I am originally from Iowa, so the movie “Field of Dreams” has been a favorite of mine since it first came out (“Is this heaven?  No, this is Iowa.”).  But, there is another line from that movie that is much more prescient and deserves our attention, especially when it is applied to our government:

“If you build it, they will come.”

In America, following that advice has led to the creation of virtually EVERY commercial enterprise and individual wealth creation effort throughout our history.  For the individual, the small enterprise, and even the huge corporations, creating a brand new product or service has been consistently successful.  A never before seen product or service is the golden ticket to financial success.  Compared to our national pastime, having success in just three out ten at-bats (attempts at a business venture, for you pinochle fans) can make you millions and if only one out of four of those successes is a home run, they will put you in the Hall of Fame, with the riches of Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Mark Zuckenscheme.

Unfortunately, the government also THINKS it can play the game, and play it at the highest level.  However, except when they play in a league of their own, (such as the military, and… well, I guess that is the ONLY exception) they really are not that good.  In fact, they should not be playing, even in the pick-up game down at the park.  (When choosing sides, they will definitely get picked last.) 

The government reads “If you build it, they will come” and sees it as a license to do what our government thinks is their primary purpose -- SPEND MONEY!  And they are very astute at exercising any and EVERY chance to do so.

The problem is, we have been brainwashed (perhaps from too many participation trophies), and not only do we allow them into the BIG LEAGUES, but we back them financially!   

In the governments’ “Field of Dreams”, there is an unlimited supply of success when they compete with individuals, small business, or even the big corporations.  If not, they just change the rules to their favor.  And even in ties and the rare loss, their “success” is more government, more control, and a much larger source of funds for graft, collusion, and outright theft – all of which we hand them freely, with a smile, along with just a bit of our freedoms.  Just because the government tells us “they will come” we (depending on the swindle) willingly, begrudgingly, or even unknowingly, accept every new or expansion tax, or bond expenditure, or wealth confiscation that our government dreams up.

“Build a new professional athletic stadium for a couple billion dollars?”

“No problem.”

“Do we NEED one?”

“Dunno.”

“Rent that stadium for 20 years, tax-free, for a penny to a professional team worth billions?”

“Yup.”

“Is that the best we can do?”

“Dunno.”

“Just think of all that (UN-measurable) projected revenue, additional (unskilled, part-time) jobs it will create, and the attraction it will have on other similar businesses (name one), not to mention the massive reduction in (you-fill-in-the-blank) taxes that will pay it all off in only 50 years or so?”

“Absolutely!”

“Anybody ever publish after-the-fact results?”

“Uh. Nope.”

I think we just got picked off of first, and no one called the balk!

Occasionally, a “Field of Dreams” becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Other times it becomes an obvious boondoggle.  However, nearly every time they use it, we fall for it… and it usually costs us money… BIG money.  And, God forbid, if we actually reject one of these frauds, no worries, it will be back in two years, painted a different color.

How many times has the government (any government) reached into the taxpayers’ pockets to spend money on “investments for the future”?  Once in a while, they will float a “bond issue.” They prop it up with blue-sky and promises so the un-informed can approve it.  Other times, they expand a tax rate or create another new source (I mean tax) to fund yet another “Field of Dreams”.  Sometimes they get it with voter approval, sometimes without.  Oh, don’t forget MY favorite - if one of those “special temporary taxes” is about to expire, “Rather than allowing it to expire, here is a NEW, ADDITIONAL program that requires that exact same amount… approximately.”

The confusing part is if WE went to a commercial financial institution to try to get private funding for 90% of those government “Field of Dreams” projects, WE would get less than a returned phone call.  If WE used the ridiculously low cost estimates, and the excessively bloated revenue figures the government always quotes as benefits, our request would NOT get past the secretary, let alone survive the simplest smell test any banker might apply.  A government “Field of Dreams” project is not subject to that scrutiny.  And we all know that once started the project will NEVER be stopped before completion.  If necessary, the government can always throw more (of our) money at it.

Please keep in mind, since it is a promise to the children, the poor, the underprivileged, the professional sports team owners, the HUGE employers, the massive tax generators, etc., it would be bigoted, sinful, selfish, un-American, and just plain mean to oppose it.  After all, the program has overwhelming support from (2 of the 5) people attending (one of) the public hearings.

You know, perhaps there should be some kind of law prohibiting our government from committing our future income to betting on the come.  Not only is there a significant risk that it will NOT be successful, it ALWAYS becomes additive to 1) government expansion, 2) government funding, 3) government control, and 4) the endless mantra that We The People are dependent on the government for everything.  Take for example an OSHA approved, ADA sanctioned, EPA qualified, and publicly over-funded monkey-bar set on the corner of Central and Washington, in Phoenix.  Other than the three kids bused in from South Phoenix for the Mayor and Governor ribbon-cutting ceremony, it will never be used again (except perhaps as a “clothes-line” for the “under-employed” who, by the way, need another support program).

I cringe whenever I hear, community organizer, or planning committee, or public hearing, or any government agency’s investigation, analysis, or review.  Because in EVERY ONE of those situations I know some “Field of Dreams” money will be coming out of my pocket.

Instead of a bridge-built-to-nowhere, or ever-more expensive forms of ineffective-public-transportation, or some enticement-scheme to pay off private businesses (to provide kick-back, I mean campaign contribution funds), perhaps we should consider forming the question of genuine need before we allow the government to proceed to the answer.  Instead of managing a proposed solution to an, as yet, undefined need, perhaps we should wait at the river’s bank for the need to cross a steady flow of water before BUILDING the bridge.

Does anyone know where government gets these ideas nightmares?

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Comment by Patricia Gillenwater on January 6, 2019 at 8:08pm

It is a brilliantly well written opinion piece. 

Folks this Republic hangs by a bare thread. While that breaks my heart I have no solution how to repair what has been allowed. In the local well another swamp.

I relate to the if you build it they will come. I spent a winter, spring and summer working  in Ames. I visited the many small towns that are now near abandoned while the old gave way to the just build the new and they will abandoned the old. We are now a throw away society.

Comment by Eric Barnes on January 6, 2019 at 4:28pm

Brilliant article, Mr. Rapp.  And absolutely spot on.  And you may be sure that the incoming new pols will be eager to get their  teeth into creating new "needs" that just *have to be funded" because some group or individual has brought it up...and will benefit from it.  Then the bureaucrats will get their fingers into the pie(s), adding still more costs and controls into the mix, needed or not.  

The concept of keeping the national debt "low" is lost on almost all in Congress and has been so for many decades.  To them, it's "free money" and by spending it willy nilly. the can "buy" the voters (or big corporations) for their next election run.  Have you noticed that most pols leave office FAR more wealthy then when they first got voted in?

It's no longer governing wisely.  Hasn't been for many decades, well before the 20th century.  Can it be brought to heel?  Very unlikely and, frankly, I see no way it can be done.  Sadly.

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