In his MSNBC show The Last Word Tuesday evening, Lawrence O’Donnell dedicated a segment to describing his opinion of what “good and bad socialism” looks like. Naturally his example of “good” socialism included the man and policies Bernie Sanders. It also included a 6 year old cover from Newsweek magazine that proclaimed “We Are All Socialists now,” which detailed how it's becoming normal (and good) for America to fund massive socialist policies like Social Security and Medicaid. Bad socialism is, of course, allowing the government to “socialize” the sports industry by subsidizing the construction of new stadiums for rich and greedy team owners and the millionaire athletes they employ.
The liberal talk show host brought up so-called “sports socialism” so he could take a swipe at Wisconsin Governor and GOP presidential candidate Scott Walker. Governor Walker is allowing $400 million of state money to be funneled into the construction of a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks. O'Donnell detailes it as follows:
As I have said many times on this program, there is good socialism and there is bad socialism. And America’s absolute worst socialism is, of course, sports socialism in which state and local governments hand over massive subsidies to billionaires-- the billionaire owners of sports teams to build new playgrounds for them where they will then employ quarterbacks making $26 million a year and short stops making $17 million a year. The latest egregious example of sports socialism is being visited upon us by someone who has no idea that he is a socialist. Tomorrow, Wisconsin's governor Scott walker will officially sign away $400 million of Wisconsin taxpayer money so that the Milwaukee bucks can play in a new arena. Needless to say, the owners of the Bucks are contributors to Scott Walker’s presidential campaign and his Super PAC. Economists have studied the effects of building new stadiums around the country and have not been able to find any economic benefits, except to the billionaire owners of sports teams and the millionaire players they employ.
It should be noted that his last statement is not true. There are many examples around the country where sports arenas and stadiums have bolstered the economies of their host cities and/or counties. One excellent example is Arlington, Texas— home of the Texas Rangers and, more recently, the Dallas Cowboys. In the early 1990s “The Ballpark In Arlington” (now “Globe Life Park In Arlington") was built with $135 million in city sales taxes. The stadium spurred the economy of the city so well they able to pay off its debt in 10 years— half the original projected time period. The city is experiencing a similar boom after building an impressive new stadium for the Dallas Cowboys, and is on track to pay off that debt years ahead of schedule as well.
The main difference in these examples is ownership. The two successful stadiums in Texas are owned by the city and operated by the teams, while the proposed stadium in Milwaukee will be privately owned. This has created a point of contention among a faction of both conservatives and liberals, who both believe this project will disproportionately benefit the rich while raising taxes on everyone else. However if the team had left the state as was declared the alternative, Governor Walker believes the city and state would lose millions of dollars each year in tax revenue currently brought in by the owners, players, and facilities. This would force the government to look elsewhere for revenue without the corresponding economic benefits.
After his monologue on the topic, O’Donnell brought on Tim Pawlenty, former Republican governor of Minnesota, to discuss the concept that conservatives are becoming socialists themselves. Pawlenty himself approved an economically successful county funding measure to build a new ballpark for the Minnesota Twins. He immediately pointed out that what O’Donnell was talking about wasn’t exactly socialism by definition:
Words have meanings. There are definitions associated with these labels. Bernie isn’t running from the label “socialist.” He acknowledges he’s a socialist. And if you go to Merriam-Webster’s, they define socialists as somebody who supports the government controlling and owning the means of production and distribution. And a capitalists of course means the private sector does that, and it is on a continuum, and there's room in-between those two things. But if you give an incentive or a subsidy, that doesn't necessarily mean you are controlling or owning the means of production or distribution. So these words and labels have meaning.
And the former Governor is right. The government didn't seize control of the Texas Rangers. Neither is the government seizing control of the Milwaukee Buck's team. Rather they’re offering subsidized financing as a means to protect existing infrastructure and incentivize growth in the private sector, all while spurring revenue without hiking taxes on the middle class and small business owners.
So when you look at it that way, it’s no surprise a radical leftist like O’Donnell would want to do all he can to vilify such an effort!
The relevant transcript from the show is below:
LAWRENCE O’DONNELL, host: Bernie Sanders has been attacked for being a socialist by both Democrats and Republicans who don't seem to realize that they are socialists too, as "Newsweek" announced to the country six weeks ago with this cover. We are all socialists now. By which "Newsweek" meant that most of what the federal government does now is fund and administer socialist programs, such as Social Security Medicare and Medicaid. Those programs alone account for a good half of the federal budget and then of course at the time of the "Newsweek" cover there was the federal government bank bailout which was a major socialist intervention in the affairs of Wall Street, the private sector, in an attempt to do everything possible to avoid a banking disaster. As I've said many times on this program, there is good and bad socialism and America's absolute worst socialism is, of course, sports socialism in which state and local governments hand over massive subsidies to billionaires, the billionaire owners of sports teams to build new playgrounds for them where they will then employ quarterbacks making $26 million a year and short stops making $17 million a year. The latest egregious example is upon us by someone who has no idea that he is a socialist. Tomorrow, Wisconsin's governor Scott walker will officially sign away $400 million of Wisconsin taxpayer money so that the Milwaukee buck S can play in a new arena. Needless to say, the owners of the bucks are contributors to Scott walk wither's presidential campaign and his super pac. Economists studied the effects of building new stadiums around the country and have not been able to find any economic benefits, except to the billionaire owners of sports teams and the millionaire players they employ. Back with us is former Republican governor of Minnesota Tim Pawlenty. Governor Pawlenty, last week we got side tracked in to a discussion of socialism, sparked by Bernie Sanders. I think that conversation will come up again and again as long as we have a self-proclaimed socialist presidential candidate out there. I want to give you more time and give you a little more air on this. What do you make of this big socialist giveaway that Scott walker is embarking on in the pro sports arena?
TIM PAWLENTY, guest: I'll address that, Lawrence. But let's start with the basics. Words have meanings. There are definitions associated with these labels. Bernie isn’t running from the label “socialist.” They acknowledge he’s a socialist. And if you go to Merriam-Webster’s,They define socialists as somebody who supports the government controlling and owning the means of production and distribution. And a capitalists of course means the private sector does that and it is on a continuum, and there's room in between the two with things. But if you give an incentive or a subsidy, that doesn't necessarily mean you are controlling or owning the means of production or distribution. So these words and labels have meaning. I think pro sports -- there's enough money in it to build their own stadiums, but they don't. So there is a distorted market for sure. I built when with I was governor, paid for a university of Minnesota football stadium. That is a public institution, by the way, and we allowed a local county to support our twin stadium, but this happens all over the country and no doubt it is government funneling money in to a private enterprise to incentivize or subsidize an outcome. That's not the definition directly as socialism that I cited a moment ago. And Bernie just said “I'm a socialist,” flat out. Not a liberal, or a Democrat, or for more government, but “I’m a socialist.”
O’DONNELL: Well Social security is a socialist program. It is a program run by the government on purely socialist terms. It was imported from Europe, as was Medicare. These are all European socialist ideas that have taken over our government.
PAWLENTY: We all pay for social security, Lawrence. But it is certainly a government program.
O’DONNELL The thing about social security is many of us pay far less than we get back from social security and many others pay more than they get back from social security so it is not doing a neutral distribution.
PAWLENTY: That's true. That's accurate. That's right.
O’DONNELL: Let me get back to the sports socialism thing. You actually signed the bill in Minnesota that funded the, what is it, the Target Field where the twins play?
PAWLENTY That's right. That's right.
O’DONELL: You initially when you were a state representative you opposed it but as a governor you went along with one of the deals.
PAWLENTY: We allowed the county to raise a tax to pay for it. We authorized them to do if they wanted to. I would argue tongue and cheek it is not owning or controlling the means of production because the Twins haven't produced.
O’DONNELL: There's that. You enacted the tax which in and of itself is anti-republican dogma.
PAWLENTY: The county did but I understand your point.
O’DONNELL: The money was used to fund this playground for these rich athletes and for these rich sports team owners.
PAWLENTY: That's right. But if you accept the definition as has long been standing that I cited earlier, governor controlling and owning the production. The county doesn't own or manage the twins. We don't manage the distribution of what they do. If Bernie said he is a socialist, word have meaning. If you look at what he has voted for and done,it is more in line with liberal Democrats. I'm not sure why he willingly grabs that label. I was trying to make the point last week which you bristled out, that the country isn't ready to elect a self-avowed socialist. That's not a personal attack on Bernie. It is just socialism and the United States are not in alignment at this moment. They are just not.