11 April 2011

The Sports-Industrial Complex and its enemies

Last month, voters in Miami-Dade recalled their mayor by an overwhelming margin, in large part to protest the city's plan to build a new baseball stadium at considerable public expense. Since then, the scene has shifted to Arizona in what seems to be a bubbling conflict within the Republican party, or among Republican constituencies, over public spending for the benefit of private sports franchises. In Glendale AZ city fathers want to issue bonds to finance a Chicagoan's purchase of the troubled local NHL team, on the understanding that the businessman will keep the club in Glendale. An additional enticement in the form of a management contract may be unconstitutional, according to the Goldwater Institute, which has warned Glendale authorities that it intends to sue to block what it considers an illegal "gift" to the prospective buyer. As George Will explains it, the Goldwater Institute leans libertarian rather than strictly Republican, but by naming itself after the founding father of modern-day Republicanism, the Institute lays a contentious claim on the late Senator's ideological legacy. For it's trouble, the Institute is likely to be sued by the city, and it's been denounced by Sen. McCain for illegitimate interference (because it's a "non-elected organization") in a transaction that supposedly would keep 1,000 jobs in Glendale. Will recognizes what's afoot in Glendale as a classic case of crony capitalism, noting that the gift clause in the Arizona constitution was designed to suppress that tendency. To make his indignation more palatable to his conservative audience, Will uses a synonym that he apparently coined three years ago -- "booster socialism." His terminology is a little archaic -- he uses "booster" in the old Chamber of Commerce sense of the word -- but it conveys his meaning reasonably well. The tendency he describes -- call it one thing or the other -- combines the worst of both worlds when the state taxes the public or puts itself deeper in debt for the benefit of private concerns, no matter how many jobs are supposedly at stake. Like other occasionally intellectual Republicans, Will occasionally reminds himself that this is how capitalists do business whenever they can get away with it, and that Republican politicians, like their Democratic counterparts, are often all too happy to do business with them. On the evidence from Glendale and Miami-Dade, the fiscally conservative, small-government types within the GOP are increasingly alarmed about "booster socialism," while Republican establishment types are alarmed about the alarm. As in Miami-Dade, the mayor of Glendale is "non-partisan," but as Arizona is a "red" state the dispute over the "Coyote Preservation Act" (referring to the hockey team's name) reveals another fissure in a "conservative" consensus that has never been especially stable. Since the Miami recall was overwhelming popular in an obviously non-partisan way, every uprising against the influence over governments of a sports-industrial complex (to suggest yet another label) is definitely worth watching, no matter what the source.

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