Friday, July 27, 2012

Football franchises another example of corporate welfare

There is that old saying that "All is fair in love and war".  It's like poker, it's OK to lie in poker, in fact, it's considered a skill that one should master in order to win. This is because poker too is a state of war.

I am reminded of this reading that the theoreticians (they call themselves policy makers) of capital are considering replacing Libor in the wake of the present scandal surrounding it, the effects of which have not yet been fully revealed.  "Libor's flaws are now abundantly clear" Bloomberg Business Week writes.  Libor determined the benchmark for hundreds of trillions of dollars of financial transactions, loans, derivatives etc. (For more about Libor go here).  The benchmark was based on banks reporting their borrowing costs "honestly, something they spectacularly failed to do" BW adds.

But capitalism is a permanent state of war. It is economic system where competing armies enter the field of battle and every living moment is spent trying to drive your rivals from the field or face extinction; like poker, lying and deception are the tools of this trade but with far more destructive consequences.  Libor is also further proof that capitalism cannot regulate itself or reform itself in to an egalitarian or humane system that produces the necessities of human life in harmony with nature.
From Teddy Roosevelt's war against the trusts, to the Savings and Loan debacle of the 1980's 90's to the BP oil spill that revealed government regulators had delegated the task of developing deep water drilling regs to the oil companies themselves, capitalism has failed to place human and environmental well being ahead of profits.

As Michael Roberts explained in a blog yesterday, "The end of poverty and prosperity for the majority can only come through replacing private production for profit with democratically-planned production for social need."

The propaganda that their system of so called free enterprise is the most efficient and vibrant form of social organization is also nonsense.  We have witnessed the bail out of the banks in the US, and Europe.  Capitalism was pulled from the edge of the abyss through the intervention of public funds and what its defenders would call socialistic measures. It's lunatic right wing calls for complete freedom from all state intervention and opposes all public expenditure that crowds out private capital from the marketplace denying its owners profit making opportunity.  But this is all  nonsense as we know.  The capitalist class uses the state to advance its interests and loots public treasuries for its own use, capitlaism exists through handouts.

Sports, what would be a healthy cultural interaction in a civilized society, is a very lucrative business that relies heavily on public subsidies here in the US.  Owning an American Football franchise is the dream of most of these coupon clippers and for practically all of the stadiums throughout the US it is the taxpayers that foot the bill, 71% of the costs on average according to Bloomberg BW.  

Since the Rams and the Raiders departed, Los Angeles has been without a football franchise.  The Rams presently have a home in St Louis but Rams owner Stan Kroenke wants upgrades that he claims were promised when the lease was signed in 1995.  These would include skybox suites, scoreboards and concessions for example.  The lease is expected to cost the taxpayers of St Louis and the state $720 million in debt payments to other coupon clippers over the next thirty years but the competition is so fierce as other stadiums with taxpayer backing make what investors call "upgrades"; the owners are in the drivers seat demanding taxpayers invest more money or they pull out.  St Louis has proposed a $124 million upgrade in order to try and keep the team including a 96 foot long video scoreboard to compete with Dallas' $40 million 25,000 square-foot video board.

Despite these efforts, the Ram owners have asked for $700 million more for extra seating and an adjustable roof says BW. The owners are in a commanding position due to supply and demand.  The capitalist gang that controls this business has no intention of expanding teams so demand for teams outstrips supply.  As in the case of the Rams threatening to move back to LA which is a possibility, it "illustrates team owners continual success at playing cities against one another to gain access to public funds."  It's a good deal alright, since 1995 "28 of the league's 32 franchises have built new stadiums or renovated old ones at a cost of more than $10 billion, with taxpayers covering $6 billion of the total.." according to BW. How many schools would that build?

The propaganda about the vibrant private sector and how it is so efficient and cost effective when compared to the public is absolute nonsense.  The private sector has just been saved by the bell of public expenditure.  I have written before of the struggle some years ago between two communities, Arlington Texas and Ypsilanti Michigan to keep their GM plants open.  Each community offered tax breaks, Unions offer reduced wages and to remove Union protections on the job to keep plants open.   Communities have even offered to train the workers, give free land, buy the cars for the city fleet in such instances.  In the Arlington Ypsilanti conflict I think it was Arlington that won out and Ypsilanti was closed although I think Arlington has also lost its plant since then.  In a court battle to keep a plant open the judge decided that a corporation cannot be forced to do so.  Of course it can't, profit is freedom, not community welfare and jobs.

We live in a dictatorship of capital.  The owners of capital blackmail entire communities to bend to their will, to bow to their profit god or face extinction.  The same people that blackmail and coerce communities sit on the boards of other corporations or holding companies that own football teams.    When they starve communities of capital they also destroy small business replacing them with sterile corporate franchises that look and feel the same from New York to Kokomo, Fresno to Bangor Maine---gone is the High Street or Main Street feel and the bustling chatter and sense of community we find at the butchers or hardware store as we all traipse out tot he Mall. 

When we go on strike, the mass media that the 1% owns attacks us for holding society to ransom and blackmailing the community.  But these characters are the gang par excellence in a league of their own relegating the Bloods and the Crips to little league status, after all, they run the country.

The 1%'s replacement for Libor, like other efforts to regulate the rapacious private sector might slow things down for a minute because it is actually hurting profit opportunities, it is not advantageous to capital. But they are driven to do what they do by the system.  Public ownership and management of the banks and the finance industry is what will ultimately solve this problem just as public owpnership and management of big pharma and the health industry will lead to decent health care for all. 

We have to do the same for sports as well if we want to enjoy it for what it should be, as a cultural amenity, healthy competition between individuals, communities and nations.

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