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The Ricketts Family: government spending is horrible unless it benefits the Cubs

Nov 16, 2010, 8:38 AM EDT

Joe Ricketts

We’ve noted how the Ricketts Family is all about getting the government to help them out with the Cubs, be it financing their new spring training complex in Arizona or paying for renovations to their ballpark in Illinois. Par for the course as far as baseball owners go. Those guys are always at the public trough.

But I wasn’t aware until this morning — thanks to a post over at Windy City Watch — that Joe Ricketts, the patriarch of the Ricketts family, is the founder and primary funding source for a political outfit with the sole purpose of limiting wasteful government spending. Check out his video here, in which he talks about how he left the Democratic Party back in the 60s because LBJ spent too much money.  Guess it doesn’t count when the money is being used to benefit billionaires and their businesses.

But that’s just a cynical reaction on my part.  I’m sure the Rickettses can explain to me how those positions jibe together. And I’ll give them the opportunity: I’m going to call both Ricketts’ group — Taxpayers Against Earmarks — and the Chicago Cubs and ask them if they see any inconsistencies between their patriarch’s political activism and their seemingly insatiable hunger for public money. I’ll let you know what I hear.

  1. easports82 - Nov 16, 2010 at 9:02 AM

    I’m guessing you’ll hear crickets

  2. PanchoHerreraFanClub - Nov 16, 2010 at 9:04 AM

    Isn’t appropriate that owner of the Cubs is the head loser?

  3. ThatGuy - Nov 16, 2010 at 9:08 AM

    What you’ll hear is the BSline that the Cubs are a public institution of the city of Chicago and its for the common good of the city or some BS line like that.

  4. BC - Nov 16, 2010 at 9:29 AM

    Do the Cubs qualify as a troubled asset under TARP?

  5. pwf207 - Nov 16, 2010 at 9:37 AM

    Craig, you need to press them a bit when they inevitably try to deflect. Ask for specifics as to how the money the Cubs request is not wasteful. Also you might just inform them that eliminating earmarks will not prevent pork as money will still be allocated by the body given the money or by the executive branch. and that earmarks make up less than 2% of the federal budget so this either seems like a silly cause to get worked up about or its just cover for pressuring spending cuts.

    • Jonny 5 - Nov 16, 2010 at 10:08 AM

      Silly cause you say? Silly response is my answer to you. Dude, take the time to figure out what 2% of 6 trillion dollars is. Then come back and tell me this is a silly cause. 2011 is calling for 6 trillion in spending, while we only create 5 trillion in revenue. That’s a 1 trillion dollar per year hole we’re putting ourselves into. It won’t be long until our creditors say enough is enough and then what? Do you have the slightest clue what happens to this country when we are cut off of our needed 1 trillion dollar annual life line? Seriously this “no big deal” attitude is what’s going to sink this country.

      • Craig Calcaterra - Nov 16, 2010 at 10:13 AM

        I can’t speak for him, but my view of the earmark thing is not that eliminating them is “silly” on its own merits. It may very well be a great idea to reign that in. What is silly, however, is that a lot of people who just got elected by scaring the living hell out of people over out of control government spending are choosing, as their top priority, at a time when their political capital is the highest, to go after a relatively insignificant part of the federal debt.

        If they take care of earmarks as a quick, easy thing to do and then tackle the real budget busters — social security, medicare, defense — mazel tov. If, however, they cut out earmarks, declare victory in the war against spending, and then spend the next two years attacking Obama and talking about bullshit like religion in the public square and gays and other stuff, then they were, in fact, silly. And quite the frauds as well.

        I want to be optimistic, but history has shown that for all of the rhetoric about taxing and spending, no one who has ever been elected on that platform has had the political will to actually do a damn thing about it.

      • tadthebad - Nov 16, 2010 at 10:31 AM


        You’re right and I think that’s bc, whether R or D, keeping the federal spending going equals job security. Money to spend must equal increasing responsibility that can be touted or at least defended during the next campaign (which really never end). In addition to social security/medicare/defense spending, need to reduce or eliminate public pensions. But yeah, earmarks are generally tiddilywinks.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 16, 2010 at 10:39 AM

        Forgive me for putting words in pwf207’s mouth, but sounds like what he’s saying is that it doesn’t matter if we eliminate earmarks or not because the money is already allocated in the budget. So even if we eliminate these specific earmarks, the money is still spent. To put it another way, the budget pie won’t shrink if we eliminate earmarks, the pie will just get sliced up a different way.

        Pretty much what’s said in this slate article:

      • Jonny 5 - Nov 16, 2010 at 10:46 AM

        Craig, perfectly said, and i agree. But one part of what you said makes me sad. We expect failure from our politicians, and accept it as par for the course. Until we start holding politicians to a higher standard we are in big trouble. If a person makes promises to get into office you must hold them to it or vote in someone who will. We have crimminals in office. We have tax evaders in office. Imagine if you ran your household like the federal gov’t runs??? Your house would be auctioned off within a few years. And don’t let the Obama bashers get your little pinky heart all twisted, he’ll be bashed as were every other president before him by the opposing political party, it’s just how it is and will be.

      • Jonny 5 - Nov 16, 2010 at 10:53 AM

        COPO, we don’t need to spend every dollar allocated on a budget. That’s how we actually dig ourselves out of the 20 trillion dollar hole we will be in next year, by doing the opposite.. Spend less on dumb bs we don’t need, or have the money for. Wouldn’t it be nice to not add to the deficit for a change? Wouldn’t it be nice to not spend a billion dollars a year on interest alone? Your misconception that we must spend that money is how these politicians thrive and hurt the economy even more.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 16, 2010 at 11:30 AM

        Jonny5, I agree that it’d be nice that the gov’t didn’t spend money it didn’t need to, but let’s be honest, we’re asking, essentially, a group of lawyers to be economists/finance experts. It’s not their fault they take the money and run with it. They need to get reelected and what better way to do so then bringing tons of money back to their home states! Asking them not to spend money that’s already budgeted is asking Lindsey Lohan to not snort an entire mountain of blow if given the opportunity.

      • Jonny 5 - Nov 16, 2010 at 11:48 AM

        This is why (sorry Craig if you have future political aspirations) We should never vote Lawyers into office. And in the meantime we should all be well aware that budgets are built with extra pork in them for the anticipated earmarks that will be involved to buy the votes of the recipients of these earmarks. It is basically legal extortion And i’m sure that all these ex-lawyers can see this plain as day. Then after the extortion for payback in votes is complete and the money changes hands it’s mostly used irresponsibly and subject to more illegal activity such as awarding no bid contracts, skimming, skimming no bid contracts, and waste. Our political institution is acting much like “organized crime”. And we’re the willing victims.

  6. johnvmoore - Nov 16, 2010 at 10:29 AM

    Hey Craig thanks for linking to my blog post this morning. I look forward to the responses you get. Tom Ricketts is having a press conference this morning touting his plan so be on the lookout for quotes.

  7. paperlions - Nov 16, 2010 at 10:29 AM

    As far as I can tell, most government spending goes to help billionaires and their businesses. For some reason, people hate to have their tax dollars go to the poor, but don’t mind so much if they go to the rich (which is consistent with the history of taxation).

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 16, 2010 at 10:43 AM

      It’s odd that we, especially sports fans, tend to take the billionaires’ sides in fights. For instance, how often do we hear how the players are money grubbing selfish players whenever a strike/lockout happens*? But when’s the last time the media and society at large bashed the owners? It’s billionaire owners fighting millionaire players, and we tend to side with the owners. It makes zero sense, and yet happens every time…

      *and let’s not mince words. CBA/strike/lockout fights are about money. The owners want more of it and so do the players. In the upcoming NFL CBA negotiations, the owners are trying to cut the slice of the revenue pool that’s allocated to the players. At the same time, they are trying to force the players to make an escrow fund to help finance stadiums, which are owned by the owners(!) [department of redundancy department approves the previous statement].

      • Utley's Hair - Nov 16, 2010 at 11:29 AM

        We Philly fans don’t discriminate in the bashing department.

        But as to your main point, I think we as fans view players as much more expendable than owners—they tend to be thin-skinned and whiny enough to threaten (outright or subtle) to move the team.

      • Jonny 5 - Nov 16, 2010 at 11:51 AM

        The owners are just better politicians than players are. They’re experts at deflecting.

  8. hackerjay - Nov 16, 2010 at 11:36 AM

    I don’t see the issue here. The Ricketts could be completely against using public money for this kind of thing, and they could, on a personal level, even be against the Cubs getting public money. That doesn’t change the fact that, as of right now, using public money to help baseball teams is the norm. They would be affecting their chances of making a competitive baseball team if they left $200 million free dollars on the table.

    Someone like George Soros thinks that the rich should pay higher taxes. Do you think he always throws in a little bit extra come tax day because he thinks the taxes should be higher? Or course not, he probably has an army of accountants looking for loopholes to save him a few bucks.

    • johnvmoore - Nov 16, 2010 at 11:53 AM

      I think the difference is Joe Ricketts is actively lobbying against earmarks at the federal level while his kids are operating under the radar at the state and local level trying to secure public funds.

      Yesterday both the National Review and Wall Street Journal mentioned Joe Ricketts involvement in the move to ban earmarks, shouldn’t they have also mention that the family business (the Cubs) is the recipient of an $84 million windfall from Mesa and was seeking $200-300 from the state of Illinois?

    • Utley's Hair - Nov 16, 2010 at 12:03 PM

      So what you are saying is that corporate hypocrisy—and hypocrisy in general—is okay because it is “the norm,” so they should go for it?

      • hackerjay - Nov 16, 2010 at 12:24 PM

        I’m saying that, in business, you have to do what is best for your company (whithin the laws of the land), not necessarily what makes you feel the best.

        Maybe Ricketts thinks it’s terrible that the Cubs could go out and get $200 million. However if ownership turns it away, that means they have to spend ~$200 million to get the stadium fixed up, while almost every other team is out there spending that money on improving their ballclub.

        When you are the owner of a large corperation like the Cubs, you have an obligation to keep that company as healthy as possible, and the methods of doing that doesn’t always match up with your personal beliefs.

      • JBerardi - Nov 16, 2010 at 1:00 PM

        “When you are the owner of a large corperation like the Cubs, you have an obligation to keep that company as healthy as possible, and the methods of doing that doesn’t always match up with your personal beliefs.”

        Yeah, it’s not like it’s his FAULT that he’s a massive hypocrite motivated by greed alone. Ease up on the guy!

      • Utley's Hair - Nov 16, 2010 at 1:32 PM

        “I’m saying that, in business, you have to do what is best for your company (whithin the laws of the land), not necessarily what makes you feel the best.”

        So much for ethics. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that it’s the right thing to do. The billionaires want the government to stay out of their business and business practices—UNLESS they can get a handout, but God forbid the government watch what they do with it.

  9. apbaguy - Nov 16, 2010 at 11:40 AM

    Craig-you also need to separate Social Security as a “budget buster” from discretionary items like defense. SS is funded via payroll taxes and paid into a trust fund and is not funded by appropriations (ie, the Federal budget). The Trust Fund is liquid for now and the liquidity can by maintained by the expedient of extending taxes to all earned income. Currently the cutoff (at around $ 110K) shorts the trust fund as the percentage of income “earned” by the top 1% of wage earners has grown from 9% to 27%, practically the same percentage as the Gilded Age (28%). And those guys were called Robber Barons, for good reasons.

    Secondly, there is no indication that the deficit, as is, is having a material effect on the capital markets. That is, if our deficit were alarming to the world markets the cost of borrowing would be much higher than it is. But reality is that other countries are not alarmed by our indebtedness (many other countries are in far worse shape) nor concerned about our ability or will to repay.

    No doubt the need to reduce and or eliminate the deficits is a real one, but more immediate is the need to accelerate the recovery. When Clinton eliminated the Reagan/Bush deficit he did so in a climate of a more robust economy. The key now is to accelerate the slow progress out of the mire that is our current economy and not succumb to panic and fear as happened in 1932. The economy is growing, too slowly, but it is growing and showing signs of stability. Precipitate cuts will reverse the growth and stability.

  10. professorperry - Nov 16, 2010 at 12:06 PM

    Before discussing the budget, please try this exercise. It’s not perfect, but it puts earmarks into perspective.

    • Rosenthals Speling Instrukter - Nov 16, 2010 at 3:19 PM

      It was an interesting exercise but I think it does miss the mark. The way it is built is that the only we can really get out of a huge deficit is by taking money from the people or making decisions that will hurt senior citizens. It doesn’t really mention small programs (Probably because there are so freakin many of them) that are really wasteful that we can cut (ones of only 30 million or less) which alone seem like nothing but combined can be very significant.

      However it does show that to do a quick cut drastic decisions must be made. Thanks for posting the link :)

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