By the time you read this, it will all be settled. Oklahoma City will have either continued the national trend of subsidizing the construction or renovation of sports venues through tax dollars by passing “MAPS for Millionaires,” or struck a needed populist blow against it, inspiring others to “just say no.” I predict, alas, that it will be the former. In Oklahoma, we love sports more than Jesus, and we hate being confused with the facts.
We also desperately want to be a “Big League City,” even though that’s what we have already become. We proved it by hosting the New Orleans Hornets, and by being at the top of the list of cities that qualify for an NBA franchise now ” not after making $120 million worth of publicly financed improvements to a brand-new Ford Center.
Both the original MAPS project and MAPS for Kids were inspiring successes. They proved that taxing people for the common good improved all our lives, regardless of whether we like professional basketball. Extending that same sales tax, however, which was set to expire, and then saying this will not “increase taxes” is a transparent deception. Using those funds, not for the common good, but to make improvements designed to expand the profit margin of an NBA franchise, is simply wrong. Making exaggerated claims about how it will benefit everyone is not only easy to disprove, but according to some studies about the economic impact of new stadiums, simply false.
George Orwell wrote, “The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns, as it were, instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink.”
I voted no not because I am against having an NBA team in Oklahoma City, but because the way it has been sold to the voters is “insincere,” to put it mildly. Taxes are for public works or public institutions, and taxing people to support private businesses is not only morally wrong, it is fundamentally un-American. Because this is a trend across the country, and the “stadium scam” is always the same (give us a new one or we leave), we need an old-fashioned tax revolt ” an anti-stadium extortion tea party. This is taxation without participation!
I voted no because I’ve been around long enough to remember when the racetrack was going to save us, and now the lottery. What’s more, I have never met a true conservative who did not hate taxes ” unless, of course, those funds were to end up in his pocket.
We are living in an age in which the wealthiest Americans are being subsidized by the rest of us “for our own good.” Whatever happened to personal responsibility, pay as you go, and equal sharing of risk and reward? Today’s business tycoons have figured out how to take risks with other people’s money. Rewards are privatized, while risks are socialized. This is how George W. Bush got rich, persuading Texans to finance a new stadium, and then making millions on the sale.
Today’s bogus conservatives love to quote Adam Smith’s invisible hand. But what they prefer is the taxpayer’s golden parachute. The government is evil, they say, because it takes from the rich and gives to the poor. Not anymore. Now we have Robin Hood in reverse, perpetrated by people who tell the poor that they are being robbed for their own good.
I voted no because this is a “Big League Hoax.”
Meyers is minister of Mayflower Congregational Church in Oklahoma City and professor of rhetoric in the philosophy department at Oklahoma City University.