THE BLOG
01/23/2014 06:27 pm ET | Updated Mar 25, 2014

The Yankees and Tanaka: Socialism Works

The great triumvirate of World Socialism stands triumphant. Karl Marx, George Steinbrenner and Mike Bloomberg have finally proven what Lenin, Mao and Obama could not. Socialism works.

The evidence is the Yankees latest free-agent signing of Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka. The Yankees, after a disastrous 2013, found $175 million to fork over for a needed pitching arm, outbidding other teams and confirming their deep pockets and business model. Expensive free agents, not a farm system or trades, get them where they want to go.

They can do it because they're a business worth anywhere from $2 to $5 billion, depending on whether you count their TV and other businesses. That number has skyrocketed, largely as a result of one of the greatest economic deals any mega-billion dollar corporation has ever made.

In short, the Yankees were given $4 billion public tax dollars to build the new Yankee Stadium, a deal hatched by owner George Steinbrenner and then New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg. They then raised their ticket prices, too, literally thousands of dollars per game for prime seats. It's an interesting story, which is told in detail in "The House That You Built," an official report I authored some years ago.

It's a scary story, especially in a city that cannot find the funds for its subways or schools, and for a project that didn't meet even the skimpy NYC standards that otherwise require corporations to improve the local economy when they get taxpayer subsidies.

Put all that aside for a moment. What's interesting today is how the Yankees shrewdly parlayed big public support into a willingness to spend big on free agents. It's safe to say that if they had to build their home with their own dollars, they couldn't afford Tanaka/Ellsbury/Beltran numbers.

Yankee fans are delighted, and who can blame them? The Yankees now have a real shot at the post-season, and that's how fans measure success. Professional sports are the favorite child of governments because voters want it that way. The same pattern is repeating itself right now in Atlanta and back in NYC where the Yankees want more money to build a stadium for their new soccer team.

I hate to be a wet blanket, but the U.S. is in the middle of a shouting match about health care, where the president of the United States is called a socialist for requiring citizens to buy private health insurance policies. Okay, then what is it when taxpayer dollars are used to build sports stadiums used by professional, private, wealthy sports teams? Free enterprise?

The world is an inconsistent place, to be sure. But when Marx started to talk about public ownership of the means of production, he never guessed he was predicting how the Yankees would maneuver themselves a free stadium. And he never expected his most successful disciples to be two billionaires, George Steinbrenner and Mike Bloomberg.