, , , , , , ,

Joe Ricketts (AP photo/Nati Harnik)

Joe Ricketts, founder of TD Ameritrade and the patriarch of the family that owns the Chicago Cubs, has a problem with President Obama, and with government spending…unless, of course, it benefits his family’s baseball team.

According to the New York Times, Ricketts has hired some big-time national strategists to create propaganda films designed to enlighten us about the “real” Barack…(ahem)..Hussein...Obama.  The proposal discussed in the Times article appears to have been designed by Sean Hannity.  Note the subtle references to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, over and over again.  By the end of this tour de force it is clear why Obama has been such an irrational hot-head: he hates America, he is in over his head, and he is cocky.  After he passes reparations legislation it will be a miracle if the Ricketts family has anything left in the bank (except for the black sheep daughter, who is actually an Obama supporter).

According to Ricketts’s “super PAC” spokesman:

‘Our plan is to do exactly what John McCain would not let us do: Show the world how Barack Obama’s opinions of America and the world were formed,’ the proposal says. “And why the influence of that misguided mentor [Jeremiah Wright] and our president’s formative years among left-wing intellectuals has brought our country to its knees.

If only Sarah Palin had thought of that.

But after a full day of blistering criticism from the real America, Mr. Ricketts decided to reject the film.  According to his spokesman, it just wasn’t in keeping with his personal style of politics.  Nevertheless, Ricketts does not reject the basic argument.

Apparently referring to a Wright ad that was produced for the McCain campaign by Mr. Davis’s firm but never used, the proposal opens with a quote from Mr. Ricketts: “If the nation had seen that ad, they’d never have elected Barack Obama.

O.k., so Ricketts is a crusty old man with a dubious faith in the value of advertisement as historical commentary, and he’s got a lot of free speech money to spend.  He can do whatever he wants to with it, right?  The supreme court says so.

The problem with Ricketts’ politics–and this is something that the authors of the Times piece miss–isn’t that he foolishly blows his money on old dirt that won’t change anyone’s mind anyway, but that his position on government spending is so profoundly hypocritical.  He is, of course, against it.  He does, of course, benefit from it.

Like many professed fiscal conservatives, Joe Ricketts hates, hates, hates government spending.  This is because he earned his money, unlike those of us who just want to suck the government teat.  And like everyone else who makes his living trading stocks and bonds, he knows that nothing meaningful in this life is ever handed to you.  In a free market, you either sink or swim.  The government doesn’t decide; the market does.

And this, of course, is the problem with Barack Obama’s government stimulus.  Obama wants the government to choose which businesses survive and which do not.  He has no understanding of how the free market works!

The Ricketts’ family, on the other hand, does, and they know how to spend government money.  In order to secure financing for the Cubs’ new spring training facility in Mesa, Arizona they even created their own little government stimulus.  They called it a “public-private partnership.”  It turns out that “stimulus” is what the president does, but “public-private partnership” is what the Ricketts do.

Tom, the “politically neutral” son who runs the family’s baseball operation, was given the dirty work of convincing mad as hell tea partiers in Arizona to vote for a tax increase to pay for new facilities for his family’s privately owned baseball team.  Boy is he good.  In November, 2010 (you remember November, 2010…) he procured $99 million dollars’ worth of taxes from the citizens of Mesa.  On the official Major League Baseball website, MLB.com, this feat is presented as a triumph.

In a show of tremendous support in a particularly difficult economy, Mesa voters recognized the potential of partnering with the Chicago Cubs on an economic investment and future we can, together, create for the city,” said Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts. “Our public-private partnership means jobs for Mesa, tourism dollars for the city and the region and will drive private investment in Mesa and in the development of Wrigleyville West.

So, let me get this straight.  In 2009 the Ricketts family bought the Cubs for over $800 million, then almost immediately asked taxpayers to buy them a spring training facility for $99 million? It would be nice to know how much of this was in the plan the commisioner approved.

But Mesa “needed” them.  The Cubs had been playing there every spring for nearly fifty years and had become an integral part of the community.  In fact, the Ricketts’s tax pitch played hard on this theme of community spirit, which sounds a lot like socialism to me. But it also played hard on the threat to move elsewhere if the city didn’t fork over the loot.  Now we’re back to market principles.

By the way, here is what $99 million gets you these days (from MLB.com).

The City’s investment in the design and construction is capped at $84 million (the Cubs will cover any of these costs if they exceed $84 million). The City will also provide public infrastructure (roads, utilities, parking, etc.), the cost of which the City estimates will not exceed $15 million. The Cubs will manage and operate the new stadium and facility, saving Mesa almost $2 million each year to care for the new publicly-owned ballpark and training facilities.

I like the last line best.  “…saving Mesa almost $2 million each year….”  And now the Ricketts are begging for $200 million from Illinois taxpayers for a renovation of Wrigley field.  How much does that save the state?  What’s the word that Michele Bachmann likes so much?  Chutzpah.