Have you ever looked at your check? I mean really looked at it. Take a look at your gross pay, then drag your eyes over to your net pay, and wonder 'where the hell is all my money going'?!
Me too. For at least one destination, let's trace the money steps.
A recent Gallup poll suggests that approximately 59% of all Americans self-identify as sports fans. And why not; they're fun, a reason of gathering for millions of people each year and trigger that inner competitive spirit in so many of us. Not to mention they make it that much more socially acceptable to yell at the t.v. than most plot twists on Game of Thrones (outside of the Red Wedding, that was BANANAS). Despite only a little over half of us being sports fans, all 100% of taxpayers fund, funded and will continue to fund most of the country's NFL, MLB and NBA complexes.
In 2006, deals for the financing of Yankee Stadium and Citi Field were agreed upon. A few years later, the Barclays Center followed. The financial terms of these specific complexes are particularly insidious and exploitative to the public.
The Barclays Center received $122 million in federal bonds. Citi Field received $185 million in federal bonds. And Yankee Stadium received a crazy $431 million in federal bonds, by far the most federal funding of any U.S. major sports complex. That money has to come from somewhere. And that somewhere is all of us. The country as a whole is on the hook for that $738 million.
That's enough to cover what the White House wants to cut for funding of pre-disaster money for mass disasters like Katrina or Hurricane Sandy, affordable housing units, and counter-terrorism combined.
To dig deeper, Barclays Center will collect $183 million of New Yorker money in city and state taxes. Citi Field? They will collect $234 million of your city and state taxes. And Yankee Stadium, you ask. They've got their hands in your pockets for the amount of $528 million of your city and state taxes.
This money comes straight out of your paycheck from the line labeled NY State Income Tax. When taking into consideration New York State's population and the historical inflation adjusted median household income for New York (1) (try saying that 3 times fast), the average New Yorker paid $1,596 in NY income tax in 2006. After the three aforementioned sports complexes were firmly established on New York State's books, the average New Yorker paid $2,383 in 2015.
All of this while experiencing a $945 DECREASE in median NY inflation adjusted household income during those years. On average, we made $945 less in 2015 than we did nine years earlier.
That's $1,772 less a year you have to spend on groceries. To spend on your wife, husband, girlfriend or boyfriend. $1,772 you could've spent on a really nice family vacation. To buy pampers or formula for your baby. More than enough to buy monthly MTA cards for the entire year.
Instead it's being funneled to help pay for sport complexes their owners could have more than afforded to pay for themselves. Let me just say this for the record: I don't ever want to hear another person queue up the tired 'welfare queen' narrative ever again.
And New York isn't the only state that's gotten played like this, just one of the more recent. An interesting study done in 2007 (2) suggests something called group identity theory. In this theory, the fan sees himself as not just a consumer, but a member of the organization. Some of us fans, we go hard. So when the owners want a new stadium and it's not precisely on their terms that saves them as much money as possible while costing the generic, significantly less wealthy, fan more, it's more or less a 2 step process. The owner threatens to move the team outside the city. The fans freak, the politicians cave, and they cost the taxpayers millions in the process. Happens just about every time. Wash, rinse and repeat. And when the owner, or their spokesperson is asked why the taxpayers should take on such astronomical costs, the default response is that the new stadium would generate heaps of jobs and money for the local economy. That, many times over, and as detailed in a 2015 Stanford study, (3) has been proven false. Publicly funded stadiums, arenas or complexes almost always cost the taxpayers more money than the new revenues generated.
To tie this all up into one hell of an expensive knot, keep in mind the next time you glance at the breakdown of your paystubs where everything goes. Take a look at the amounts automatically deducted for your federal and state income tax, and just know that you're doing your philanthropic part to help fund sport complexes for decades to come for struggling majority owners worth a combined $2 billion. With a capital B.