Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Land of 1000 Scams

Sometime last summer, while we were all distracted by the hypnotic sight of Mark Reynolds striking out yet again (rekindling fond memories of Dave Kingman for those of us of a certain age), Governor Jan Brewer* (* a wholly owned subsidiary of Russell Pearce Inc.), did away with the Arizona Department of Commerce, and replaced it with something called the Arizona Commerce Authority. This is another of those public/private partnerships that the "free market, unchain the engines of capitalism, and stand back in wonder" folks are so enraptured by. For those of you who don't understand how a public/private partnership works, in essence a bunch of businessmen (that's the private part) get their hands on your tax money (that's the public part) and use it for..well, that's a secret until they decide to tell you where the money went and why, but trust them, it's all for the best. Crony Capitalism is always a good thing, and anyone who says otherwise is a god damn socialist.

The Arizona Commerce Authority. Just the name conjures up images of unlimited prosperity, a chicken in every pot, and extra gravy for everyone. So shut up and don't ask any questions. They know what they're doing. After all, Jerry Colangelo is involved. What could possibly go wrong?

Someone named Don Cardon was appointed by Brewer to run this thing. I will now pause while you thumb through your copy of Arizona Hack Pols, 2011 Edition, to try and figure out who he is...Couldn't find him? Me neither. Never mind, Colangelo is the name that matters.

Jerry Colangelo has achieved a level of fame and respect that is mind boggling. That he is thought of as some sort of business sage strains my powers of comprehension. His great 'successes', the Suns and the Diamondbacks, where both monopolies. There was no competition. His stadiums were built with public money. His basketball career was 30 plus years of almost, but not quite. (I've been waiting for 43 years for the Suns to have a legitimate NBA starting center. I'm still waiting. And no, the Shaq experiment doesn't count. But, I digress.) 50 win seasons stacked up to the ceiling. Listen to the cash register ring! After all, it's the only game in town. But championships? Not so much. Of course, it's impossible for a small market team to compete with the big boys. That's why San Antonio has never--oh, wait.

Colangelo's baseball career consisted of spending other people's money indiscriminately. His business model for the franchise was based on maintaining completely unrealistic attendance figures, and deferring as much payroll as he could. Guess what--attendance started to fall after the first year and has fallen almost every year since. My own favorite Jerry Moment was when the Diamondbacks announced they were raising ticket prices on Fan Appreciation Day. Stay classy JC. Even though Jerry was the public face of the franchise, and basked in the glory of the 2001 title, he didn't have a lot of his own money invested, and when the people who had real money in the franchise started to feel the pain of seeing their investment repeatedly devalued, Colangelo was shown the door. Naturally, his departure was met with great lamentation by the local media.

But you can't keep a good man down for long. Somehow Jerry, against all odds, and with an underdog team stocked only with the creme de la creme of the NBA, managed to restore America's lost honor by winning the world basketball championship and Olympic gold medal, defeating along the way those titans from Argentina, Spain, and Lithuania. USA! USA! USA!

And now it's time to give back to the state that made him a legend. The Arizona Commerce Authority couldn't be in better hands. Here is a quote from the man himself: "In my business, when I went after free agents, why did we get them? We made them feel like this would be a great place for them to live, to do business, and raise a family. So it's about recruiting." No Jerry, it's about the money. It is always about the money. How much tax money will you have to give away to entice businesses here? And at what long term cost? Unfettered capitalism seeks out the path of least resistance. That means low wages and no regulation. How many sweetheart deals will be cut on the golf course of the Phoenix Country Club? Naturally, in the interest of confidentiality, the public will learn about these deals only after the fact. So who's going to be keeping an eye on you? Jan Brewer? Ha! The Legislature? Double Ha!

The icing on the cake is that the Arizona Commerce Authority was funded with $10 million of Federal stimulus money. You know, that tainted lucre that Obama (my favorite Kenyan Socialist Muslim ever, I think) was handing out so recklessly. The money that any Governor who was a true-blue patriot concerned about the deficit, and not in fact a complete hypocrite, would refuse to accept. Yeah, that money. Which will be supplemented by $25 million more from the state. So, all of you people on AHCCCS waiting for organ transplants should keep your Country Club memberships current and hurry up and send in a business plan to Jerry and Don. Who knows, maybe you'll get lucky.

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