So here we go again with this fiasco of a new baseball stadium for our Pawtucket Red Sox. Just in time for summer we have the chance to build up a broad-based united front against Democrats making stupid insider deals with a certain group of millionaires who have enough money to finance three of these projects but insist that they need my tax dollars for this.
From a tactical perspective, I think that we need to be a little precise with our economic analysis and proceed accordingly. This requires a broad historical understanding of what the forces are which we oppose from a materialist perspective.
Larry Lucchino has spent the past two years building a coalition of Pawtucket business/real estate interests and the local bank branches behind them, the city officials who have political gains to be made from this deal, and the wider movement of the Wall Street financial industry back into the urban metropolitan areas after roughly 75 years of white flight to the suburbs following World War II. The era of the American dream being defined by owning a single family mortgaged home outside the city has been over for several years and is now replaced with a vision for the future where manufacturing and industrial production is shifted to technical and managerial service industry jobs. The Raimondo administration has also been an agent of this agenda and her pension policies while Treasurer, as well as her husband’s career with the charter school industry, need to be seen as working alongside these financial and real estate industrial complexes. The Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate (FIRE) industry is a monopoly trust that is international in scope and which in another century would have been broken up by Teddy Roosevelt. Let’s make it clear here that, while Lucchino is personally not able to be directly connected to them, the forces that he derives power and financing from are the same that have caused both the impoverishment of state pensioners and the 2008 financial crash. Perhaps the finest two pieces of writing on this topic are the book Killing the Host by Michael Hudson and the speech to the Harlem Tenants Association made by the late Robert Fitch regarding the newly-elected President Obama.
The working class neighborhood surrounding the proposed site of the new stadium is the most immediate one that will be demolished by a process known as gentrification. This is a series of political and social developments that forces these people out of their homes and onto the streets to make room for the upper-middle class types that usually end up in Rhode Island after being educated at Brown. These technicians of a future economy designed by the FIRE industry on the one hand utilize a brand of Clinton-flavored identity politics to justify their actions and yet at the same time have zero sense of moral responsibility for forcing working class people out of a neighborhood they have lived in for generations. Theirs is a moral order of false piety invoking opposition to racism because of a lack of humility, one of the essential elements of such opposition. Gentrification works in a series of stages. First comes a series of developments in the surrounding community that increases property values. From there parasitical speculators, so-called “house flippers”, buy up real estate cheaply and begin renovations on the buildings that increase the values further before selling for a profit. The new buyers, the gentry of our society, take advantage of this and buy up these newly-repaired houses at prices that are still slightly below the market median value. They continue to implement improvements on their new homes, which they view as “fixer uppers”, and therefore cause the rent of their neighbors to rise. Very quickly the working class residents are forced out of their neighborhood. And with a dearth of low-income and publicly-subsidized housing in Rhode Island, they can face periods of homelessness. The motivation for this is simple, the FIRE industry is diametrically opposed to the working class values that such voters wish to see implemented in their community.
With these sorts of factors in mind, I would argue that we need to present a robust counter-offer that goes well beyond a simple and stubborn NO and into the realm of state and local policy that Larry Lucchino will never accept. And because he and his backers will not accept these policies, they will either stay in McCoy Stadium or just leave town for good.
- Argue for a progressive tax on tickets to finance education statewide.
The customer base Lucchino is angling for is not the typical family that goes to McCoy now. Instead, his target demographic is upper middle class young working professionals who will have business outings and dates at upwards of $50 per ticket. Family seating is going to be the minority group catered to here, instead Lucchino will be looking to fill luxury boxes and fancy park side restaurant seating. So I would argue that all tickets priced above the current going rate for a standard bleacher seat should have a substantial and progressive luxury tax placed on them that will finance education in Rhode Island. In a country where the linkage of property tax to municipal financing of public schools is one of the greatest albatrosses around the neck of those who wish to see a better society, such a substantial tax on such an unpopular target is worthy of serious contemplation precisely because it will reduce the taxes of homeowners. Furthermore, luxury/vice taxes that finance social services are not new in the realm of political thought. For example, Ireland uses its lottery tax to finance films produced domestically.
- Call for rent control in the neighborhood around this new stadium.
Rent control laws are one of the major legal tools available to those who advocate on behalf of working class housing issues. These laws allow renters to develop a budget for their monthly that in turn promotes injection of demand into the local economy. Our current economic doldrums today are defined by a lack of demand within the local economy. When people can develop a regular monthly budget thanks to rent control laws, they have money that can be spent at local businesses and on services that promotes a further growth of demand within the local economy.
- Mandate Lucchino be obligated to team ownership for the next 25 years.
If he’s serious about his responsible and proactive business community membership, he should not have any issue signing a guarantee behind such membership. Such an obligation will foster a healthy civic engagement and carry on the legacy of the Mondor family.
These three demands on the elites seem on the surface quite reasonable. But they will require coordinated action on both the state and municipal level. As we have seen of late with the opposition to the power plant in Burrillville, city councils and other local political bodies will need to be prodded into passing measures and resolutions opposing this project. Simultaneously, we will need to see candidates come forward in the next year who are going to run opposed to this stadium and offer to the Building and Trades Unions in exchange implementation of a renewable energy infrastructure conversion effort on a scale that will put hundreds of their members to work for years. Such efforts, which by design will require a decentralization of the energy grid, are quite extensive but are dealt with by political parties such as the Greens.
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