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Feeling, Thinking and Knowing

Thoughts on the Twins Stadium proposal.

Captain Capitalism once wrote a column for the Minnesota Republic, it was unfortunately not published (I’m told it’s going to get published in a later edition of the paper), which talked about the various levels of political argument. There was “feeling,” “thinking” and “knowing.” The Captain made a strong case to drop the “feeling” and the “thinking” forms of political argument and shoot for “knowing.”

I would like to go through my “feelings,” “thoughts” and “knows” regarding the Stadium proposal.

Feeling

Obviously, I’m an obsessed enough fan to set up a podcast about the Twins. I go to a lot of games, I watch a lot of games, I like the Twins. I want them to stay in Minnesota, and if they left I feel Minnesota would be the worse for it. If I left it up to my feelings, I’d tax the people of Minnesota for a Twins Stadium.

This is an indefensible position, as are most political positions built on emotion.

Thinking

In the back of my mind are thousands of facts. A surprising number of them involve stadiums. Stadiums have been part of public expenditures since the Greeks. Rome was famous for it. The Twins are a business that supports hundreds of workers. The Twins produce a lot of tax revenue, and having a professional sports team makes Minnesota look more attractive to migrant yuppies.

I remember how Coors Field and Camden Yards completely changed their respective areas for the better. In fact, Camden Yards has completely reinvigorated that portion on Baltimore which had been in shambles ever since the railroad business fell apart. Looking at what happened in those areas, I think the same could be possible in Minnesota. A Twins stadium will bring in jobs and tax revenue and migrant yuppies and their dotcom businesses.

And the price is so cheap. I mean, a tax in a single county of what, a penny of every dollar spent? That’s nothing compared to the self respect of the great State of Minnesota, right?

You could “think” about this issue for hours and not come to any conclusions. You could think about how it is morally wrong to take from others to give to others, you could think about how important the Twins are to Minnesota history, you could think about the ’87 World Series and Kirby Puckett. You could “think” about how important it is for the state to build infrastructure and how a stadium almost qualifies.

Knowing

Is a Twins Stadium going to provide a real, net benefit to Minnesota and the Taxpayers? Sure, a stadium might improve a neighborhood, but will it be a net improvement?

The answer is an undeniable no.

I looked at a bunch of sources, about.com had a lot of good articles, The Taxpayers League had an extensive collection of references on the subject, and even Ralph Nader had done good research on the subject (Ralphie, while a crazy lefty, still has a degree in economics).

We know:

–Publicly subsidized stadiums never bring in enough tax revenue to cover the investment by taxpayers.

–Publicly subsidized stadiums have never been shown to provide a net economic gain.

–Publicly subsidized stadiums could be responsible for a drop in wages and benefits to workers in the cities in which they were built.

–Publicly subsidized stadiums do not increase attendance and do not increase the ability for a team to win.

I don’t want to feel or think; I want to know. I know the Twins Stadium is a bad idea. (Same goes for the Vikings stadium deal and the Gophers).

I also know it doesn’t matter. The stadium deal is going to happen. The reason? There are very few single issue voters who vote only on the “anti-stadium subsidy” issue. Of those that do vote only on this issue, they probably already vote 3rd party (thus removing them from significance). Plus, those who aren’t third party crazies aren’t going to allow tax raising Democrats to win because of this issue. It wouldn’t make sense, trading a 1% sales tax increase in one county for an across the board income tax increase of several percentage points across the entire state. But there are some people who will vote only on the stadium issue in the opposite direction. Thousands of Twins fans, many of whom are not political nor politically savvy nor belong to a political party, who desperately want the Twins to stay in Minnesota will go out and vote for candidates who run on the issue of getting a new Twins Stadium.

I’m not a cynic, I believe there is still some actions that could be taken, but it would require a lot of grassroots work. Fiscal conservatives are notoriously bad at doing grassroots work. This is understandable, people can see a stadium. It’s real to them. They don’t see what is lost getting that stadium. The 1% tax I have to pay to get a stadium could have gone towards me buying more DVDs or spending an extra night or two eating dinner at a restaurant in the timespan of a year. We don’t see the loss, we only see the gain.

I hope the Twins stay in Minnesota. I hope they do it the right way, by paying for their own stadium and not putting any burdens on taxpayers.

I’d even be willing to put my own money into a Twins stadium voluntarily. (This could easily be done by selling non-voting stock in the Twins for, say, 50 dollars a share. You could frame the stock and show your true colors as “fan enough” to own a piece of the team). But I can’t support the Twins deal, because I know it’s a bad idea.

I also know, when I’m voting this November, stadiums just won’t be anywhere on my radar.

That’s just the nature of the beast that is politics.

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10 Responses

  1. Before anyone asks, I used basically the smae sources the Taxpayers people did in coming to my conclusions in the bullet points:

    Footnotes
    1. Craig Depken, “The Economics of Sports Arenas: A Property Rights Approach” (Summer 2003): http://www.uta.edu/depken/ugrad/sports/stadiums2003.ppt

    2. John Rappaport & Chad Wilkerson, “What Are the Benefits of Hosting a Major League Sports Franchise?,” Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank Economic Review (First Quarter 2001): http://www.kc.frb.org/publicat/econrev/PDF/1q01rapp.pdf

    3. Dennis Coates & Brad Humphreys, “The Effects of Professional Sports on the Earnings of Individuals: Evidence from Microeconomic Data,” University of Maryland-Baltimore County Economics Department Working Paper 03-104: http://www.umbc.edu/economics/wpapers/wp_03_104.pdf

    4. Marc Poitras & Larry Hadley, “Do New Major League Ballparks Pay for Themselves?,” University of Dayton, School of Business Administration, Working Paper 03-6E: http://www.sba.udayton.edu/research/working_papers/wp6.pdf

    All are available on the net for review.

  2. But its pretty! and the computer generated fans look so happy! Why are you against Hapiness?!?

    By the way…how would those three mesuring sticks compare when applied to the touted success of the big yellow electric twinky on wheels.

  3. I’m all for the resolution!

    (Did I mention I live just over the border in WI?)

  4. hmmmmmm….

    I just wonder, what’s the problem with taxing the democrats of hennepin county? isn’t that what they’re asking for?

  5. Good post.
    The intro was a good lesson. Your old man is right, making decisions on the “knowing” is best. Too many people make stupid decisions based on the other two.

    The last comment about purchasing stock is very interesting.

    It might make money, out of the hands of the Twins. The public Metrodome actually makes about 3-4 million a year profit. I’d rather a board of directors run the stadium, made up of shareholders like yourself.

    You could probably research the Green Bay situation… But, I can understand if you want to pretend that Wisconsin doesn’t exist.

  6. I can’t pretend Wisconsin doesn’t exist, much the same way Christians can’t deny Hell exists. It’s constantly in the back of my mind.

    But it was the Wisconsin model I was thinking about.

  7. you could argue on the basis of local control, since all the state is doing is letting a single county tax itself.

    as the referendum requirement is a state law imposed on local govs, a state circumvention of this law is just a return of authority to a local unit of government, one in which this decision of this type is arguably best made.

  8. That’s more thinking Dan, thinking is bad.

  9. so, marty, you might be coming to El Dos, is that if gas prices dont go up to 10 bucks a gallon?

  10. My “El Dos de Mayo” attendence is assured.

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