The Ricketts’ idea to seek amusement tax increment financing to renovate Wrigley Field is kind of blowing up in their faces. Rich Miller has his dander up:
Taken as a stand-alone, the renovation plan has plenty of merits. But this family has literally spent millions of dollars stoking hatred of government subsidies for just about everything. To see them now eagerly run to Big Brother with an out-stretched hand kinda makes me ill.
I didn’t know Pa Ricketts was an AEI board member or that he thinks earmark-driving welfare queens are hooligans (starring Jeffrey Lebowski as the Ricketts patriarch!), but I’m not surprised at all. Also, lulz.
In limited fairness to the Ricketts, they don’t exactly want a handout per se. What they want is a government loan through the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority that would be paid back with what amounts to a company-specific tax break—which is to say they wouldn’t have to pay any more in amusement taxes than they did in 2009—over the next 35 years (which strikes me as an ambitious repayment plan). So it’s a government subsidy only on the sense that they want the friendly terms of an ISFA loan and have the clout to ask for it, although it’s looking like they don’t have the clout to get it. If you think that a 12% amusement tax is too high, their plan looks a bit less offensive.
So what’s the difference between, say, Groupon and the Cubs? Besides an order of magnitude, of course, it’s leverage. Groupon hinted that they’d move. The Cubs’ only leverage is their declared lack of a Plan B, which is just kind of insulting: “we want a government loan because we don’t have any other ideas” isn’t a great negotiating tactic.