The city of Washington DC is investing $100 million in a new stadium for its soccer club. Why? Hard to say, really. The club’s owners say they can’t make a profit playing in aging RFK Stadium, but it’s not really clear why that’s the city’s problem. In any case, what makes the whole deal palatable is that it’s being done via a complicated land swap that includes some goodies for city residents. Matt Yglesias points out just how ridiculous this is:
Note that while we superficially have a story about sports subsidies here, the real devil’s work is being done by accounting. Imagine we had already sold the Reeves Center to a private developer and moved the government offices across the river and had $100 million sitting around in a room somewhere. Now we’re debating what to do with the $100 million. The option “use it to buy land and then give it for free to a soccer team” would probably not seem very appealing to people. But since selling the Reeves Center and moving the offices is a very good idea, including that swap as part of the bundle rather than considering it separately makes the plan look pretty good.
Actually, you never know. It might very well seem like a good idea. America’s love affair with showering money on profit-making sports enterprises is a never-ending source of awe. Why on earth do we do it?1
1Don’t even think of saying that it pays for itself by generating lots of additional business and tax revenues. Just don’t.