I really try hard not to throw around my opinions about the current economic problems. There are already plenty of people, most of them much smarter than me, who do enough pontificating without adding my opinion to the mix. David Brooks writes “I worry that we’re operating far beyond our economic knowledge. Every time the administration releases an initiative, I read 20 different economists with 20 different opinions.” How can I possibly even have an opinion if some of the most respected economist in the world can’t even agree on the correct course of action?
It turns out I do have a few opinions. At first glance, I didn’t pay too much attention to the NY Times article about Barney Frank’s comments concerning Citi’s naming rights for the new Mets’ stadium. I know Barney is somewhat controversial, and there are a lot of people who feel he should share the blame for our current problems. I don’t have a strong opinion about him one way or the other. However, after I digested his quotes about the naming rights to the new stadium, I extrapolated some alarming implications.
Here are a few of Barney’s opinions about stadium naming rights:
“Marketing expenses should be for real marketing, not ego boosts, which is what I think naming rights are,”
“Important men, in particular, like to hang out and ingratiate themselves with sports figures, and after the fact try to figure out how to make sense of the sponsorships as marketing or economic development.”
“I don’t think anybody has ever opened a bank account or decided to buy a CD because a bank’s name is on the stadium,”
I don’t know if any of his assertions are right or wrong. But then again, Barney himself does not know if any of his assertions are right or wrong.
It’s not his opinion that worries me, but the idea that his opinion could actually mean something. His opinion might actually influence marketing decisions at Citi, and in my opinion, that is definitely wrong.
Barney is not a marketing executive. He has been a politician for the past 37 years. There is nothing in his training that suggests he would know what type of marketing works and what doesn’t work. By the way, government has never shown a great propensity for making terrific business decisions. Lest we forget, our government has been taking giant sized risks with our money for a long time now. In fact, the government’s share of Citi, the same share that has empowered Barney’s opinion, is at least partially funded by a communist country’s willingness to purchase US bonds. Seems pretty risky doesn’t it?
I don’t have a problem with government oversight and regulation. What scares me is regulation that advances to a point where there is hardly a distinction between private enterprise and property of the state.