Using Kohl’s Cash to Pay for a New Bucks Arena

Ah, Kohl’s. Who hasn’t walked out with a bag of goods reveling in one’s more-than-50% savings? After all, the clerk is quick to circle that number before you leave the register. Pick ‘n Save, a Roundy’s grocer, does the same. There can be twenty people in a checkout line, but darn it, every savings will be circled for every customer. A customer must know how important that store is to his frugal wallet.

Except, the savings were on a suggested retail price. Everyone has a coupon for at least a certain percentage off. The item was marked up before it was marked down. That’s the way of retail. First they sell you something you didn’t really need, and then they sell it to you at a price that makes you feel good about it. Sounds a little like building an arena in Milwaukee, don’t you think?

I was amused that PolitiFact went after Scott Walker’s $1 sweater claim. Amused and a little frustrated, actually. Scott Walker, that clever man who is just like me and wants so very much to be President of the United States, uses Kohl’s cash. Ooooh. He spends free money. He’s so clever.

But there’s a problem with free money: There’s no such thing. And what is even better, people tend to spend free money twice.

Hear me out. When Walker made his initial purchase to receive the Kohl’s cash, something tells me he may have walked out of the store subtracting that cash from his original purchase. I hear it all the time. “Yeah, but I got $30 in Kohl’s cash, so all those clothes only cost me $120.” The beauty of Kohl’s cash is that you HAVE to go back to retrieve your savings. That’s when you go buy a $31 sweater for $1 and SAVE $30. Again.

Now this is where I won’t be specific, mainly because that would take a lot of work, and I have a cold, and I’d rather be watching travel shows under a warm blanket right now, but governments budget a lot like spending Kohl’s cash. In Brookfield we had a long-lived administrator (now retired, thank goodness) who every year, without fail, would build something ridiculous into his budget, get a really good deal on said ridiculous expenditure, and then claim to have saved his own salary for the taxpayers that year, thereby justifying his existence.

In numbers: $400,000 ladder truck because ladder trucks are cool; cut a deal for ladder truck that means city “only” pays $300,000; saves taxpayers the cost of his own salary for that budget year.

The problem? The city really didn’t need a ladder truck, or a new phone system; or a clock tower, or whatever it is that he budgeted. Of course, it always passed anyway.

I think the question that voters and taxpayers should be asking Scott Walker is this one: Did you NEED a new sweater?

And that holds for the arena as well. Ten years ago the CATO Institute determined “Government-Funded Stadiums Not Worth the Price of Admission.” That hasn’t deterred part-time Governor Scott Walker when planning to pay for a good chunk of a new arena with taxpayer money. Sure, he’d collect taxes from the players to pay back the loan, but couldn’t that revenue be spent elsewhere? And why isn’t anyone asking the question, other than to keep the Bucks team in Milwaukee, does the city NEED a new arena?

Don’t budget my tax dollars twice. Don’t spend them twice. It doesn’t work very well for a home budget. It won’t work for a government budget, either.