Not so fast. There's more to this story.
I know it’s a challenge for some of us, but if you want to be properly informed, sometimes you have to read past the headlines.
Example: The National Guard is pulling its advertising from NASCAR (Dale Earnhardt, Jr., $32 million a year) and IndyCar (Graham Rahal, $12 million). This represents 37 percent of the Guard’s advertising budget.
Fine. All for saving money. Right?
But you have to read past that headline. Including our own readers. When Motorsport.com reported on the National Guard’s decision yesterday, commenters – with the best of intentions – began commenting.
“That’s great,” posted Jason, “because that’s money you can use for the Wounded Warrior fund.”
“Hope they're gonna help the disabled vets with the money they are talking away from his sponsorship,” said Pamela.
“I am glad to see this,” posted Judy. “The millions of dollars spent on racing could help more veterans and their families.”
Said Leon: “I'd rather see them spend that money on the men and women in the Guard who help out the USA in the time of need.”
Said Darlene: This money should go to our active-duty soldiers and veterans.”
There are more – hundreds – but you get the idea.
And the idea is this: Let’s spend that money on the military! Or the poor! Or on education!
And that’s why you gotta read the fine print.
Let me boldface that fine print for you.
Cancelling the National Guard motorsports ad budget does not mean we, the taxpayers, are saving a dime. Nor does it mean that money is going to soldiers, or schools, or poor folks. It means it is likely going to some other form of advertising, such as billboards, or television commercials, or neon signs outside recruiting offices. The sort of traditional advertising that, figured the Guard, wasn’t working so good, which is why they went with racing.
Let me give you an example of how “saving money” and “the government” actually works. In 2011, to build a precedent-setting passenger rail system between Orlando and Tampa, the federal government offered the state of Florida $2.4 billion of the project’s estimated $2.65 billion cost.
Newly minted Florida Gov. Rick Scott told the federal government to keep the money – that he wasn’t sure the rail system would work. One year later two separate surveys found that the system would have generated a surplus of over $30 million within 10 years.
But it was too late – Scott turned the money down, and his crew spread the word that he had saved taxpayers $2.4 billion. But he didn’t – other states, mostly California and North Carolina, said they’d love to have $2.4 billion. Scott didn’t save anyone a dime, and in fact, turned down what apparently would have been a profit-making investment.
When 'saving' really isn't
Don’t think that when April 15 rolls around next year, your tax bill will reflect the $32 million savings that would have gone toward sponsoring the most popular race car driver in America, who happens to be winning. Dale Jr. will be fine.
And we’ll still be paying the bill for military advertising. We just won’t be able to see it on track every weekend.
I’m not saying if $32 million for Junior is high, low or right on the money. But don’t expect the federal government to refund that money to the taxpayers, or spend it on logical alternatives.
Me? I kind of liked seeing where some of my tax dollars were going.