Government Spending

In Xanadu Did Chris Christie a Stately Boondoggle Decree…


N.J. Gov. Chris Christie gets high marks for taking on teachers, filling in unfinanced tunnel plans with cement, and generally being open about state-level budget woes.

But his track record on throwing good money after bad is hardly perfect. Christie is tossing $200 million of Garden State tax dough at a long-stinking shopper-tainment project once called "Xanadu" and now renamed the "American Dream" (because it's every developer's dream to get the state to pay most of the freight for private building). From an account by the Manhattan Institute's Nicole Gelinas:

Christie stood with the mall's new developers and promised that "it's finally going to move forward." The governor offered $200 million in new support to the project, which has a new name — American Dream — and a not-so-dreamy new price tag: $3.7 billion.

Christie's support is inconsistent with his values. The Republican governor should understand that there's no place for public money in a mall, even one with indoor ski slopes.

If Xanadu's new owners and lenders thought that American Dream's prospects were stellar, they'd fund the thing themselves.

Of course, if they knew anything about literature or movies, they would never have named the damn thing Xanadu, as that guarantees its failure (forget Olivia Newton John's bomb flick for a moment; even in Coleridge's "vision"-poem "Kubla Khan," the place is a symbol of an unattainable goal that drives the dreamer to distraction). The project and most of the public subsidies started under Christie's predecessor, Jim McGreevy, whose administration unraveled when he made his own misstep in poetry by hiring and then allegedly harassing Israeli poet Golan Cipel as New Jersey's security czar.

But Christie is not blameless, as Gelina underscores:

It's likely that Christie's financial folks will design the subsidy as debt backed by future tax revenues. Many states, including New Jersey, have argued that this type of subsidy is better than cash because the future taxes wouldn't exist without state support.

But giving away future tax revenues is no better than giving away today's. Voters wouldn't like it if Christie took $200 million out of this year's budget to give to real-estate developers. Structured tax-supported financing is the same thing, in disguise, and pushes bigger deficits onto future governors' watches.

Picking and choosing particular projects doesn't "create" future tax revenues anyway.

Read Gelinas' whole piece here. It underscores the sad reality that even those who seem to know that We Are So Out of Money at every level of government can always find a few more nickels to rub together for well-connected pals.

And now, without further ado, Xanadu, which killed a thousand careers (rightly):


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  1. That picture cries out for an alt-text featuring the word “cheeseburger”.

    1. I was thinking meatloaf~!

  2. If you’re going to link to Xanadu

    1. And that link just makes it all better. Best show I’ve seen (Moving Pictures tour) in years. Damn them old guys can rock.

      1. Amen to both ^^

      2. Seconded!

      3. Best show you’ve seen in years? Wasn’t Moving Pictures in 1982? I guess that counts as “in years” in some circles. What was the previous best show… Frankie Sinatra at the Palisades?

        BTW, I did see the original Moving Pictures tour … awesome show. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see the redux.

        1. Yeah, I shoulda defined that better. Last month I saw the Moving Pictures redux tour and they were farking AWESOME.

          I still can’t believe Neil can still play that shit at his age. Just insane.

    2. Good, I was going to be disappointed if this didn’t appear in the first three comments.

  3. Well, Xanadu is a place where nobody dared to go.

    And the rest of the crap is worth it just for Gene Kelly on roller skates.

  4. I’m convinced that this whole project exists solely to decrease the amount of available tailgating space at football games. The last thing North Jersey needs is another mall.

  5. Tennessee would not have gotten Volkswagen if they had not agreed to build them a road and give them a few tax breaks.

    So as much as I hate corporate incentives and giveaways, sometimes you have to swallow that pill and hope for the best.

    The only exceptions are stadiums, parks, libraries, and other worthless things that don’t make money.

    As I always tell the libs, if I want a book, I go to Amazon or a cheap bookstore, I don’t need no goddamm public libraries with liberal librarians living of my taxes.

    1. DIAF Drown in a river of boners.

      1. A way with words, you haz it. That made me laugh.

        Also, let’s add LIBRARIES!!! to ROADS!! for maximal liver toxicity.

      2. Drown in a river of boners.

        I’m stealing that.

      3. There those to whom this would not be insult but inducement.

    2. A stadium is far more likely to actually make money than this fiasco.

    3. Gregory, you should draw the ‘Friday Funnies’ instead of Payne and Bok — I’d be howling with laughter until the end of the workday!

  6. That Newton John thing is choreographers on crack.

    On topic, state politicians seem to have this weakness for big local projects – I think it’s somewhere around the wallet area. Having a handful of developers as friends can payoff for years and years.

  7. I thought I had a good stockpile of superlatives to describe shitty movies/videos. I don’t know what to call that dancing/singing/skating kitschy piece of manure. I hope that it actually did kill one thousand careers (with the caveat of not putting them on the public tit).

    1. Have some Grease 2 here. I had no idea this shitrosity existed until I caught some of it on TV the other day.

      1. Newton-John and Travolta reteamed not for Grease 2, but for Two of a Kind. The two leads are terrible, but the folks playing God’s and Satan’s emissaries look like they’re having a blast doing it.

  8. …where the lower Hudson ran
    through ditches numberless to man
    into a sunless sea?

    1. …where through the Hackensack Meadowlands ran
      through swamps numberless to man
      into a sunless sea?

    2. So twice five miles of sterile ground
      With walls and towers were girdled round:
      And the garden state with blright with rising rills,
      Where blossomed many a smoke belching factory;
      And here were senators ancient as the hills,
      Enfolding palms with greenery…

  9. “What the fuck is dis? What does ‘at fuckin’ sign say right ‘ere? Read it to me. Can you read it to me? You can’t read now? Dey didn’ make you show your GED to get dis job? You can’ read? What does your nametag say? You don’ know? It says you work for me right now. And I’ll read dis fuckin’ sign to you, to help you help me, with your no GED. It says 1 4-pounder. You see it? See it dere? Yes you do. One four. You understand dese words? They’re numbiz. You don’t have to read dem. One two three four. Like dis. Now you know what one and four is. And you can go bring your liddle no-GED-havin’ can’t-read no-name ass over to the fuckin’ griddle dere and make wit’ four. NOW!”

  10. I can’t help but wonder what incentives states/municipalities etc. would provide if there were no corporate taxes. Would freeway access be enough incentive?

  11. Christie’s support is inconsistent with his values.

    How do you know a man’s values? Because he told you so? His actions speak

  12. C’mon Nick. Christie’s predecessor was Jon Corzine, not Jim McGreevey. McGreevey was actually 3 governors ago (although this boondoggle may actually date back that far).

  13. Let’s get fiscal, fiscal.

  14. Xanadu was more than a horrible film.
    It diminished us as a species.

  15. When i first came out to visit California, i stumbled across a scene of Xanadu being filmed – Santa Monica on the bluff above the ocean, Olivia coasts into the scene on skates; bumps into the male lead; kisses him; skates off. After a few second pause he turns gazing in the direction she disappeared.

  16. I have to shamefully admit I saw that movie in the theater in its initial release.

    In my defense, I was a teenage boy with the hots for Olivia Newton-John. Plus I lived within walking or bike-riding distance of the theater, so I already had seen pretty much every other movie currently showing, so I was pretty much out of alternatives.

    1. The Tubes / Boogie Woogie sisters menage a dieu made the whole thing worth it. Not to mention ONJ in skates

  17. In the nightmare I am bound to a chair in a room where Xanadu, Sgt. Pepper, and Can’t Stop the Music play on a loop…

  18. You can praise the WW2 folks as the greatest generation all you want, but one fact needs to be recognized: if you were a straight male in the 1970s and wanted to date a hot female, it required attending the gayest movies.

  19. totally worth watching that to see ONJ in a short skirt…damn, she was hot!

  20. oh, and that great little flowy dress in the end is pretty hot too

  21. The sad thing is he is the only one who had a chance of getting New Jersey on a pathway away from bankruptcy.

  22. Olivia Newton John, granddaughter of Max Born, proof that intelligence is not hereditary and, fortunately for her, neither are looks.

  23. “Christie is tossing $200 million of Garden State tax dough at a long-stinking shopper-tainment project once called “Xanadu” and now renamed the “American Dream” (because it’s every developer’s dream to get the state to pay most of the freight for private building).”

    Guess the lost the honeydew and milk store?


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