Limited Taxation
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Barbara's Column
May 5, 1999

We're Citizens for Taxpayer-Funded Football Fields?

We're Citizens for Taxpayer-Funded Football Fields?

The Patriots are back! No, the Patriots were never gone! The Patriots are staying!


Somebody once asked me, as executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation, if we supported spending state money to keep the New England Patriots in Massachusetts.

Amazed by the question, I could only respond sarcastically that we were thinking of changing our name to Citizens for Taxpayer-funded Football Fields.

Where would anyone get the idea that a taxpayer group would support using taxpayer dollars to subsidize a game? More importantly, where would anyone get the idea in the first place that taxpayer dollars should subsidize a game?

Once upon a time, taxes were connected to something called "essential services." There has been some debate about what is essential, and to whom. But it is generally agreed, even by libertarians, that national defense, public safety and the courts are essential.

Let's see, do the New England Patriots fall into the category of national defense, public safety and the courts? Ignoring jokes about certain football players who were in court after threatening public safety, the answer appears to be "No."

Well, Thomas Jefferson said that publicly-funded education is essential to a democracy because voters must be well-educated in order to make wise choices.

Even despite obvious flaws in his vision, do the New England Patriots fall into the category of education? Hardly; and let's try not to think about the allegedly-educated voters who have been seen on television news, their semi-naked bodies painted red, white, and blue, demanding a taxpayer-subsidized football team.

Caring for the poor, the sick, and the handicapped is considered essential. Bob Kraft is none of those, nor are his well-compensated athletes who, even if injured, are well-insured. And let's try not to think about the wealthy civic leaders who, if we taxpayers chip in our share of the Patriot package, will get to impress their corporate clients in their luxury boxes.

Infrastructure is essential: a football stadium has the same right to a nearby road as the rest of us citizens. But the state doesn't provide Walmart with land, or Stop and Shop with a parking lot.

Well, what about the economy? Isn't it essential to subsidize businesses so that they'll create jobs in Massachusetts?

In my humble opinion, any business that accepts bribes from the stolen tax dollars of its employees and customers should be shut down and its owner jailed, along with the politicians who offer him taxpayers' money.

This is not to say that we shouldn't be nice to businesses. They are entitled to the same infrastructure that the rest of us get for our taxes: roads, bridges, and traffic lights; access to water and sewage treatment; police and fire protection. Unfair tax policy that penalizes job creators should be corrected, as has been done in recent years with Fidelity and Raytheon. Doing our best to provide an educated workforce would be nice someday, since we're supposed to be doing that for democracy anyhow.

The Patriots want more, the Senate wants to give it, and the Massachusetts House has resisted for reasons of its own, none of which have anything to do with concern for the taxpayers.

If the present Patriots deal goes through, the team will get $70 million, some of it legitimate infrastructure, some of it not. If the deal does not go through, there are no plans to return that $70 million to taxpayers. The tiny tax cut passed last month by the House and not yet endorsed by the Senate comes from the giant state surplus, which comes from a 1989 "temporary" tax hike that is no longer needed for even the broadest definition of essential services.

The money won't be returned because many people feel entitled to something at the expense of taxpayers who may not share their definition of the word "essential." Theysupport a high tax burden that benefits themselves or makes them feel virtuous about spending other people's money. Taxpayer activists get used to the sight of selfishness and greed.

But it's hard to get used to the sight of tax subsidies for a toy business, for a mere game in which both teams win because the taxpayer is picked to be the loser, once again.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation.  Her syndicated columns appear in the Salem Evening News, the Lowell Sun, the Tinytown Gazette and other publications around the state.

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