If you have never heard former baseball great Curt Schilling talk politics, he’s Sean Hannity or Bill O’Reilly without the social issues. Schilling loves the free market and hates government spending – unless, it turns out, he’s getting millions in his own pocket. In 2010, Schilling put aside his anti-government views to get a $75 million loan guarantee from economically troubled Rhode Island to support a video game company he founded. Now the libertarian fraud is having trouble paying back
the loan, which was awarded by the state’s prior Republican Governor. Schilling’s hypocrisy follows reports of Republican Congressman Harold Rogers securing earmarks
for a Kentucky company to provide drip pans to the military at nine times the rate charged by competitors. But despite these and other examples, the media still depicts Democrats as the party of excessive spending and Republicans as favoring fiscal restraint.
Curt Schilling was a great pitcher. His bloody sock performance against the Yankees in the 2004 League Championship Series paved the way for the Red Sox winning their first World Series since 1918. But politically Schilling is an arrogant elitist, a rich man hitting the talk radio circuit to whine about government spending on the less fortunate.
Schilling seemed sincere in his convictions. He did not come off as a guy who publicly bashed government spending while privately turning to a right-wing Republican Governor of Rhode Island to extract $75 million in loan guarantees from an economically troubled state. Money that the Democratic Administration in Massachusetts refused to provide, which led Schilling to take the money and move his 38 Studios video company to Rhode Island.
But like the conservative Catholic Church leaders involved in the ongoing pedophile scandal, or the Jim Bakker type of evangelists, Schilling’s boisterous opposition to public investment concealed his true desires. And that was to milk his political relationship with Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri for state loan guarantees that a person of his political leanings should have raised from the private sector.
With all of his connections to right-wing money, Schilling’s turning to the public sector for funds should have triggered alarm bells about 38 Studios’ viability. The former baseball star claimed that he would bring 450 jobs to Providence if granted the loan – a grossly inflated projection for a risky video game start up.
Schilling’s company has already spent $50 million in state funds. If Studio 38 fails to make it, taxpayers are on the hook for the entire balance.
Current Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee is a former Republican U.S. Senator who turned independent in response to the GOP’s rightward shift. Chafee says that Schilling-type deals will never happen on his watch, which may explain why the party turned against him. Meanwhile, Schilling disputes accounts that he used $30 million in state funds to repay his own investment in the company.
$17,500 Drip Pans
Another anti-public spending Republican made news last week when Congressman Harold Rogers defended earmarking millions to a Kentucky company to provide $17,500 drip pans to the military while a competing business outside the state charges only $2500.
The company is a big donor to the congressman known locally as the “Prince of Pork,” and using its overpriced drip pans is costing taxpayers millions of dollars.
Squandering money is par for the course at the Pentagon, particularly when a powerful Congressmember calling budget shots demands that a certain contractor be used. And the GOP has already made it clear that it has an easy solution for excess military spending –simply take money from housing, education, job training and other human needs.
The GOP also knows that the costly drip pans will not change the media’s unmovable identification of Republicans as the party that most zealously protects voters’ pocketbooks. No matter how many bloated Bush budget deficits, excessive tax breaks for the rich, and costly Medicare plans, it remains rare to find a news story that does not take Republican attacks on “spending” at face value.
Media Rewards GOP Hypocrisy
Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, authors of the new book, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks
, are political moderates/conservatives who are now speaking out about the media’s complicity in Republican hypocrisy on spending and other issues. Mann recently observed
“over time we came to see that a balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality. It doesn’t elucidate it. The parties are very different now. The evidence on the Republicans becoming the insurgent outlier is overwhelming.”
In other words, Schilling, Rogers and other Republican hypocrites like Joe and Tom Ricketts
know that they can bash public spending while still pocketing it because the media will ignore such episodes. The media’s priority is appearing “objective,” which in their view requires framing Democrats as the party of excess spending and Republicans as the party of fiscal restraint – regardless of the underlying facts.
It as if the media never learned about Bill Clinton’s creation of budget surpluses and the massive deficits created by Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. The actual facts are less important than what Republicans say the facts are.
Cenk Uygur recently urged
CNN to “stop doing ‘he said, she said’ crap that doesn’t actually deliver the news to anyone. Democrats said this and Republicans said that – who cares? What is the reality?! Your job is supposed to be to bring us facts, not what official spokespeople told you in their press releases and talking points.”
He adds: “if Mitt Romney says his proposal balances the budget, well, why don’t you crunch the numbers and tell us whether that’s true or not? Of course the reality is that it creates trillions of dollars in deficits just so that the rich can have more tax cuts. But CNN would consider reporting those facts as being biased.”
Anyone who has ever seen Anderson Cooper looking helpless and befuddled trying to referee between two competing political consultants knows what Cenk is talking about. If Schilling went on Cooper’s show and denied ever getting $75 million from Rhode Island, and the Governor disagreed, Cooper would shrug and leave it for viewers to decide who’s telling the truth.
Schilling was a straight-up guy in his baseball days, but now throws only curves.
Randy Shaw is author of The Activist’s Handbook and Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century.