Thursday, July 16, 2015

Why I Won't Be Stepping Foot In The Bucks Arena

Back in 1995, I started working for Milwaukee County as a foster care worker.  Little did I know that I was also stepping into a maelstrom.

The State of Wisconsin and Milwaukee County were being sued by a children's rights advocacy group because the system was letting foster kids linger without any sense of permanence.  This lawsuit led to an independent study of the system being done.

The study found that the county was providing the best services it could, but that it was being underfunded by the state.  It turned out that Governor Tommy Thompson and his Republican allies like Alberta Darling, Margaret Farrow and Scott Walker were skimming money they got from the federal government and using it to fill their own budget holes and giveaways for campaign donors. (Sound familiar?)

The state refused to accept these findings and blamed it on poor management by the county.  The state ended up slipping a clause in the state budget stating that the state would take over the county's welfare system.  They did this in 1998 and by 2001, they had privatized almost all of it.  Not only did they fail to improve the system but were now spending tens of millions of dollars more each year on their failing venture.

At the same time, Bud Selig and the Milwaukee Brewers were committing an act of sports extortion.  They threatened to move the Brewers to another city unless the public coughed up hundreds of millions of dollars to build them a new stadium.

With a cry of "Stick it to 'em!", Thompson led the charge to raise a sales tax on the region to pay for the stadium.

I was outraged. They could raise taxes to pay for a playground for millionaire players and millionaire owners but couldn't afford to pay to care for abused and/or neglected children?! WTF?!

I vowed at that time that I would never set foot in Miller Park and would never spend a dime for Brewers gear.

That's a promise that I've kept to this day and there is no sign of my wavering from it.

I feel the same way today about the news that there was a bipartisan agreement* in the state senate regarding the Bucks arena.  It's about the same as the plan devised by Milwaukee County Emperor Chris Abele with two real differences.

One, it adds a surcharge to tickets to events at the arena, with 75% of that going to the Bucks' billionaires.

Secondly, it cuts out Abele's plan to gouge the poor before having state aids to the county cut by $4 million per year.  The end result is the same with taxes going up and/or services being slashed, but at least Abele won't be able to kick people while they are down.

But with those minimal changes, the deal still stinks to high heaven.

There is no justification - especially given the perilous fiscal situation the state and the county is in - for taxpayers to have to pay for the corporate welfare to billionaires.  Heck, if Bucks owner Wes Edens can buy up his third company in a week, he can afford to pay for his own playground.

Supporters of this corporate welfare use basically three talking points to try to defend their indefensible position:
  1. It creates lots of jobs.
  2. It will create a lot of development, especially with the addition of the Plutocrats' Plaza.
  3. It will keep tax revenue coming in.
These are easy to discredit as reasons why we should hand the store to the billionaires.
  1. Those jobs would still be created if the billionaires paid their own way.
  2. Let the people who would profit from the development pay for it - the owners, the land developers, MMAC, WMC, etc.
  3. The area will be a big money-sucking black hole that will take revenue and tax dollars from other places in the city that need it a helluva lot more.  The only exception to this would be the other money-sucking black hole that Abele and Tom Barrett are creating at the lakefront with the streetcar and Couture.
Besides being an inexcusable example of corporate welfare, this is also a major political blunder by the Democrats who have voted for it.

For the first time in years, they have some leverage against the Republicans, but let them off easy.  On top of that, they also gave the Republicans a foil by giving them a way to avoid accountable under the guise of  "bipartisanship."  (Really, shouldn't we be calling it "buy-partisanship" since it's nothing but corporate controlled legislation?)

For these reasons, I am going to make the same promise that I made regarding the Brewers.  I will never set foot in the new arena or the Plutocrats' Plaza.  They are not going to get any more money from me than what they are already stealing with the corporate politicians' help.

*I don't know how they can call an agreement between Republicans and Corporate Democrats bipartisan when they are two sides to the same coin.


  1. You entire column is spot on. The Democrats have learned nothing from the disastrous losses in 2014. The Dem supporters, particularly Larson, are no better than Walker. Everything they do is in their own self interest and their own political safety. They could care less about anyone who is struggling to make a living.

  2. I made the same pledge and have kept it all these years! Add to this that I used to set up and install accounting software outside of Milwaukee which had to calculate sales tax due. NOBODY ever sets that up right. There is a clause in that statute for both Miller and Lambeau that delivery to those areas constituted a sale there which was then subject to the tax. Only if the customer comes and picks it up does the sale occur in your home county. It is based on where the transfer of goods takes place not your home location. As a result there is a huge amount of tax cheating going on out there. Our software did it right if you set it up right. Other packages couldnt do it if you hired the Chinese to hack them.