Audit Notes: NFL Hell, No Inflation Here, Fraud Without Fraudsters

Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post has the column of the week, a righteous piece of outrage at the NFL and what it says about our society.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live in Jerry World. In Jerry World, a $1.15 billion stadium looks like the Taj Mahal on the outside, but inside some of the seats violate the fire code. In Jerry World, the state of Texas spends $31 million to host the Super Bowl, even as deficits force public school cuts. In Jerry World, it can cost $900 just to park. In Jerry World, fans pay hundreds of dollars to stand outside the stadium…

Everything you need to know about the future of the NFL could be seen in the gloriously decadent stadium that hosted this Super Bowl. As NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell pointed out, “Quite frankly, that’s our stage.” It was the cleanest, safest, nicest stadium anyone has ever visited. It was also the most extravagant and economically stratified. It cost double what Jerry Jones said it would, and taxpayers financed about a quarter of it, yet its innermost marble interiors are totally inaccessible to the average fan…

The average cost of attending a game for a family of four is $412.64. At Cowboys Stadium, it’s a staggering $758.58. That’s what the league calls growth.

Corporate welfare funds this ridiculousness and subsidizes the obscene salaries of players, coaches, and NFL executives.

Jenkins is smart to key in on the arms-race angle:

his Super Bowl was the future, and it set some lousy precedents. Every owner in the league wants a stadium like this one, and they will be pitching - maybe even extorting - their communities to help them build one. They want ever-larger luxury suites and bigger restaurants, and giant scoreboards and TVs, so they can replicate this Super Bowl, and sell standing room space in plazas and blocked views of a big screen for $200.

Would that more sports columnists would quit slobbering over these taxpayer-financed boondoggles and write about them as clearly as Jenkins does here.

— David Leonhardt has a simple post putting the lie to all the yammering about “inflation” coming from the Paul Ryan/Ron Paul precincts.

It’s a picture of core inflation going back forty years:

Does it look dangerously high?

Or might the slow pace of economic growth and the high level of unemployment be larger problems?

Weimar, here we come!

— Bloomberg’s Jonathan Weil writes about the toothless SEC, which accused General Electric of willful fraud but closed the case without trying to nail any individual for committing the fraud.

GE settled for $50 million for committing accounting fraud to massage its earnings (of course, the usual boilerplate part of the settlement is the company neither confirmed or denied the allegations). But the SEC decided not to charge anyone.

Imagine that: A fraud without fraudsters.

Weil’s conclusion:

It makes no sense that GE could have defrauded its shareholders unless some living, breathing people committed the same violations. So either the wrongdoers got off scot free, or the SEC shouldn’t have brought the case it did against the company.

This isn’t enforcement. It’s a charade.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,