The Super Bowl of Corporate Welfare

Football is popular enough to thrive without politicians subsidizing it.


Sunday is the Super Bowl.

I look forward to playing poker and watching. It's easy to do both because in a three-hour-plus NFL game there are just 11 minutes of actual football action.

So we'll have plenty of time to watch Atlanta politicians take credit for the stadium that will host the game. Atlanta's former mayor calls it "simply the best facility in the world."

But politicians aren't likely to talk about what I explain in my latest video—how taxpayers were forced to donate more than $700 million to the owner of Atlanta's football team, billionaire Arthur Blank, to get him to build the stadium.

In addition to the subsidies, the Falcons get all the money from parking, restaurants, and merchandise sales. Sweet deal.

But not an unusual one. Some NFL teams collect even more in government subsidies than it cost to build their stadiums.

So taxpayers, most of whom never attend a game, subsidize billionaires.

Seems like a scam.

I don't fault Blank for grabbing the money. I like the guy. He made our lives better by founding Home Depot. We're both stutterers who donate money to AIS, a stuttering treatment program.

Since politicians give money away, Blank's shareholders would consider him irresponsible not to take it.

The problem is that politicians give away your money in the first place.

I understand why they do it.

They like going to games and telling voters, "I brought the team to our town!"

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and her cronies recently funneled $750 million of taxpayer money to the owners of the Oakland Raiders to get them to move the team to Vegas.

Reporter Jon Ralston asked her, "Why should there be one cent of public money when you have two guys who could pay for this themselves?"

The mayor replied lamely, "I think it really is a benefit to us that really could spill over into something."
Spill over into…something. Politicians always claim giving taxpayer money to team owners will "spill over" to the whole community.

They call their handouts investments—a "terrific investment," as the mayor of Atlanta put it.

But it's not a good investment. It's a bad one.

Politicians point to that extra business activity that occurs when the football team plays at home, but the Atlanta Falcons, like most NFL teams, play just 10 home games. The stadium is used for some concerts and soccer games, but most days little or nothing happens there.

That's why economists who study stadium subsidies call them a bad deal for taxpayers.

The problem is the seen vs. the unseen, as economist Frederic Bastiat put it. All of us see the people at the games buying beer and hotdogs.

But we don't see the larger number of citizens, who had their money taken from them to spend on the stadium, not buying things.

We don't see two fewer customers in a restaurant or the home remodeling that never got done. Those humbler projects lack the political clout and don't get the media attention that politicians and the stadium-builders get.

So this Sunday, when Atlanta politicians brag about their beautiful stadium, and clueless media claim that it created lots of jobs, let's also remember the jobs the subsidies destroyed—and the tax money that was given to rich people.

The problem isn't just Atlanta, and it isn't just sports.

Most every time government presumes to tell us where and how our money should be spent rather than leaving it up to free individuals, it creates a loss.

Politicians announce whatever project they fund with great fanfare, implying you should be thankful to them—as if football, or the arts, or whatever is unveiled in the latest ribbon-cutting ceremony, couldn't exist without politicians moving money from your pocket to the pockets of their cronies.

But really, government shrinks your ability to make choices every time it steers money away from what you might choose to spend it on.

Football is popular enough to thrive without politicians subsidizing it.


NEXT: Baltimore's Top Prosecutor Will Stop Prosecuting Marijuana Possession Cases

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  4. Not just sports. Looks like the big Foxconn plant in Wisconsin is not happening.

    With the stadiums I would not have a problem with the city giving tax breaks. Here it was a matter of it stays in or go to the suburbs. The deal is going to look good on paper but we know those are inflated estimates.

  5. I will watch the NFL as soon as they allow swords and lions.

    1. They already have the Lions.

      1. Alas, they have been toothless since 1957, the last time they won the NFL Championship. They are also the only established NFL team to never have made a Super Bowl appearance!!!...Heck, they have not even been close!

  6. Well, maybe they have wised up in San Diego when the city refused to pay for another stadium for the Spanos family and they moved the Chargers to Los Angeles. Cost Spanos family tens of millions. Serves them right. I was living in San Diego when the city forked out tax money to pay for renovations at, then, Qualcomm Stadium. Taxpayers got taken for a ride on that deal.

  7. And given how dangerous football is to the rain bhealth of young players, perhaps it is not even good that football is played at all. That said, I admit I do watch. But I resent being taxed so that some young folks can and are encouraged to literally bash their brains to mush.

    1. It is their free will choice to play & every single one that ended up paralyzed or seriously hurt have said they would not change a thing!

  8. And football has to be the absolute worst. 10 home games, including 2 preason games. Baseball has 81. Hockey has 42. Basketball, no idea. Not an argument for subsidies but throwing the kind of money they do at football stadiums seems the worst deal out there. They cost the most and the NFL makes the most money. And on top of it, cities let teams keep just about every revenue stream while the cities rely on future tax receipts that never pan out.

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  10. pouring salt on the wound, the NFL sports a (Leftist) political agenda at taxpayer expense... not that it would be any better if they were hard Right.

  11. How about the fact that so much of what we see during the Super Bowl, from the multi-million-dollars-per-second advertising to the paid-for-by-businesses luxury boxes, get to be written off on those businesses taxes?
    Struggling companies can't afford to spend that kind of money, yet those, who have the extra dough to toss around, get to short the treasury, instead of paying the taxes they would have on what would be listed as profits if not for these arbitrary uses.
    The treasury to have get less, so that businesses can spend their money on trying to attract customers.
    Let's face it; it is nothing but a pretext, that a luxury box is anything but a way for the executives to watch the game at taxpayer's expense.
    If you look, closely, almost all of the big money that goes to "entertainers" gets to be written off as business expenses. Those advertising dollars go to the networks, that pay the entertainment provider, who pay their employees the big bucks.
    If we are going to tax businesses, we shouldn't let them get away with these "expense" write offs, when only the successful ones can do it, while struggling ones can't.

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  13. In addition to all the subsidies the politicians, at taxpayer expense, give pro sports is the taxpayer funded 'security' circus around Super Bowl this year. I saw on the news this morning the military is flying Blackhawk helicopters around the stadium area, a portable scanner is x-raying trucks going into the area and swarms of cops (and likely) military servicemen are going to screen the game attendees. I am certain the NFL is not paying for this, nor are the teams playing.

    I don't care at all for pro sports, do not attend any games nor do I watch on TV. But, I wouldn't dream of preventing anyone who wants to do so from doing it. I do greatly resent having any taxpayer funds given to the billionaire team owners and millionaire players to increase their profits and wealth.

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