Yet another poll shows a majority of Minnesotans oppose taxpayer funding for a Vikings stadium. But will they end up paying a stadium tax anyway?
According to an account in the Star-Tribune, “two-thirds of Minnesotans say the team should stay in the Metrodome and 75 percent oppose public subsidies for the project, a new Minnesota Poll shows.”
I’ll admit that my thoughts on the subject–read my lips, no stadium taxes–are compatible with my general lack of interest in the NFL generally. But there are two more fundamental points to consider. One, stadiums don’t “create jobs,” they merely concentrate in one location spending that would otherwise occur elsewhere–in bowling alleys, on food, and so forth.
The second point goes to the question of where you stand on the role of government in the market: Should it provide a stable, predictable legal and regulatory environment within which employers operate, or should it pick and choose specific industries or even businesses to support?
Targeted tax benefits are sold to the public on several grounds, such as environmental benefits (various subsidies to Big Ag and the ethanol industry) or job creation in especially “worthy” locations (the JOBZ program).
In this case of stadiums, the rationale, aside from the questionable economic impact angle, is simply this: “We like this business more than others, and want to lavish some love on them.” That’s why we create a tax for the Minnesota Twins, and debate creating one for the Minnesota Vikings, but not, say, Mike’s Minnesota Movers. I could riff on MMM for a while–hey, let’s create a taxing district to oversee the creation of a new warehouse and shipping terminal for Mike; he’s got some great-looking trucks, hooray!–but I’ll spare you.
The difference between “saving Detroit” through a government takeover of GM and enacting a tax to “retain the Vikings as a state asset” is one of degree, not kind. Both involve elected officials handing out special favors that will decide the shape of the business landscape, rather than letting the personal preferences of millions of freely choosing consumers do the job.
By the way, there’s an interesting class angle here: “Minnesotans earning $75,000 or more were among the biggest supporters of public subsidies for a new Vikings stadium, while those earning less than $30,000 were the strongest opponents.” More on that, perhaps, on another day.