Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) recently announced that he’s abandoning “Spygate” as a matter of federal interest. Others might call this “a belated genius for the obvious.”
Instead, Specter will occupy his time by poking into the matter of publicly funded stadiums (“stadia” is archaic, right?). In a sensible universe, the municipalities in question would grow a pair and refuse to give in when sports leagues agitate for corporate welfare. MLB, the NFL, and others are fond of hoodwinking the public with promises of the economic growth that will follow their decision to buy them a place to do business. The claims are spurious. All tax-funded stadiums/arenas do is siphon revenues from local businesses; provide low-wage, temporary, seasonal employment; and saddle the public coffers with a hefty opportunity cost.
Public officials know this, of course, but they’d rather be known among wonks as the one who caved to corporate interests than known among constituents as the one who allowed the hometown team to move to (insert trendy Sunbelt city here).
None of Specter’s and Congress’ business? Well, thus far he’s targeting just those leagues with some flavor of federal antitrust exemption, in which case, yeah, it’s their business. In any event, it’s a good thing that Specter is devoting his energies to something that at least vaguely makes a difference to the public.