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Touchdown! How the Vikings are buying political influence to get a new stadium

Taxpayer dollars spent to build sports stadiums for professional teams are an economic waste of money. Study after study proves this. Yet demands to provide public money to build a new Vikings stadium refuse to die. Why? The reason is simple — Zygi Wilf and the Vikings have spent millions lobbying and in political donations to persuade the governor and legislators to give them a new stadium — and the investment may be paying off.

David Schultz
Courtesy of Hamline University
David Schultz

Wilf took principal ownership in the Vikings in 2005. According to records filed with the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, since 2006 the Vikings have spent $2.82 million in lobbying, including $1.16 million in Wilf’s first year as owner. In his first five years as Vikings owner Wilf has averaged $564,000 per year lobbying.

Complete data for the first half of 2011 is not available and we will not know what the Vikings spent this year until next January. However, the Vikings did employ five lobbyists who disbursed nearly $29,000 lobbying. Lobbyist disbursements are merely a tip of the iceberg in total lobbying expenses, and there is every reason to think the Vikings spent way in excess of the $564,000 average.

But lobbying is not the only way to use money; contributions to candidates and to the legislative caucuses, too, are smart investments. Just look at 2010 alone. Zygi Wilf and his family made contributions totaling $17,000 to candidates for governor or the Legislature in 2010. They covered all the major gubernatorial candidates, including a total of $3,000 to Mark Dayton and $1,000 to Tom Bakk. Lester Bagley, principal lobbyist for the Vikings, added another $1,850 to this.
    
But contributions do not stop there. In 2006, Wilf and the Vikings spent a million plus dollars on lobbying but nothing on political contributions. In 2008 the Vikings, Wilf, and his family spread $18,500 among the legislative caucuses. And then in 2010, the Wilfs gave $27,600 to all four legislative caucuses. Bagley made contributions of $1,850 to the Republican House and Senate caucuses, as well as to the Chamber of Commerce and to the Third (Tom Saxhaug) and Sixth District Senate DFL (Tom Bakk) caucuses. These 2010 contributions represent a significant ramping up of Wilf’s political activity to get a stadium.
    
Given the spending on lobbyists, political donations to the caucuses and political candidates, it is no surprise that Gov. Dayton and legislators are pushing for a new Vikings stadium. Wilf and the Vikings have spent a few million to reap hundreds of millions in public subsidies and eventually more in terms of profits from the new stadium.

Not a bad investment. It is this spending by Zygi Wilf that explains why the debate for a public stadium persists.

David Schultz is a professor at Hamline University School of Business, where he teaches classes on privatization and public, private and nonprofit partnerships. He is the editor of the Journal of Public Affairs Education (JPAE), and he blogs at Schultz’s Take.

Comments (39)

  1. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 08/22/2011 - 06:47 am.

    Oh, boy, a stadium column.

    There is a lot of money for a lot of people in building a Vikings stadium, and that’s the fundamental reason why the issue doesn’t go away, won’t ever go away until it’s built. The stadium issue is one on which I courageously straddle the fence, Weaselly enough, I support a stadium at the right price. I am opposed to turning over a blank check to the Wilf family. I also believe, that on the whole, the Wilf family has been straightforward and honest with us and has received a lot of very severe criticism that they haven’t quite deserved. They are business people who at the end of the day, will do what’s right for themselves, their partners and their shareholders. It’s up to the citizens of Minnesota and our elected representatives to do what’s right for us. I like to believe that between the two sides there is a common ground for agreement. I know I certainly hope so.

  2. Submitted by rolf westgard on 08/22/2011 - 08:50 am.

    I always enyoy reading or hearing David Schultz views. but it would be nice if he said something about merits of a stadium – economics and other factors.
    I suggest that the disclosed lobbying activity is irrelevant.

  3. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 08/22/2011 - 09:18 am.

    Corporate welfare is often sold as a jobs program. The state might as well be sending the Vikings a taxpayer funded check.

    I had the impression that tax reform would include reducing the amount of subsidies and tax expenditures that exist in MN .

    I find it ironic that the legislature talks about cuts in spending. But I don’t see any evidence that they have conceded the need to close subsidies and tax expenditures.

  4. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 08/22/2011 - 09:45 am.

    In today’s political and economic climate, our politicians may feel as if they can get away with a “business as usual” response to the high-powered lobbying of Wilf, the Vikings, et al,…

    But when the average taxpayer is struggling financially and, despite working hard, sliding backwards, I suspect that ANY amount of state money given to build a new playground for a Billionaire owner and his underperforming Millionaire players,…

    especially when the cost of going to a game is out of reach of so many people,…

    Is likely to lead to SEVERE ballot box punishment of the politicians who support it, especially if it’s done in a special session where, despite the economic suffering of so many people across the state,…

    and our Republican friends’ “no new taxes” stance on the budget,…

    the purpose of that “special” session will NOT be to provide any kind of help to those in actual need but only to figure out a way to hand taxpayer funds to people who are already fabulously wealthy.

    Any legislator who does not comprehend that this is the case is clearly living in a reality where the sky is some other color than blue.

  5. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 08/22/2011 - 10:11 am.

    I am for jobs, and I really don’t care how programs that create jobs are labelled. As for loopholes, subsidies and tax expenditures, we must look at each of them and analyze to what extent they make a difference in achieving our economic goals, as opposed to just pushing on an economic string. As we look at incentives, we must understand that they are useful only to extent they change behavior in ways that we find productive, as opposed to just making more attractive, the things we would do anyway.

    Building a Vikings stadium is new business. It is, for example, hard for me to see how it crowds out other economic activity. Good liberal that I am, I have a whole laundry list of other things we could better spend the money on, but the fact is, we won’t spend that money, even if we don’t build the stadium. Timing wise, this is a good time to be more aggressive in the labor and financial markets. People without jobs might very well be willing to work for a little less, and interest rates are low. There will never be a better time to build a Vikings Stadium right now. Certainly, not down the road, when costs are higher, and when it’s an issue perhaps of luring a franchise here rather than keeping the one we have.

  6. Submitted by Mike Zipko on 08/22/2011 - 10:29 am.

    AMAZING insight. Next David will be telling us there might be politics in the political process. Words fail me to express how valuable this “thoughtful” approach to an already well-covered issue.

    It might be a surprise to the professor that administrations as far back as Carlson with ownership interests that pre-date Red McComb have been pushing for a new stadium for decades.

    But I’m sure we will eagerly await the sharing of this additional insight.

    The real news will be if/when there will be a special session and what Mpls will do to kill TCAAP plans.

  7. Submitted by Rod Loper on 08/22/2011 - 11:05 am.

    Good article. Part of the pressure comes from the
    proliferation of tax subsidies to corporations and individuals for seating and suites in sports venues of all kinds. These tax code expenditures drives up the ticket price for the average citizen
    who wishes to attend.

  8. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 08/22/2011 - 11:24 am.

    If you know the percentage of GDP state government spends, you don’t know that much. The practical equivalence of tax credits and government transfers muddies the picture considerably.

    As Hiram points out, it would be nice if we could focus a little and argue for and against the value of different kinds of spending, and then to focus a little more on the value of different ways of spending within budget categories. Some government spending gives folks stuff they want. Some government spending is worse than stealing money, throwing it in a hole and burning it. This is obvious when you think about it for a second, but it sometimes seems that partisan political discourse is based on the refusal to think about it at all.

  9. Submitted by Richard O on 08/22/2011 - 01:01 pm.

    If we need to spend money to create “jobs,” let’s spend it on infrastructure, i.e. roads, bridges, hospitals, parks that benefit ALL Minnesotans. I don’t support the sales tax or any other tax that is said to be needed to give the Vikings the stadium they need so a few of us can purchase expensive tickets and watch men literally beating their brains out on a field, while we cheer! We can’t raise taxes to pay for schools that educate our children but we are asked to provide publicly backed financing and sales taxes to watch football? Really?

  10. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/22/2011 - 01:43 pm.

    We need to call this what it is: political corruption. And it’s not harmless corruption especially you talking about billions of dollars worth pro-sports subsidies at a time when thousands of Minnesotan’s are losing services and suffering.

    It’s not a question of whether or not we would spend it on something, the problem is sucking a billion dollars out of our economy and dumping it into some that provides so little actual return. If you’re looking for a more detailed economic analysis, you can try my blog entry:

    http://pudstrand.fatcow.com/blog/?m=201104

    I looked the economics of these stadiums over the last 40 years and discovered that once we hit a certain number subsidies, and started putting hundred of millions of dollars into them, almost all of the alleged “benefits” disappear.

    Shulz is right, this is about buying influence, it has nothing to do with economics. And there’s no way our democracy is anything but diminished by such betrayals and influence peddling.

  11. Submitted by craig furguson on 08/22/2011 - 02:44 pm.

    I can’t wait to see if the party of no tax increases passes a sales tax increase on residents of Ramsey County.

  12. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 08/22/2011 - 03:02 pm.

    “It’s not a question of whether or not we would spend it on something, the problem is sucking a billion dollars out of our economy and dumping it into some that provides so little actual return.”

    At the moment, the money we are talking about isn’t in the economy, it’s in banks earning minimal, and even negative, interest rates. A stadium wouldn’t be crowding out other activity. It would not be luring construction workers away from more productive economic activity, it would be luring them away from unemployment benefits, or just plain unemployment.

    I agree, there are better uses for the money. But you could say that about any expenditure. The choice here, in economic terms, isn’t between the good and the better, it’s between the good and different varieties of nothing at all.

    It’s easy to overestimate the economic value of an operating stadium. It’s something we could debate a lot and often have. Here, I would just point out that many of them were built in much more prosperous times. They were competitive, perhaps, with other uses of resources, people did pay for the money they borrowed. Those times are not these times. We need to get this economy moving again, and I for one, believe we should look long and hard any construction project including a Vikings Stadium that brings the money currently on the the sidelines, and back into the game.

  13. Submitted by rolf westgard on 08/22/2011 - 03:23 pm.

    Keep at it Hiram. they might get the message. And almost all the resources for the new stadium are American with the usual multiplier effect. And we actually have more schools than we need.

  14. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 08/22/2011 - 03:46 pm.

    Spend a few million greasing a handful of key people, get hundreds of millions in benefit.

    You can’t get this kind of ROI anywhere else. Invest in political corruption!

  15. Submitted by David Greene on 08/22/2011 - 04:10 pm.

    I am resigned to the highly probable future in which we build a Vikings stadium. Past behavior almost guarantees it will happen.

    Given that, it is important that the state reap the most out of this horrible deal. I believe the Metrodome site is the best available option, with the farmer’s market site a clone second. Arden Hills isn’t even on the radar. Here’s why.

    1. An Arden Hills site encourages more suburban sprawl. Remember, it’s not just a stadium Zygi wants. It’s a shopping complex, hotels and anything else he can put up there to attract revenue. All of the attendant costs to suburban sprawl will be there.

    2. The Arden Hills site will kill retail. This is the east metro’s equivalent to the Mall of America. Look at what MOA has done to other west metro shopping centers, including downtown. It’s sucked a lot of life out of them. Downtown has been somewhat insulated due to revitalization efforts there but ask the managers of Southdale and Ridgedale how they feel. City officials in St. Paul, Maplewood, West St. Paul, etc. should be up in arms over this.

    3. There is no infrastructure. There isn’t even enough highway to TCAAP to make it work. There’s no transit investment planned to go out there for 30 years (the longest planning period for the Met Council). It will be a huge cost to build the roads, bridges and transit necessary to access the site. Those are dollars that could be spent improving much needed access in existing corridors. These are things we would spend money on. So Hiram is wrong when he says it does not crowd out economic activity. It entirely depends on where it’s sited.

    4. The Arden Hills Site actually counters our current investments. We’re spending a billion dollars to put in Central Corridor, and rightly so. St. Paul is touting how it will improve businesses on University Ave. and rightly so. The Arden Hills site not only does not leverage that investment, putting more people into contact with those businesses, but it actually sucks people away from that investment as noted in #2. We’re spending a billion dollars to build Central Corridor and potentially another billion to draw people away from Central Corridor.

    Neither of the Minneapolis sites has any of these issues. The Minneapolis sites reuse existing infrastructure (the Dome site does this best) and they attract people into the core cities at a time when we need more density to be sustainable. One could argue that it pulls people from St. Paul over to Minneapolis but that is no different than what is happening today. If there were a proposed St. Paul site, I would put it ahead of the farmer’s market site.

  16. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 08/22/2011 - 04:30 pm.

    I know I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating.

    1) The Vikings — pleading economic hardship !!! — have been relieved of paying the modest rent (I believe $400,000 per year, for a total of $4 million) at the Dome for the last ten years. Poor little Wilfy.

    2) Wilf’s dream is not to build just a stadium in Arden Hills, but an entire village. Can we dream for a moment that Mr. Wilf will end up paying for all the roads and streets, water and sewer and electric service infrastructure, and perhaps a park and schools? I think not.

    How foolish we would be to build such a huge money-maker for this kazillionaire when, once it is built, will have a small number of part-time jobs for concessions operators and maintenance staff on a very few days each year. Our money would be far better spent on helping entrepreneurs build factories to produce clean energy products.

  17. Submitted by Dimitri Drekonja on 08/22/2011 - 10:00 pm.

    I’m all for public dollars to put people to work and gain something useful for society in return; however, stadiums are just not high on the list, especially since there is precedent (jets/giants, patriots, carolina, and I think 3 others) for teams doing the honest thing and financing their own play-pens.

    If we want to stimulate jobs, how about:
    -Updating school heating systems (my son’s room was in the 80’s last winter, because of antiquated zone heating)
    -Heck, update schools. If the dome is obsolete, isn’t a school built in 1930 obsolete?
    -Fix some of the roads. Minnehaha parkway is rutted to hell, and when drivers swerve to save their suspension they almost clip a biker.
    -Take down more diseased elms, and plant new trees (a mix this time, please)
    -Pay for people to renovate/paint/salvage foreclosed houses, with options to buy from the banks.

    All of these things, and more, could get people working. And in the end, far more people will get something out of it. A stadium benifits the wilfs, the die-hard fans who haven’t realized that wasting a day watching a game drinking 8 dollar beer is rather lame, and the big-wigs who buy a suite and then write it off as an entertainment expense. I’ll shed no tears if the team heads to LA- last night I watched a game on the west-coast, looked the same on TV as if they were just down 35w.

  18. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 08/23/2011 - 06:17 am.

    I thought I would just observe in passing that the stadium wars in Minnesota tell us both about the impact of money on politics, but also about some of it’s limitations. The Wilfs and others have indeed spent a lot of money trying to influence the legislature to build a Vikings Stadium. And as far as I know, there is very little money on the other side of the issue. Yet no stadium bill has passed, and the outlook for one in the foreseeable future is at best cloudy.

    With the stadium issue, money may indeed grease the wheels, but the wheels already have been in place for a long time.

  19. Submitted by Rosalie O'Brien on 08/23/2011 - 07:21 am.

    Okay, so politics is why it is likely that the Vikings will get a stadium. Given that, the many reasons why the Arden Hills site just doesn’t make sense seem irrefutable–unless one indulges in pursuit of Keynesian principles without bothering to analyze how the money would best be spent. Perhaps our decision-makers need to consider whether it’s possible to spend money that our governments don’t have in a rational way, one that doesn’t undermine so many important considerations for the entire region. And, moving from the macro to the micro, I’m not so sure that the proposed additional sales tax in Ramsey County would be paid with dollars that presently reside in banks earning little interest. Perhaps it would be paid with dollars that would have gone toward buying something else, or perhaps those dollars will be spent somewhere else.

  20. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 08/23/2011 - 07:53 am.

    Since I never attend Vikings games in person, I have little interest in where the stadium is to be built. I believe the Vikings are a state and not a local asset, and I don’t think the burden of paying for a Vikings Stadium should be localized. It’s wrong for Ramsey County residents to pay for a stadium we all benefit from, just as it’s wrong for Hennepin County residents to pay for the Twins stadium.

    This notion that a “local partner” is needed reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of a professional sports franchise and the market they serve. In terms of an economic asset, the Vikings are much more in the tv asset, providing an attractive advertising vehicle, than they are sports team that sells tickets to games to be attended in person. That being the case, where the games are physically played doesn’t make a lot of difference to the vast majority of Minnesotans who watch the games on TV but who don’t attend the games in person.

  21. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/23/2011 - 08:29 am.

    //At the moment, the money we are talking about isn’t in the economy, it’s in banks earning minimal, and even negative, interest rates. A stadium wouldn’t be crowding out other activity.

    Nice try Hiram. Now explain how it is that future tax revenue is sitting in a bank somewhere? I’m not collecting the sales tax for the Twins stadium from banks, I collect it from taxpayers. I suppose you can say all money sits in a bank at some point, but that’s not economics, it’s just circularity.

    In fact that money is currently in the economy, we’re not gonna print up a billion new dollars for the Vikings. There’s a front and back end on this financing. The bonds that sold at the outset, and tax revenue collected to pay it off. It’s all money that would be spent one or another in any event. No ones sitting around with “Vikings Bond” savings accounts waiting for the bonds to go on sale. A bond buyer is either currently invested in something else, in which case that money in working in that investment, or they going to buy something else or invest in something else. Obviously the tax money from taxpayers isn’t just sitting around in an account either.

  22. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/23/2011 - 08:34 am.

    //Since I never attend Vikings games in person, I have little interest in where the stadium is to be built. I believe the Vikings are a state and not a local asset, and I don’t think the burden of paying for a Vikings Stadium should be localized.

    You can’t expect a corrupt political process will produce a fair outcome. If you want to make excuses for corruption fine, but don’t expect fairness to emerge from the system.

  23. Submitted by David Greene on 08/23/2011 - 10:07 am.

    //Since I never attend Vikings games in person, I have little interest in where the stadium is to be built.

    Well, you should, Hiram. This is a major regional project. You can’t build a one billion dollar project and not have it affect the economy in some way.

    It will not create new economic activity but it will absolutely move it around. Is it really in our best interest to shift economic activity around and pay a billion dollars for it? Is it really in our best interest to spend a billion dollars in direct opposition to previous infrastructure investment? Is that really wise?

    The location of this things matters to all of us. A lot.

  24. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 08/23/2011 - 10:09 am.

    “You can’t expect a corrupt political process will produce a fair outcome.”

    You’d be surprised. But I don’t care that much about the fairness of outcomes. I care about putting people back to work, about getting the economy moving again. Fairness-wise, I thought the Twins Stadium deal was close to the worst of all possible deals, the result of way too many moralists perching far too long on their high horses. The stadium ended up costing too much, and imposing what I would agree is a totally unfair tax burden on the people of Hennepin County. But at the end of the day, we got a stadium that created work for a lot of people, and which everyone seems to love. And not a single Hennepin County commissioner who supported the deal has been voted out of office.

  25. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 08/23/2011 - 10:26 am.

    “It will not create new economic activity but it will absolutely move it around.”

    This is a common Rolnick-ian point to make, and I think in some circumstances it has merit. But the issue I would raise here is that in a slow, recessionary economy, such as we have now, large public works projects like a Vikings Stadium do not move economic activity from one place to another, they create economic activity where little or none existed before. Large numbers of the construction workers who would build the stadium aren’t working on other jobs now, they are sitting on the bench, something we are paying them to do through unemployment compensation.

    I am sure location matters to people who would benefit directly from proximity to the stadium. But those are parochial concerns that should not be relevant to the larger decision to build a stadium. We should not let localized bickering stand in the way of building a stadium that benefits Minnesotans all over the state.

  26. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/23/2011 - 12:37 pm.

    //But I don’t care that much about the fairness of outcomes. I care about putting people back to work, about getting the economy moving again.

    Then you should condemn any stadium plan that requires more than $100 million in public dollars. It’s not like we don’t know how many jobs stadiums create and maintain. Hiram, we built the Twins stadium in the middle of the recession, did it get our economy moving again? No, because pro-sports subsidies are one of if not the worst job creators imaginable. If you want pump the economy with a billion dollars there a hundred better ways to do it, and in fact these stadium deals may actually harm the economy by diverting so many resources into so few pockets, and diverting so much spending into such a restricted area.

  27. Submitted by Rosalie O'Brien on 08/23/2011 - 01:22 pm.

    “We should not let localized bickering stand in the way of building a stadium that benefits Minnesotans all over the state.”

    It’s not localized bickering to point out that the reasons cited by David Greene (and a few more in the same vein) as to why a hypothetical new stadium shouldn’t be located in the netherlands are very compelling. Even if one doesn’t care where the stadium is located for reasons of personal access, one should care that stated regional priorities–on which tons of taxpayer dollars are being sent–aren’t undermined by the outcome of the so-called decisionmaking process. Urban sprawl is one of the reasons for the budgetary challenges we face today.

  28. Submitted by David Greene on 08/23/2011 - 02:00 pm.

    Hiram,

    Why not use that money to build things like bridges, transitways and parks? Things that actually benefit everyday people. It is no less construction work and these are things we need to do anyway. Our infrastructure is in terrible shape. Infrastructure is a proven way to not just boost the economy temporarily, but give it a long-term multiplicative growth.

  29. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/23/2011 - 02:50 pm.

    //”We should not let localized bickering stand in the way of building a stadium that benefits Minnesotans all over the state.”

    What state-wide benefit? 90% of the financial benefit goes to the team, inside the stadium. The majority of the revenue generated by the stadium goes to about 75 people, most of whom don’t even live in the state? Is this a benefit just because people all over the state can watch TV? We don’t need to spend a billion dollars in order to watch TV… and by the way, the games will no longer be available on free TV anymore so that state-wide benefit isn’t even real.

  30. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 08/23/2011 - 04:22 pm.

    “Why not use that money to build things like bridges, transitways and parks?”

    The money isn’t necessarily there for those things as freestanding appropriations but they might be as part of a larger Vikings deal for whatever that’s worth. Lots of everyday people watch the Vikings and a small minority of them actually go to the games.

  31. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 08/23/2011 - 04:28 pm.

    What state-wide benefit?

    People watch the Vikings all over the state. Economic benefit isn’t the only kind of benefit there is.

    “we built the Twins stadium in the middle of the recession, did it get our economy moving again?”

    Every little bit helps. The economy is not a macro thing. It’s the sum total of a whole lot of micro thing. Tell the people who earned good wages building the Twins Stadium that it didn’t help the economy. The sports business isn’t actually that big a deal. It’s small potatoes in the larger scheme of things.

    “because pro-sports subsidies are one of if not the worst job creators imaginable.”

    The worst job creating strategy is to do nothing at all.

  32. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/23/2011 - 09:32 pm.

    //
    The worst job creating strategy is to do nothing at all.

    Please Hiram, we’re choosing to either build a stadium or do nothing at all. And subsidizing pro-sports may well be worse than doing nothing.

  33. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 08/24/2011 - 06:01 am.

    We would be creating jobs in an industry that is otherwise standing idle, using a lot of money that currently resides under a banker’s mattress.

    A stadium is no miracle cure for what economically ails us. But we as a society have got to shake this lack of confidence in the future, and a reflexive negativism that accompanies it. We have to start building things again, both in our personal and our public lives. A new Vikings stadium would never be more than a small part of that in terms of it’s direct impact on the economy, but it would be a sign that that desperately needed confidence is returning. And not building a stadium, allowing the Vikings to leave will surely and even correctly viewed as a sign of a city and a state in decline.

  34. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 08/24/2011 - 07:45 am.

    Here is a video which I think sums up how a recessionary economy works very well:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tw688Kbjy4&feature=player_embedded

    The video presents a company where business is doing better, the long anticipated green shoots are finally beginning to appear. The young, aggressive kids in the office see opportunities for expansion. But when the kids bring the news to their boss, she immediately rejects their enthusiasm for expansion. The objection she raises, basically that the future is uncertain, is an objection to expansion that could be raised at any time. The future is always uncertain. What’s different in a time of recession isn’t that there is uncertainty, rather it’s that the uncertainty argument is found to be convincing. I haven’t been able to find it yet, but I think in the sequel to this video, we find that this little company which rejected the opportunity to expand is now struggling and going broke as it loses market share to other, more aggressive, possibly foreign companies who have the nerve to expand when times are bad, but when many of the economic conditions for expansion, low interest rates, low costs of employment, are relatively favorable.

    How does this relate to a Vikings Stadium. Briefly, I see the negativism as part of a larger problem. It’s not that there aren’t good arguments for not building a stadium. There are always good arguments for stuff. It’s that in recessionary times, we find the good arguments against economic expansion, to be convincing. And that mindset is what sustains and accelerates an economic downturn.

  35. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/24/2011 - 09:05 am.

    //How does this relate to a Vikings Stadium. Briefly, I see the negativism as part of a larger problem.

    Now you’re really stretching Hiram. This has nothing to with economics, this is magical thinking… as long as we’re “optimistic” the economy will prosper. Recessions are not periods of negativism, they are periods of economic distress, it’s not about attitude, it’s about capital. Yeah, when people lose their jobs and retirement accounts they can get depressed, but that’s what causes recessions, nor is it the primary feature of a recession. When people become financially cautious and conservative during a recession it’s a rational response to the economy, not a bad attitude.

    This has even less to do with the Vikings stadium. Opposition to bad economic policy isn’t “negativism”. Those of us who oppose these sports subsidies aren’t merely being negative, we’re being rational. I have a gazillion positive, hopeful, and affirmational projects that I think could spur economic development and create jobs… I just happen to know that a Vikings stadium won’t do that, no matter how “positive” we are about it.

    I must say I am impressed with the intellectual gymnastics here. However I think Hiram is actually demonstrating the toxic effects of pro sports on culture, economics, and politics. The magical properties being attributed to football and football stadiums distort the entire discourse and make really bad policy almost inevitable.

    Those bad policies are actually killing people. We’re talking about putting a billion dollars into a stadium at a time when for want of $150 million we kicked 50 thousand people out of health insurance. When you de-insure that many people you kill someone, that’s all there is to it. Just tell me who’s gonna die, or even be seriously inconvenienced if Vikings leave?

    Football should be just a game, entertainment, fun to watch but easy to live without. Hiram turns it into a life or death struggle for the soul of the economy and the salvation from recession and personal depression. People who can imagine a world without football are ruining the economy with negativism while people who can’t imagine such a world are the last bastion of prosperity and growth. Nice. Goofy, but nice.

  36. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 08/24/2011 - 11:50 am.

    “This has nothing to with economics, this is magical thinking… as long as we’re “optimistic” the economy will prosper.”

    That’s not what I said. What I do say and think is that in this recession, as long as people and businesses are pessimistic, they won’t assume the risks of expansion, even when such risks are warranted. See video.

    “Recessions are not periods of negativism, they are periods of economic distress, it’s not about attitude, it’s about capital.”

    This one is about lack of demand. There is plenty of capital lying around, both financial and human. It just isn’t being used. All those construction workers drawing unemployment instead of paychecks. All that cash lying unspent in bank vaults.

    “When people become financially cautious and conservative during a recession it’s a rational response to the economy, not a bad attitude.”

    That’s the paradox of thrift, when decisions which are rational on an individual basis are harmful on a collective basis. The persistence of recessions is largely due to the fact that rational behavior by individuals has the effect of prolonging them.

    “ave a gazillion positive, hopeful, and affirmational projects that I think could spur economic development and create jobs.”

    But we aren’t talking about any of those. And there isn’t political support for them, standing alone. There may be political support for a Vikings stadium, which could very include other projects.

    “We’re talking about putting a billion dollars into a stadium at a time when for want of $150 million we kicked 50 thousand people out of health insurance.”

    We kicked those people off health insurance just fine without a stadium bill. Passing a stadium bill will have little or no impact on whether we kick more off. On the other hand, it will mean health benefits for the workers who are hired to build the stadium.

    I don’t think there is anything particularly magical about football or the economics of building football stadiums. But the fact that people all over the state love to watch football on Sunday afternoons and Monday nights is in itself an argument why we shouldn’t have it. I prefer to leave the sackcloth and ashes to others.

  37. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 08/26/2011 - 03:22 pm.

    Why does the public continue to build public stadiums for very private companies. The Twins stadium is the worst deal for the public because it is a single purpose stadium only generating any benefit at all for 7-8 months a year for 30 years. And then the whining will start all over again. Let them build their own stadium. The city and state will still get the same benefit (tax revenue) without the cost of building a stadium and the subsequent upkeep costs. Line the pockets of the politicians and you will get what you want. Political corruption is alive and well in our political system.

  38. Submitted by William Pappas on 08/27/2011 - 07:42 am.

    The fact that the Wilf’s are willing to commit such large sums to lobby for a stadium illustrates just how much profit is potentially involved for the Viking’s owners. Any stadium deal will be a bad deal for the public and is really a commentary on the moral bankruptcy of our society when legislators are willing to come up with hundreds of millions for the Wilf’s while cutting so many people off of the health insurance their lives depend on. The Wilf’s are perfectly capable of financing a stadium themselves that is at the same time profitable. If they can’t, then good bye Vikings. To commit that much public money to the Vikings now is, pure and simple, incredibly irresponsible.

  39. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 08/28/2011 - 12:50 pm.

    “Why does the public continue to build public stadiums for very private companies?

    Because the public benefits from them.

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