It's Robin Hood in reverse. Politicians take money from taxpayers and give it to people like Reinsdorf and George W. Bush. (Years ago, Bush, along with his fellow owners of the Texas Rangers, got taxpayers to build the team a stadium.)
I confronted Governor Thompson: Wasn't he just taking money taxpayers were forced to give the government and giving it to a rich friend?
"It wasn't our tax money," he said. "I mean, the whole baseball field is built on the hotel/motel tax. Chicagoans don't pay hotel/motel tax. Guys from New York like you pay hotel/motel taxes. What a great deal."
Not for the out-of-towners, it isn't -- and not for the Chicago businesses where they might have spent the money. Thompson's reasoning is as muddled as the fallacy in economist Frederic Bastiat's story of the broken window:
In a small town, an idiot breaks a shop window. He's called a vandal, until someone points out that a window installer now must be paid to replace the window. The window installer then will have enough money to buy a new suit. A tailor will then be able to buy a new desk. And so on. The whole town apparently gains from the economic activity generated by the broken window. Of course, if this made sense, cities should hire people to run though town, breaking windows.
But it doesn't make sense. It's a fallacy because the circulating money is seen; what is not seen is what would have been done with the money if the window were still whole. The shopkeeper, instead of paying the window installer, might have expanded his business, or bought a new suit or a new desk. The town is worse off because of a broken window.
Subsidizing stadiums is equally foolish.