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Stadium Idea Keeps Collapsing

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When investor George Soros, often cited an an unlikeable guy but certainly someone with acute business acumen, bowed out from ownership of D.C. United after three years in a start-up role, those will less money should have paid attention. But they may have opted to keep plugging away because they thought you - the taxpayer - would be there to bail them out. Or at least, help them dig the hole deeper.

I live in a major metropolitan area beset by the same evil that people around the world face these days - greedy politicians and their friends. About forty minutes' drive from my home is a basically unused civilian airport costing a comparable $450 million (but in Thai Baht), and a nearly $2 billion (Baht) sports stadium that virtually empty 99% of the time. There is also an expensive taxpayer-supported cultural center down the highway, also over $100 million (Baht) that people can't afford to even pay for the lighting!

These projects and others of their ilk are sponsored by politicians and leading card sharks (aka bad investors with your money in mind) because of something called "far sightedness," or "vision of the future." They seldom have anything to do with that great stumbling block - feasibility study - which would quickly quash any such stupid debt-ridden and taxpayer funded schemes. The Bolivian influence in D.C. United's push for a new stadium is admirable as a joint effort, but we need to look at everyone in the city and not just the guys who like soccer. Soros saw this, bailed out to Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG). And one investor followed another until attendance began dropping off so alarmingly that the common sense resident of D.C. thanked God saying, "Thank God we don't have a mob asking to build a new stadium at our expense!"

But then the mob did ask. The ethnic backers, the local politicians sensing votes and re-election needs, the municipal dreamers who were able to create really neat perspective views and traffic plans and pictures of imaginary people attending a hypothetical stadium built with at least 50% taxpayer funding. One thing these mob members forgot to do was something called an economic feasibility study - "Economic Feasibility - The purpose of the economic feasibility assessment is to determine the positive economic benefits to the organization that the proposed system will provide. It includes quantification and identification of all the benefits expected. This assessment typically involves a cost/ benefits analysis."

The basic reason for this study is, of course, to find out whether this is going to be one of those buckets with holes in the bottom or a gold mine. But if you are a far-vision incumbent or member of an "in" group that likes nice parties and beautiful women and big spending with little accountability of ever paying anyone back, then perhaps an economic feasibility study is not needed - right?

I'm among the old generations. My grandmother and grandmother were born near the end of the 1800s and died in the mid 1060s. I recall my grandma's repeated observation even back then that "The world is going to Hell in a handbasket." Now I was kind of young and didn't really understand what she meant. But now, some six decades later, I know. Human nature is in some sense intrinsically greedy and selfish. It is rarely accountable. And in politicians, never. Ever get one to answer a yes or no question with yes or no? If you ask the D.C. Mob will this stadium pay for itself and will the taxpayers see their money back in their lifetime?...the reply will be something about understanding your concerns but that you need to appreciate the long-term impact to the people of D.C. who would be deprived of this by self-definition "winner." If, they do not admit, you can't prove something will be profitable up front, taxpayers have no place in paying for it. This is what's fair. What's right. It used to be what's American. So in a sense, then, agitators for pilfering public money to pay for self-infatuated pet projects are non American-spirited.

It goes beyond accountability and greed and secret plans known only to insiders as corrupt and wasteful. It goes to the essence of what America is, and what Americans used to be. We used to be caretakers of our land. We used to watch out for one another. At least in principle. But over time we've tossed those principles aside in favor of temporary photo opportunity glory and personal bank account fattening - at the expense of others. It's as if we assume the rest of the country is our insurance policy no matter what we get involved in. There are overtones of Democrat here, but it's more or less just greed and corruption. Cancel the stadium idea once and for all, or come up with an honest feasibility study that proves to us, all of us, that your head is screwed on straight.

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