Malarkey & buncombe at the David L.

Malarkey & buncombe at the David L.

In a world in which government types routinely defend the use of taxpayer money to pay for all manner of things that taxpayer money has no business paying for, it certainly is refreshing to see a succinct rebuttal that slays the bogus premise.

Consider the hand-wringing and bemoaning from those who regularly belly up to the bar of public subsidies over the General Assembly’s decision to scotch, two fiscal years down the road, a $1.7 million annual subsidy that, for the past decade, has gone to Pittsburgh’s David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

The money, it is reported, helps cover the difference between revenue (ergo, income) and operating costs.

That should be the first red flag, of course: Yet another highly touted government enterprise, billed as a wonderful economic generator, that doesn’t pay for itself.

Of course, that scenario is defended by officials who cite competition so stiff for events that discounts must be given to conventioneers in order to attract them. At public expense.

A Post-Gazette editorial offered up the boilerplate rationalization for this malarkey last week:

“These subsidies are important; big conventions help the city build cachet, familiarize an untold number of first-time visitors with this remarkable city and provide trickle-down business to hotels, shops, restaurants, Uber drivers, the sports teams and Cultural District venues.”

The P-G exhorts “The State” to restore the subsidy. After all, it “isn’t a huge sum.”

But if the Legislature won’t authorize the continuing turning out of taxpayers’ pockets, it urged the Regional Asset District (RAD) to take over the pick-pocketing.

And in yet another hilarious rationalization, modeled as some warped defense of the practice, the newspaper notes how the Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority (which overlords the convention center on, supposedly, the public’s behalf) already received “about $14.1 million for costs related to construction of the convention center and the city’s sports venues.”

Never mind that RAD board was hijacked and perverted to do the latter.

Nonetheless, the P-G concludes:

“The city needs to continue luring conventions here and work on attracting sporting events, too. Restoring the $1.7 million isn’t much to ask considering the importance of keeping Pittsburgh’s economy moving in the right direction.”

Good grief. Will this buncombe never cease? Only in the public sector is such larceny of the public purse not only practiced but encouraged and praised as “enlightenment” and “progress.”

Now to that succinct rebuttal mentioned at the outset. It came from North Side resident Nick Kyriazi, in a letter to the newspaper:

“One would think that people who spend a lot of their time thinking would be more foresightful than your editorial board, which supports convention center subsidies (June 25, “Convention Center Care”).

“All subsidies are immoral because they take money from one person and give it to another. That is considered theft if done by a commoner. Apparently, it is not theft if done by politicians. If Pittsburgh’s convention center benefits ‘hotels, shops, restaurants, Uber drivers, the sports teams and Cultural District venues,’ then let them subsidize the convention center.

“According to your thinking, thieves benefit society because they spend their stolen money on local businesses. I say that the person who earned the money should be the one deciding on how to spend the money.”


We might be in the midst of the first summer heat wave ‘round these parts but Kyriazi’s spot-on take is a most welcome cool, refreshing and intelligent breeze.

Colin McNickle is a senior fellow and media specialist at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (