Telling people “I told you so” is probably not a good way to win friends and influence people. However, when you debate something contentious (like stadium subsidies), it’s tempting to gloat when the facts vindicate you.
Hence my struggles after reading this new story in the Post-Dispatch. The story reports that, according to emails from Budget Director Paul Payne, the St. Louis Rams are not generating enough tax revenue to cover the debts associated with the construction of the Edward Jones Dome. Due to the fact that Saint Louis City only collects taxes from the Rams during home games, the players and staff barely pay anything in earnings taxes to the city. This is something we’ve been talking about for months now. The Rams do not pay for themselves and to say otherwise is simply wrong.
Consider these three things:
1. The Dome has not lead to revitalization of the surrounding area.
2. Subsidies for sports stadiums do not generate economic growth.
3. The taxes generated by a new stadium project cannot offset the amount of the subsidy.
Given these points, what economic justification could there be to subsidize construction of a new stadium?
The truth is there is no economic justification for public money being spent on constructing a football stadium. If people want to make the case that football is a luxury good that residents can enjoy, they are free to do so. However, I don’t think it’s good policy to force people in Springfield, Kirksville, and Joplin to pay for a luxury good in Saint Louis.
Sometimes it isn’t fun to be right. Still, when the facts bear you out, it’s worth mentioning. I hope policymakers consider this when deliberating on whether more subsidies is the way to go.