Next week the Minnesota legislature will decide whether to build a football stadium that would ensure that the Vikings remain in the Twin Cities for the next generation. I've been a football fan in general and specifically a Vikings fan my entire life. Memories of watching them play are plentiful, especially the happier memories of their successes in my childhood. Losing the team would greatly disappoint me.
So why am I writing this post to the legislature to reject the Vikings' bid for a publicly financed stadium? Because I need to walk the talk of my conservative beliefs. For almost as long as I've been a Vikings fan, I've railed against wasteful government that oversteps its bounds. Using public funding to support a private enterprise is the most basic example of government waste.
The Vikings are a private enterprise that employs hundreds of Minnesotans. However, they appear to be bigger and more important than their economic impact suggests. Examples of Minnesota companies much larger than the Vikings include Valspar, Pentair, and Fastenal. Each of these companies employs thousands of Minnesotans, and generates billions of dollars of revenue (over $10 billion between the three companies). You don't hear our legislators debate about giving these companies hundreds of millions of dollars. Yet the Vikings generate a small fraction of their revenue ($221 million), but because of their visibility in the form of TV contracts we are talking about providing them with a capital asset, courtesy of the taxpayers, of nearly $1 billion.
Investing capital into a medium sized employer may make financial sense. However, one must derive a return from this investment. The problem with building a stadium is that the investors (taxpayers) don't receive any of the return. This is not the same as building infrastructure, it is more like providing a payoff to a favored campaign donor. Anyone who is honest about the economic impact of public stadiums can see that they are an inefficient use of government funds.
If conservatives want to have any success in reversing the trend of government waste, we must accept that things we might like that don't fit the true role of government must be first on the chopping block. I'd also argue that it is immoral to oppose welfare for borderline needy while providing significantly greater welfare to a billionaire like Ziggy Wilf.
Do the right thing, legislators. Just say no to a billion dollar boondoggle.