A welfare system exists in this country that transfers hundreds of millions of dollars from taxpayers to individuals who hardly require government assistance. State and local officials, mesmerized by vague promises and starry-eyed visions of the future, cave in to ever escalating demands from the system’s beneficiaries, without ever finding out whether the public is served by such policies. It’s a scandal, really, and reform is long overdue if we are to rein in the abuses perpetrated by … America’s professional sports franchises. Major League Losers is a clarion call that exposes the system by which American cities and states shell out scarce tax dollars to subsidize the expenses of wealthy team owners and their extraordinarily well-paid employees. New stadiums and arenas are built at public expense, but municipalities are regularly shut out from sharing in the profits they generate. Sweetheart deals, negotiated under the threat of a team leaving town, result in many owners receiving land, investment opportunities, luxury suites, prime office space, and practice facilities—all financed by the taxpayers.Mark S. Rosentraub, a leading analyst of the economic impacts of sports on urban areas, has studied the truth behind the claims routinely made by mayors, team owners, and the media, and he has discovered that major league sports have no more than a minuscule impact on the economy of a city or region. They produce few jobs, little tax revenue, and a negligible positive impact even on their own immediate neighborhood. In these times of tight budgets, Rosentraub shows that the current system wastes a colossal amount of public money that Americans cannot afford, and his pointed critique provides government officials and taxpayers with a clearer understanding of how cities can, and should, negotiate with sports franchises to protect the true public good.
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Mark S. Rosentraub is professor and associate dean in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University at Indianapolis, and is director of the Center for Urban Policy and the Environment. He lives in Indianapolis.
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