“The idea that sports is a catalyst for economic development just doesn’t hold water.” —Robert Baade, sports economist
On September 13, 2017, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont along with 16 other Democrats introduced a Medicare For All Healthcare Bill. The United States remains as the lone Super Power, but ironically one of the only industrialized nations without universal healthcare. For all of our technological advancements and innovations and military prowess, we still refuse to recognize healthcare and education as rights that should be guaranteed to all citizens.
When then First Lady Hillary Clinton tried to get a healthcare bill passed in the early to mid-90s, I naively thought this would easily pass and become law. It seemed a no brainer to take care of your citizens who support industries that keep the economy moving. When President Barack Obama introduced the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, I again thought the time has come for us, “We the people.” No way would this be a partisan issue. Boy was I wrong.
Since 2002 there has been a boom in renovations for sport stadiums and the building of new stadiums. Even though these teams are owned by billionaires it is “We the people” who foot the bill for the stadiums by way of municipal bonds. Keep in mind that the NFL earns billions of dollars yearly and does not pay taxes. In spite of this, “We the people” seem gitty to foot the bill for it. Yet, we don’t want to pay for healthcare. Something that would benefit all. In some cases, having minimal healthcare is a matter of life and death. Take a look at this sampling of the millions of dollars taxpayers have spent on new stadiums and renovations:
Phillips Arena, Atlanta
Team: Atlanta Hawks
Cost: $193 million
Cost to taxpayers: $143 million
Three facilities: Progressive Field, FirstEnergy Stadium and Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio
Team: Cleveland Indians, Browns and Cavaliers
Renovated: 2015 and 2016
Cost: $210 million
Cost to taxpayers: $90 million
Soldier Field in Chicago
Team: Chicago Bears
Cost: $587 million
Cost to taxpayers: $387 million
Jason Notte. Even sports stadium ‘facelifts’ cost taxpayers millions, Marketwatch.com. July 2017.
Contrary to popular belief, new stadiums for sports teams are not the economic trampoline or stimulus that we make them out to be. The economic impact is temporary. For instance, the proposed stadium for the Los Angeles Rams will cost $3 billion and create 22,000 construction jobs. Once construction of the stadium is complete, those jobs are gone. The next argument is that people will spend money at nearby restaurants, pay for parking, and other local vendors and this improves the local economy. Yet, when surveyed, 86% of economists are opposed to taxpayers subsiding new stadiums. “In a 2017 poll, 83 percent of the economists surveyed agreed that ‘Providing state and local subsidies to build stadiums for professional sports teams is likely to cost the relevant taxpayers more than any local economic benefits that are generated.’” Scott A. Wolla, “The Economics of Subsidizing Sports Stadiums,” Page One Economics, May 2017.
Economists suggest that we should look at the opportunity cost. That is, when you spend money on one product, this takes the place of something else that could have/would have been bought. In other words, if you only have $50 of discretionary funds, you have limited options. You can either go to a ball game or to a museum. Most cannot fund both activities on a regular basis. So, while a new stadium is stimulating that segment of the economy, it is taking money away from another segment.
So, why are “We the people” willing to pay for sports stadiums and not healthcare or education for all? Some of the blame lies in our pull yourself up by your bootstraps philosophy. We believe if you work hard, you should be able to afford to care for yourself. That philosophy fails to acknowledge that stagnant income wage growth has not kept up with the real cost of living. There’s also a stigma of shame that we have given to those receiving any kind of government benefit.
I almost hate to bring up slavery, but it is at the root of a lot of what ails this country. In this regard, “We the people” don’t want to pay for healthcare or Medicare for all because we don’t want everyone, i.e. blacks and other minorities to get it as well. This is why racism is considered a mental illness. We would rather pay for a stadium that most of us cannot attend because we can’t afford to buy a ticket instead of investing in ourselves in the form of healthcare and education.