We now live under a cloud of crisis where debt is socialized and profit is privatized. It’s like Marxism brought to you by the House of Morgan. And we have Treasury Secretary Hammerin’ Hank Paulson to thank.
Like father, like son. Meet Merritt Paulson, the spawn of Henry Paulson. Yes, his name is Merritt. That would be like if Dubya had been named “Smarty” Bush.
Thirty-five-year-old Merritt, by virtue of hard work and hundreds of millions of family dollars, owns the Portland Beavers, a minor league baseball team, and the second tier soccer squad, the Portland Timbers. While his father goes through $700 billion of our money to bail out the banks, Merritt wants his own socialized crumbs from the community table.
He is insisting upon $85 million in public funds from the City of Portland to build a new sports complex for the Beavers and to upgrade the Timbers’ stadium.
Merritt, to be fair, is not the sole owner of the Beavers and Timbers; he has only an 80 percent stake. The man with the remaining 20 percent stake is . . . wait for it . . . Hank Paulson himself.
You can almost imagine the scene: the Paulsons in front of a roaring fire, lighting Cohibas with 100 dollar bills, ruminating on their $700 billion credit line, and saying, “What’s $85 million more?”
Keep in mind that Hank Paulson is worth $700 million on his own (he just loves that 700 number). The cash between the cushions at the Paulson family compound could pay for the new stadium in Portland, and yet Merritt wants more. He wants more, even though 16 percent of Portland’s children live below the poverty line, and the homeless rate in the fair city has nearly doubled over the last year.
Merritt Paulson has laid the groundwork for this budget grab by trying to present himself, in the best liberal Portland tradition, as a community-minded idealist who wants responsible development for the delicate Pacific Northwest town.
In an interview with Biz of Baseball—a website that shills with the aggression of an auctioneer for publicly funded facilities—Merritt said, “I think sports is such a unique vehicle in terms of being able to shine light on areas of the community that could use the help. It’s something that everybody relates to.” He also, as the perfumed love note of an article made clear, gave $10,000 to the local little league. This is a very modest investment if you have $85 million in public funds as an ultimate goal.
Of course, Merritt makes the case that the expenditure would be economic tonic for the community. But that’s not holding water, not even with diehard local fans. As Jules Boykoff, a former pro soccer player and a big Portland Timbers fanatic who brings his six-year-old daughter to the games, wrote in The Oregonian: “I would love for Major League Soccer to come to Portland. But it’s unfair to have working people and their families pay for the venture when the already cloudy economic future is anything but a sure bet. If Merritt Paulson’s affection for Portland is real—and I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that it is—it’s time for him to step up and put his money where his mouth is. Should he do so . . . my daughter and I will be the first in line to buy season tickets.”
I think there are many others like Boykoff who will happily support their local sports teams but don’t want to feel like suckers in the bargain. We are living in a recession that will only deepen in the months to come. Asking taxpayers in this climate to give a multimillionaire a new stadium is bad enough. But when the request comes from the Paulsons, you really wonder whether we live in an era absent of shame.
Dave Zirin is the author of the recently published “A People’s History of Sports in the United States.”