Paul Jacob

Note Michele Malkin’s charges that this is the classic patronage game— using one’s position to reward friends and cronies. This has becomeknown, for abundant reasons, as “the Chicago way.” Certainly, Mr. Obamahas friends and allies deeply involved in the Chicago bid, folks whowould have gained had our president been successful in bringing thegames to Chicagoland.

But I fear something even more dangerous behind Obama’s involvement: The belief that winning the games actually matters economically.

The Olympic Games, you see, are said to spur the economy. This makessense only if you believe that throwing trillions at banks or carcompanies or what-have-you spurs the economy. Further, the collectivepride manufactured through all the hoopla would compel ever morecitizens to the shopping mall, thereby exuberantly spending Americaback into prosperity.

Excuses and public rationales aside, politicians like to make big splashes, to take credit for the panem et circensesthey provide. But Roman bread and circuses were actually financed bywealthy Romans to placate the masses. Today’s bread and circusesrequire slapping higher taxes on the little guy, the better to helpbigger guys.

I remember how, years ago, the same DC politicians who persistentlydecried their lack of money to address the problems of poverty,inferior schools, and terrible levels of crime suddenly found nearly abillion dollars to build a shiny new stadium for millionaire baseballowners — who then provided free luxury boxes to those same politicians.

Our country didn’t become wealthy by hosting sporting events orsubsidizing stadiums. Or bailing out failing businesses. We need jobsthat actually produce products and services valuable enough that peoplewill voluntarily purchase them.

Thankfully, Chicago lost the bid. Call it a triumph, for hosting theOlympics would have created not one permanent productive job. But therewould have been big profits for some — at the expense of areataxpayers.

No wonder less than half of Chicagoans wanted the Olympics to cometo their city. The majority, in this case, possesses the good sensethat the president and his advisors lack. Could it be that — unlikeObama, who lives at The White House — they would have had to pay thehigher taxes and endure the extra traffic jams had the president’seffort been successful?

When the modern Olympics were established at the end of the 19th century, President Grover Clevelandinsisted on spending not one cent of taxpayer funds on the project. Theevent was a private affair, requiring private funding alone. BarackObama should have followed that sensible lead. 

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.