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No putter left behind

By Michael R. Shannon
web posted October 19, 2009

It's disconcerting when you find yourself in agreement with Venezuela's rosy–cheeked dictator Hugo Chavez twice during the same day. I'm going to let others cover Hugo's dismay at the Nobel Public Relations Prize being awarded to President Obama; which leaves me free to focus on the Big Enchilada's thoughts on golf.

On Chavez's television show "Alo Presidente" (which is Spanish for "Get a Load of This Dumbass!"), the paunchy people's populist criticized golf as "bourgeois" and said no sport is as associated with the rich as golf.

All of which is true. Golf certainly isn't like shooting dice. Now there's a sport of the people. All that's required is a liquor store, a few handguns and a pair of dice. No vast acreage that could be used for "affordable housing." No goofy little electric carts that reek of martinis and high cholesterol. And certainly, no annual use of enough fertilizer to level downtown Oklahoma City again.

Just the sidewalk, that delicious frisson of danger and "baby needs a new pair of shoes."

Government overreach, though, is not confined to South American strongmen. Local sports commissars are also vulnerable to the empire–building virus.

Where I live the county has anticipated Chavez and already runs three golf courses. Golf here is not a sport of the proletariat and evidently it's not even a sport of economists. County–owned courses are chronic money losers and this will cost taxpayers over $1 million dollars.

However as long as it's only tax dollars were talking about and not something important like his pension, Park Authority management is not only not worried, the executive director is proud of course management.

"Operations has been on the green side," he declared. "It's been positive all these years. How much we took in for revenue and how much we spent, we've been healthy. But our ability to cover the debt is our problem."

This statement is another example of government functionaries curious disconnect when it comes to taxpayer funds. Differing only in scale from Obama's nonchalant distribution of billions.

It's like tax dollars are delivered by the Tooth Fairy, instead of being sucked out of our wallets. How can anyone get excited about losing money that just appears under one's pillow?

Management's statement is the equivalent of owning an apartment building and claiming the landlord business is booming. Why rent covers the utilities, maintenance, a bonus for the day laborers and a tidy profit for the owner. Of course management hasn't made a mortgage payment in years, but why get bogged down in technicalities?

In the private sector debt service payments are required and if the owner doesn't pay the mortgage, he goes bankrupt and someone else gets his chance to be Jack Nicholas.

When government is the owner, we fear bankruptcy by taxes.

Right now there are 18 golf courses where I live. The 15 that are not county–owned are doing fine. In fact, private sector courses pay taxes, while the county courses eat taxes.

The rule of thumb that applies here is government has no business in any business where the private sector already meets demand. The "pursuit of happiness" does not extend to pursuing your ball through the rough.

Now I know as a card–carrying conservative I'm supposed to defend the plutocrat's right to play pasture pool, but I must confess my heart is not in it.

Being a columnist allows me the opportunity to write about things I have not personally experienced — like childbirth and passing legislation — but I know about golf.

The first time I ever played — as a rotund teenager in Midland, TX — I lost a total of 14 balls in only 18 holes. You'd think a fat kid wouldn't be able to generate enough velocity send the ball out of sight. The truth was no jackrabbit was safe as long as I wielded a club in my chubby little hands.

I gave up golf when I concluded that I don't do well in activities where anger does not improve your performance. Consequently, I'm a fantastic behind the wheel of an automobile, but a poor ping–pong player.

If only government would follow my lead.

There may be hope though. Chavez is said to be planning to nationalize two of Venezuela's best–known courses. What he doesn't know is this decision leaves his buffoonish regime extremely vulnerable to severe economic damage.

If the US State Department could just persuade him to let my park authority manage his courses, we could be well on the way to bankrupting him in no time. ESR

Michael R. Shannon is a public relations and advertising consultant with corporate, government and political experience around the globe. He is a dynamic and entertaining keynote speaker. He can be reached at michael-shannon@comcast.net.


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