The Sport of Ball-Park Socialism

Let's go to the sports desk [Sports theme] for the Wide, Wide, Wide, WILD World of Sports!

Today's feature: St. Mammon challenges St. Louis. The St. Louis Cardinal's baseball team is one of the most storied in the game, with such great players as Dizzy Dean, Stan "The Man" Musial, Ozzie Smith, and Mark McGuire having worn the red-and-white uniform. And Cardinal fans are some of the most loyal of fans anywhere, regularly filling the stadium and putting a steady flow of profits into the pockets of the team owners.

But in 1995, new ownership took over, led by William DeWitt, an Ohio financier who is a former business partner and big-time political funder of George W. Bush. In 1989, DeWitt had brought George into a partnership that bought the Texas Rangers baseball team. Two years later, the DeWitt-Bush team got the taxpayers to build a new, $150-million stadium for them, which greatly inflated the team's value and let both of them walk away with millions when they later sold the Rangers.

Like a crafty old pitcher, DeWitt is now throwing his corporate screwball at the people of St. Louis, demanding that Missouri taxpayers pony up $390 million to build a new sports palace for him there. Ray Hartman of The Riverfront Times writes that "the loyal public is aghast," with two-thirds of St. Louisians opposed to this rip-off. Hartman notes that DeWitt and his partners "collectively have $4 billion in assets" and "could very easily finance a new stadium privately."

But while the fans oppose this raw deal, top politicians are dutifully backing the Big Money Boys. Sadly, so is the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which used to criticize such silly subsidies. But now it's editorializing in favor of the deal--perhaps because the newspaper's ownership group recently joined DeWitt as an owner of the Cardinals.

This is Jim Hightower saying ... And that's the way the game is played by today's corporate conservatives, who preach free-enterprise, the dirty sport of ball-park socialism.

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