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Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Tea Party is coming to the rescue! Seriously. Last month, when the Atlanta Braves announced their intention to abandon Turner Field for a new, publicly subsidized stadium in Cobb County, we were all wondering what America’s favorite “populist movement” would have to say. A local government committing hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to a project without a referendum? This was tailor-made for them to go absolutely bananas. And, of course, Cobb County is Tea Party country — the birthplace of Newt Gingrich’s presidential bid and home base of two of its most stalwart members, Republican representatives Tom Price and Phil Gingrey.

On the other hand, when the County Commission passed the plan for the $672 million stadium on a 4-1 vote, the holdout was a lone Democratic commissioner. (Business as usual: When isn’t a highly profitable professional sports team bamboozling a local government into spending millions in tax dollars on a new stadium?)

Liberal talking head Lawrence O’Donnell was confident the Tea Party would cave to the big money. “Here we have the perfect test for the Tea Party,” O’Donnell said on MSNBC after the stadium deal was first announced. “A test the Tea Party will surely fail.”

On the contrary! In the coming days, the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots are expected to file a lawsuit against the Cobb County Board of Commissioners to block construction of the new stadium. The group’s leader, Debbie Dooley, says the deal represents an unconstitutional use of taxpayer money. She also doesn’t like the precedent it could set. “If Cobb County is allowed to get away with this, you can bet other counties will do everything in their power to circumvent a vote by the people for something like this,” she said.

There’s another potential precedent here, too. If the Braves are entitled to subsidies, what about other private corporations? Since the deal was announced, the Weather Channel has already demanded tax breaks for its planned expansion in Cobb County. Who’s next?

There’s something for everyone to hate in the Cobb County deal. Thus, Georgia’s Tea Partiers find themselves making common cause with local environmentalists and transportation activists, who warn that the planned stadium — virtually inaccessible by public transportation — would dramatically increase traffic and pollution in a region already choking on SUVs. Local education advocates oppose the stadium, too; they’d rather see the money go toward closing the county schools’ $80 million deficit and rehiring 182 teachers who’ve been laid off. No wonder the Braves and Cobb County conducted their negotiations in secret.

The man who brokered the deal, Tim Lee, chairman of the county board of commissioners, said the stadium would be an economic boon. He conjured visions of a $400 million development adjacent to the stadium with hotels, retail, restaurants, office space and residences. Yup, it’s the old “ballpark village” con. More often than not, these developments fail to materialize. If this one proves the exception, well, then Cobb County will have just what it doesn’t need: a strip mall on steroids.

For now, however, let’s just thank Dooley and her fellow Patriots and urge them on. Make yourselves useful, Tea Party! Go forth and get angry about publicly financed stadiums! And if the lawsuit falters — we’ll know more about its prospects after it’s filed — the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots can always try to relieve Cobb County’s commissioners of their duties. The Tea Party does love a good recall.

(Jonathan Mahler is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter @jonathanmahler)

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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  • 788eddie

    Finally! An issue with which The Tea Party and I are in agreement.

    I’d better check Hell to see if it’s frozen over.

    • RobertCHastings

      George W. Bush, as one of the owners of the Texas Rangers before his presidency, benefited hugely from the public bankrolling of a new Texas Rangers stadium, money that he eventually spent on his campaign for the presidency, and money, like what will be spent by the state of Georgia and the City of Atlanta, that could be put to much better use helping those who really need a helping hand. Professional baseball is bringing in enough in profits to build new stadiums for every single franchise once every six years. Why should the public foot the bill bill when there are other, more pressing needs, and all the profits from the new stadiums will NOT be funneled back into public use but to line the pockets of the already wealthy owners and players.

      • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

        Yeah. I mean, what will they do if Cobb County doesn’t approve it? Move back to Milwaukee or Boston?

        • RobertCHastings

          I was a kid in Milwaukee, and loved going with my father to County Stadium. Were Milwaukee a larger city, the Braves COULD move back there, but they would have to compete for market share with the Brewers, to say nothing of the White Sox and Cubs to the south, or the Twins to the northwest. With KC and St. Louis within just a few hundred miles, the area is saturated. Oops, almost forgot Detroit.

    • WhutHeSaid

      Don’t start investing in tri-cornered hats and snake flags just yet. The Tea Party has proven itself to be the vilest and most useless collection of nut-bags this country has ever sen. They’ve done absolutely nothing whatever to help Americans. I’m confident that they will find a way to be totally useless on this issue as well, and transform any organized effort into focused hating on other groups of people or voting to repeal Obamacare 347 times.

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  • TheSkalawag929

    I think I saw the devil at Burlington Coat Factory looking at overcoats.

  • Allan Richardson

    It seems to me that, just as the Republican party is splitting into two factions, the Tea Party and the establishment, because the anti-government fanatics are beginning to interfere with the economy now, and that’s “bad for bidness” as they say in Texas.

    Similarly, the Tea Party itself may be splitting into two factions now. The corporate leadership manipulated the passions of frustrated taxpayers to turn them against ALL government, not just bad government (and being careful to define ONLY assistance to the poor, not corporate largess, as “bad” government), creating what we call today the Tea Party. Naturally, the Tea Party grassroots people are beginning to see through this sham in the Cobb County situation. This portion of the Tea Party may be in the process of declaring their independence from their corporate sponsors. If they continue in this pilgrimage, they will learn that their progressive brothers and sisters are not as “socialist” as those sponsors have painted us, and they are welcome to join us on other issues as well.

  • howa4x

    Without a Koch bros bankroll I doubt this lawsuit and group will do much of anything. The TP is good at marching around in circles yipping slogans they were given before the rallies. Now they will actually have to do something. Maybe when they are steamed rolled by big money interests and politicians with a hand out, they will realize that they have been used as pawns by the rich and powerful for their interests only, and not the interests of the people in the TP. Maybe just maybe this will be their wake up call. This group is a little dense, but you never know.

  • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

    As to being accessible by public transportation, neither is The TED.

  • jointerjohn

    If those who make up the various Tea Party Chapters nationwide wake up to the glaring fact that corporate welfare is incompatible with their core philosophy, the fun will really begin! So far they have been duped and manipulated by big money and its political whores. Thus far, they have been incited to rail against the poor and immigrants. If the TP turns against the big boys to be true to their roots, the Koch brothers and the other puppeteers will drop them like a hot rock. Fanatics are dangerous, especially dangerous if they get off their chains. I think a wonderful time for this to blow-up would be right after the republican primary season, and then they can rip into each other all the way to the words “House Speaker Pelosi”.

  • The Savage Hombre

    Where certain efforts are restricted and new ways of doing things are prohibited, we reach a point where our current knowledge shackles us to the known ways of today.

  • Igor Shafarevich

    The argument between the liberty school and the collectivists is not one about improvement, but rather about the best ways of doing so.