Last Thursday, through some quirk of fate that I’m still trying to figure out, I found myself in a hearing room in the U.S. House of Representatives’ Rayburn Office Building, testifying about the use of public money for sports stadiums. The (deep breath) Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Domestic Policy, chaired by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), had myself and several other stadium experts and activists in to speak; as the Seattle Post-Intelligencer put it afterward, “deMause’s skeptical views dominated the hearing,” with widespread agreement that the $2 billion a year in taxpayer money that goes to fund sports facilities is a Very Bad Thing. (One Republican representative even complained about the consensus of opinion, apparently not having noticed that he was welcome to bring in a pro-stadium-subsidy economist to testify, if he could find one.)
The experience wasn’t all that unfamiliar for anyone who’s attended a city council hearing, say, though Congress does have much nicer furniture. (Each member’s office has a customized doormat with the outline of their state on it - make your own joke here.) Some of the more interesting moments from a baseball perspective included: Frank Rashid of the Tiger Stadium Fan Club and Joyce Hogi of the Bronx group Save Our Parks, on the ultimately unsuccessful campaigns to save Tiger Stadium and Yankee Stadium; IRS chief counsel Don Korb, who looks and sounds alarmingly like Bud Selig, explaining how the law required his agency to allow the Yankees and Mets to call their stadium payments public money for tax purposes, even while telling the city council it was all private money; and the Congressman from Dayton who spent ten minutes arguing with me about the substitution effect, apparently in the hopes of convincing America that it’s better to let a hundred guilty stadiums go free than to condemn one innocent one to go unbuilt.
If you want to view the proceedings for yourself, you can do so via C-SPAN’s website (click on “House Hearing on Taxpayer Financed Sports Stadiums” and be prepared to suffer through RealPlayer), which should keep it archived for the next week or so. Or if you just want to read my testimony you can do that here.