As is the case with any breaking news story, there are conflicting reports about the details of the Braves new ballpark in Cobb County, Georgia. Specifically the financing. Reports have the place being a $672 million project overall. Some reports, however, have it as a ~$450 million public contribution from Cobb County with the Braves paying for the rest. Other reports are characterizing that $450 million component of it as private funding or private funding “arranged” by the county, with the Braves paying the rest.
We’ll know the details eventually. But even after we think we know the details, be sure to use your critical listening and critical thinking skills to figure out what you’re really being told. Because politicians and baseball team owners are notoriously opaque about this stuff.
Specifically, they’re big on characterizing what are, in reality, public funds as private funds. Or at least something other than tax dollars. Because in the political orthodoxy of the past 30 years, nothing has become more politically toxic than using tax money for anything. Or, at the very least, having one’s political opponents claim you used tax money for something. Even for things that taxes are actually supposed to pay for like, say, fighting off anarchy and society-killing social and economic dislocation!
So they spin. Like crazy. A hotel bed tax — which is most certainly a tax and is most certainly the spending of public money — is often spun as something other than public funds. So too are bonds. So too are loans. So too are tax breaks and abatements. All manner of politicians with actual educations have stood before cameras before and claimed, with a straight face, that those things aren’t the expenditure of public dollars. As if money wasn’t fungible. As if the government’s spending of money it has for one thing doesn’t necessarily mean that the money can’t be spent for another. Or, if it was derived for a sole purpose, that it could have gone un-derived in the first place.
Private expenditures would be the Braves paying for it all. Or the Braves and a consortium of private businesses using their own money. And, hey, it’s possible that Home Depot (based in Cobb County) or the local Lockheed Martin plant could cut $450 million checks for the place. If so, yes, I will view this project in a very different light. I just doubt it’s happening that way because it hardly ever happens that way.
Anyway: wait for the information. And, given the compulsion politicians have to avoid looking like they’re spending taxpayer money on anything besides the military, look skeptically at anyone claiming that this is all a private deal with no costs to the taxpayers.