Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Public Works for Private Profit?

In the midst of deep recession with a possible chance of a depression looming in the future, some have interesting ideas on how to "stimulate" the economy. The Minnesota Vikings owner recently came up with one of his own: get citizens to pay for a new multi-million dollar stadium to generate even greater revenue for his franchise.

However, the Vikings already have a lavish multi-million dollar stadium downtown, the Metrodome, one of the iconic domes in the NFL. Built in the early 1980s, the Metrodome functions well, and at the Vikings first playoff game in over five years last Sunday, just barely sold enough tickets to make sure that the game would be broadcast in Minnesota.

It is shocking that the Vikings owner is now pleading to the Minnesota Congress to fund his extravagant expenditure. While the press is billing it as a "public works project", that description simply misses the mark. Public works often generate revenue specifically for local governments and have a true benefit to all citizens, a tangible improvement in their lives. However, a multi-million dollar stadium that will only reshuffle low-quality jobs and have tickets that are easily over $30 for the nose-bleed section is highly suspect. In addition, most revenue will go to the franchise, with the city only receiving a minimal cut for all the funding poured in for a new stadium by the citizens of Minnesota.

This is the effect of many causes in American society. But out of the economic crisis may come something good. We may have to learn what is necessary to live with and what is just crass extravagance. We may also learn what will be really needed to improve everyone's lives, not just those at top.

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