The penguin and the bureaucrat
By J.J. Jackson
Today I want to share with you a story about how politicians and their bureaucrat buddies screw up that which they decide to meddle with. It's a story about our local hockey team, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Now I know that many of you may not know the difference between a hip check and a bounced check or a blue line and a credit line but indulge me if you will. It's an intriguing tale.
The Penguins of the National Hockey League have called Pittsburgh home for 40 years through really good times and really bad times including the complete bankruptcy of the team. And for all of those years they have played at the venerable "Igloo" or, as it is known in this time of Corporate Sponsorship, the "Mellon Arena". Personally I have always referred to it as the Giant Orange Juicer but that is neither here nor there. The point of the matter is that the Igloo is so old that its condition is described at best as deplorable.
Further it is a condition that has been known for years and for years the city has been promising that there would be a new arena built. Considering the amount of money the city of Pittsburgh makes from leases and taxes raised from people parking to go to events, eating at local restaurants before and after, and other related endeavors one would think that it would be in the best interest of the city to seriously consider making good on its promise.
But, while the city doled out hundreds of millions for singular use venues for both the Steelers and Pirates which only operate a mere fraction of the year, no progress has been made on a year round multi-purpose facility which the Penguins would be happy to lease space in. No progress had been made, that is, until the Penguins finally had enough.
This spring their lease expires and only now that Mario Lemeuix and other team owners have threatened to move the team out of town have people gotten off their butts and started to try and figure out what to do. Isn't that always the way it is with bureaucrats? They pass the buck and keep passing the buck until it is almost too late.
But this is just the start of the story.
See, the Penguins did actually try to solve this problem without costing the tax payers a single dime. They went out and partnered up with Isle of Capri, a company that operates casinos and slot parlors. Isle of Capri was ready to front the hundreds of millions of dollars to build a new arena for the team. The only catch was that they were not just going to donate the funds but actually wanted to make money off the deal by opening a slots parlor in Pittsburgh. I know, shocking huh? Those damn capitalists!
Enter the bureaucrats again. See, even though gambling is legal in Pennsylvania, it is only legal if you are putting your money into the state run lottery or get special permission from the state to open a slots parlor. It's like our own little organized crime ring here run by our illustrious Governor Fast Eddie Rendell.
Regardless of your personal feelings about gambling you are never going to convince me that it is any business of the government how people spend their own money on their own entertainment when that entertainment harms no one else. I do not care if such entertainment is simply to flush money down the proverbial toilet in slot machines.
There is no argument to be made and all that can be put forth is further fear of how government will be required to act as a crutch to help those dumb enough to throw their last quarter down a hole in hopes of a million dollar jackpot. The answer is simple – government should not be involved in that stuff either.
But back to the situation at hand. Now, as luck would have it, Pittsburgh was to be granted a single license for a slots parlor so the deal with Isle of Capri was not dead. But because the government bureaucrats decided that they were the arbiters of who should operate a slots parlor in Pittsburgh and not the people voting with their own feet and money a competition ensued. And when the dust settled, Isle of Capri and the Penguins were not the beneficiaries of government's "benevolent" hand and politicians who, no doubt, found a way to line their own pockets with such a decision.
But never fear! Government bureaucrats to the rescue!
Enter "Plan B", a plan where instead of getting a brand new arena without tax payer expense government funds would be tapped. How nice. Nothing like making sure that government has its hands in the mix right? It's just one more thing to hold over our heads. Our bureaucrats wouldn't have it any other way.
The problem is that the people that own the Penguins and who, Heaven forbid, are trying to make money off their investment are not all that keen on the new proposal. This has the government bureaucrats scratching their heads and hockey fans in Pittsburgh seriously questioning whether or not a team playing to sell out crowds of screaming fans while the rest of the league scrambles to keep pace attendance wise will be in town at all come next season.
I dare say that it is a problem that we would not have if government and the bureaucrats infesting Harrisburg would just commit to protecting liberty for the people and allowing the free markets to work. But if that were the case what would the politicians do with all their time that they spend in the State Capitol? Certainly we would not need the glut of bureaucrats that currently exist to enforce their misguided policies. What we are reaping today is the result of idle hands and the Devil's work.
Over the years, our politicians have felt a need to "do something" to justify their existence and hefty salaries. And what they have done is create for themselves and their cronies job security in a lumbering bureaucracy. And we all know that job security for bureaucrats trumps the liberty of the people in the long run.
At this point could anyone blame the Penguins if they moved? Could anyone really blame them when it was the people that elected these same ignorant politicians that in turn appointed these nebby bureaucrats to run our lives? If the days pass and the Penguins find themselves with no home in Pittsburgh except a decrepit building while a shiny new "Igloo" is calling them in another town like Kansas City who is really ultimately to blame?
I do have one thing to say about the possibility of a move to Kansas City however. Remember the Scouts? Hockey fans will know what I mean.
J.J. Jackson is a libertarian conservative author who has been writing and promoting individual liberty since 1993 and is President of Land of the Free Studios, Inc. He is the lead editor of Conservative News & Opinion – The Land of the Free and comments daily on events at the American Conservative Daily Blog. He is also the owner of The Right Things – Conservative T-shirts & Gifts.