated that when you host the World Expo, the world comes to you, and I want the world to come to California," Schwarzenegger said.

At, Jeffrey Wasserstrom explains why this idea belongs more to 1910 than to 2010:

One problem with his plan has to do with audience. The Shanghai Expo will soon become the most attended World's Fair in history, but will do so because of its appeal to a very particular audience. The vast majority of the people going to this World's Fair, as was often the case with earlier ones, have been citizens of the host country who have not had the opportunity to travel extended distances. They go to the fairgrounds partly to get a glimpse of futuristic technologies, but largely because they are curious about what distant lands (and indeed, when held in big countries like the U.S. and China, what far-off parts of their own nation) look like, how people live there, what foods are eaten there, and so on.

The virtual travel aspect of an Expo would have little appeal in contemporary America—for the same reason that some of the more cosmopolitan Shanghainese I know were blasé about the mega-event currently taking place in their city. In earlier periods, holding World's Fairs in the U.S. made sense. But not when so many Americans can go abroad (even if lots of us never do), and when Epcot, Las Vegas, and the food courts at megamalls, international airports and other locales so readily provide us with a vicarious sense of journeying or eating our way around the world.

A second problem with Arnold's idea is that California currently can't make ends meet.

Problem? At this point, not making ends meet is a value-add.

What's offensive is not the individual boondoggles – though they're all pretty bad – but the fundamentally unserious attitude of  politicians and rent seekers. We are out of money. Stadiums built to enable NFL crap shoots, trains nobody will ride, and World's Fairs are bad ideas when times are flush. When the state is bankrupt they are impeachable indulgences.

NEXT: Can New York Force Tobacco Retailers to Scare Away Their Customers?

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  1. Com on… $1 billion for a stadium is nothing. Chump change. It’s almost free….

    … when you consider that LA just paid $570 million for one high school.

    1. $570M for a high school? I sure hope its football field is surrounded by 70,000 seats.

  2. When I think of how disgraced our current politicians will look in the history books, it brings the smile back to my face.

    1. Don’t bet on it. The people who support our current politicians are also the ones who write the history books.

    2. Woodrow Wilson was very unpopular. That’s why the dark horse Warren Harding won every state outside the Solid South (and even Tennessee) and a 60% o 30% popular vote victory over the Democratic candidate James Cox. Harding promised “a return to normalcy” after Wilson’s 21 foreign interventions in 11 countries, the Palmer Raids, the Creel Committee, the American Protective League, the First Red Scare, the introduction of segregation in Federal jobs, etc.

      James Loewen discuss Wilson’s disastrous record in Lies My Teacher Told Me.

      1. Err, and Wilson’s regarded as a “good president” by historians.

        Harding, on the other hand, is regarded as a bad president because of the scandals that occurred during his presidency, even though he supported civil rights legislation, cut unemployment in half, and pardoned many of the people arrested under the First Red Scare.

  3. I suppose that picking up the trash, filling in potholes and chasing down killers isn’t sexy enough for folks like our elected leaders. They need some brobdingnagian boondoggle to put their names on before sliding off to a six-figure pension for the remaining four decades of their lives.

    1. You know how it works.

      Any time someone is successful at quietly running a “trash collection, pothole filling, and pretty good police force” administration people simply think that this is an easy job.

      And they believe the first charming charlatan who comes along to tell them “I can do all that and give you a new stadium” at which point our hypothetical good mayor is out of a job.

      A couple of terms later the city is a pothole ridden, crime infested, shithole that sticks of uncollected garbage and is a bjillion dollars in debt from paying for an over-sized under-utilized sports facility and people wonder “How did that happen?”

  4. Some say the end is near.
    Some say we’ll see Armageddon soon.
    I certainly hope we will.

    1. See you down in Arizona bay.

      1. One great big festering neon distraction, I have a suggestion to keep you all occupied.

  5. “Shanghai has demonstrated that when you host the World Expo, the world comes to you, and I want the world to come to California,” Schwarzenegger said.

    If Prop. 19 passes, the only people coming to California will be Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, Satanic jazz musicians and the white women who want to have sex with these marijuana addicts.

    1. All of which is a feature, not a bug.

    2. No Orientals?

      1. Opium will still be illegal.

        1. True, but I have a fond recollection of some killer Thai Sticks from the 70’s.

  6. “shouldn’t we as a community spend a billion dollars where it has the greatest impact.”

    Bulldozing Sacramento?

  7. No post mentioning the World’s Fair is complete without a reference to tha Wigsphere.

  8. Why does Reason hate fairs?

    1. I think there’s a shared experience involving a candied apple and a pig somewhere in the answer.

  9. I believe the only real question to be answered is, “Will the stadium be green!? If Cali starts erecting Solar Field now, the LA Green Machine could be in contention for Super Bowl XLVI next season in 2014.

    Imagine that – it would be even better than when NO won – free Obamacare and an LA Green Machine Super Bowl title in the same year. Boo-motherfuckin’-yow!

  10. Nero is burning while Rome fiddles…

  11. Totally off-topic comedy gold:

    Maxine Waters helpfully explains how banks won’t lose money by modifying mortgages because the houses are no longer worth as much as they were when the mortgages were written.

    1. That takes a special kind of stupid. This woman should be kept far, far away from anything related to economics.

      And not just because she’s black.

    2. Nothing but hot brown mud has ever come out of her mouth. She is truly one of the dumbest twats ever elected.

    3. You ain’t nothin’ but a racist sombitch for posting that.

    4. Keeping Maxine in DC raises the average IQ of Watts by double digits, and the locals know it. She gets fired, then they’d have to actually deal with her. Would you want her as a neighbor?

      1. So THAT’s why the Third Ward keeps electing Sheila Jackson Lee.

    5. I’d be ashamed if my nine year old made “arguments” like that.

  12. I thought that second photo was Arnold reliving Total Recall.

    “And then I ripped out the robot taxi-driver and drove it mahself. You look just like him.”

  13. These mega-projects only narrowly beat out “hey look, a squirrel!” as a way ahead for the State Government. . .

  14. So LA is still Leading the Nation in Vacant Lots?

    That article talked about the “Slauson Central Retail Center” and it’s seemingly infinite mismanagement of city resources, but when you look at the google map of the street corner in question it really is obvious. It’s the entire problem with California in one nice little microcosm.

  15. We are out of money.

    No, Tim C., THEY are out of money. Thieves robbing you are not you. The political class looting you are not you.

    How so many Reason writers keep repeating this statist POV is beyond me.

    1. Relax. He could have used the ultimate clich?: “California is broken.”

  16. Don’t know about anybody else, but I say LA can have the Chargers. Long hours of jerking off with nothing to show for it. They want to spend a billion dollars on drawing the Chargers out of San Diego, let ’em, and may they have joy of the disaster.

    As for the high speed train; do we really need it?

    1. Get in line bub. LA is the bogeyman that the Vikings are using to try to scare us into building them a new stadium here.

      The Chargers are a bunch of pikers when it comes to breaking your hearts.

  17. Who can argue with that? Certainly not Eli Broad, the practiced expropriator of public funds who is bent on remaking L.A. into an echo of New York with “millions of people navigating a cleaner, denser and more pedestrian-friendly urban fabric via bicycle, light rail, streetcar, subway and bus

    As opposed to libertarians, who somehow conflate “freedom” with “must own one car for everyone over the age of 16, because we have to be able to drive across the ten acre Wal-Mart parking lot to get to the strip mall on the other side”.

      1. what?

        You don’t remember when Reason published those articles calling for strict zoning laws forcing dense urban areas to become suburban by mandating landscape beds, parking spots, etc. at every business?

    1. So, you think LA’s plan is wise? Why?

  18. Former L.A. Daily News editor Ron Kaye: “How many lower income tenants could become homeowners with that billion dollars? How many deteriorating neighborhoods could be revived? How many small businesses could thrive with a little help…?”

    Aha. Don’t waste The People’s Money on stupid NFL stadiums. Waste it on mortgage subsidies and urban renewal schemes!

    1. Exactly what I was thinking. Why must the “community” spend $1B? Couldn’t they just let us common folk keep our money and let us decide what to do with it?

      1. It goes to show you that statists come in all stripes and professions, and all of them are your neighbors.


    (MSNBC graphic, 1 minute ago)

    1. It’s cool, Obama is takin it back.


  21. I’m relieved there is nothing in the history books about once-proud republics being ruined by bread and circuses.

  22. California should take all of its tax revenues to Las Vegas, place them all on red 19, and hope for the best.

    1. Wesley Snipes told me to always bet on black.

  23. Think of all the peanut vendors and hat sellers lifted out of poverty by football stadium projects; everybody wins.

  24. When you allow tens of millions of folks to immigrate — legally or illegaly — and when these folks have 50% more kids than the domestic population, then you have to provide jobs for them. That’s how you get boondoogles.

    California once was a great state. Its big leap came during the low immigration years- even Silicon valley was started by a bunch of guys from the midwest. Mass immigration has seriously dented, if not destroyed, the California dream.

  25. The real irony is the politician who really knew how to do high density, ‘smart’ growth was Pete Wilson. A great mayor in San Diego, the Trolley, Petco Park, the Coaster, Horton Plaza. All of that works. Pete realized another thing, you can’t have a successful, livable state with an uncontrolled flood of third world immigrants.

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