Thursday, November 5th, 2009
“Congratulations to the Yankees on a well-purchased victory,” writes Dan Gerstein, a political consultant, on his Facebook status.
Within 24 hours this week, the highest spending politician in the world and the top-spending sports franchise both celebrated victories. Yet neither can claim a blow-out. Mike Bloomberg walked away with a 5 percent margin over an opponent who sent a tenth as much, losing some 200,000 of his 2005 supporters.
And the Yankees, who committed to $400 million for three new players alone this season, came out two games ahead of the Phillies in a hard-fought series against the defending world champions.
Maybe it’s appropriate that the city with an economy larger than many countries should be home to these free-spending public spectacles. But even though I rooted for the Yankees, I feel almost guilty feeling good about the success of a greedy corporation that just built the nation’s most publicly financed stadium. After the city sold some $941 million in tax-free bonds to build the stadium, the team spearheaded a lobbying effort to get the IRS to allow some 300 million more. The Daily News reported that the city will spend $194 million to replace 22 acres of parkland used by the stadium, far more than the $116 million originally projected. An Assembly committee has accused the team of misrepresenting costs, even as they jacked up ticket prices.
In lieu of a corporate sponsor, they ought to call it Taxpayer Field.
At the same time the Yankees got their tax break, Gov. Paterson was unable to get legislative approval for a property tax cap because the money from struggling homeowners was too important for funding our schools and social services.
If Bloomberg spent $90 million, he paid $161.56 for his 557,059 voters, or $1,787 for each of the 50,342 voters that gave him the victory. It’s his honestly earned money to spend, and has spent far more than that on philanthropy. But there are those who say he could have done as much good for the city, or more, by donating it.
“Forty thousand people in homeless shelters!” shouts Alex Pareene in a breathless non-endorsement of Bloomberg on Gawker.com. ” Bloomberg could personally buy every single one of those people an apartment in a vacant Williamsburg luxury condo building and still have enough left over to bribe a City Council member into supporting his fifth term.”
It’s a futile pursuit to tell people who have money how to spend it more wisely or nobly. But during the Yankee tickertape parade and the Bloomberg inauguration, I’m sure I won’t be the only one wondering what their combined $490 million could have meant for medical research.