Gene Locke embraces a new professional soccer stadium for Houston as an engine of economic growth. Annise Parker holds it at arm's length while assessing its economic risk.As Henry Hazlitt points out in Economics in One Lesson, government spending cannot foster economic growth. While government spending might create visible jobs--which candidates love to tout--the jobs that are destroyed or never created are ignored. These are the "invisible" victims that Locke and his counterparts conveniently ignore.
Every dollar spent by government must come from someone in the private sector. When money is taken from a business, that business has less to invest in its business, which means, its economic activity is stifled. As a result, it hires fewer employees, or purchases less equipment (which means less economic activity for its vendors), or even reduces the number of people it employees. When money is taken from individuals, they have less to save, invest, or spend on consumption, all of which also reduces economic activity.
For her part, Parker is straddling the fence. While she supports the city "investing" the $10 million committed by Mayor White, she is opposed to any more city tax dollars being put into the project. She does not oppose the city being involved in such projects, but only when it is not economically feasible, i.e., not practical. The story doesn't tell us how will she determine what is practical. But we can be certain that it will have nothing to do with the fact that building sports stadiums is not a proper function of government.
Parker has previously voiced support for the stadium, and she has not shied away from using government coercion to appease constituents. So it appears that her hesitancy in backing the stadium is purely political and not founded on principle. Which means, she could turn on a dime if doing so would bear political fruit.
Parker is trying to position herself as the fiscal conservative to counter Locke's backing from the business community. By painting herself as the watchdog of taxpayer money, she hopes to attract those who are fed up with government largess. But those of us who do think in principles can see beyond this smokescreen.
Parker has not suggested cutting a single program, and there are plenty that are ripe for taking a cleaver to them. However, doing so would alienate a handful of voters, and she is scratching for every vote she can get. And if that means engaging in hypocrisy, so be it.
The soccer stadium is hardly the biggest issue facing Houstonians. Light rail will be a far costlier boondoggle. But the entire issue illustrates the mentality that dominate modern politics. Soccer fans want a new stadium, and they want others to pay for it. The cost is more than the money being requested. In forcing taxpayers to finance another stadium, the cost includes the sacrifice of more of our freedom. And that, more than the money, is a cost we cannot afford.