The Austin Chronicle

The Hightower Report

Gaming the System

By Jim Hightower, June 29, 2012, News

In sports, a "gamer" is someone who's always eager to play. However, in such pursuits as business and politics, a "gamer" is one who games the system.

So, meet a real gamer in both senses of the word: Curt Schilling. A superb pitcher and three-time World Series champion for three different teams, he's rightly famous for his competitiveness, even gutting it up to pitch while hurt. But now he's also infamous as a gamer of the corporate welfare system, causing great pain to the taxpayers of Rhode Island.

After baseball, Schilling set up a fantasy video game company in Massachusetts, but moved it to Rhode Island in 2010 after getting a special $75 million loan guarantee approved by the state legislature. This government subsidy was a surprising curveball from Schilling, who has loudly proclaimed an anti-government ideology while campaigning for such Republicans as George W. Bush, John McCain, and Sen. Scott Brown.

To get his taxpayer giveaway, the gamer pledged a mess of jobs for Rhode Islanders. Imagine their dismay, then, when he balked on the deal this spring. The company, 38 Stu­di­os, filed for bankruptcy on June 7; Schilling fired his entire workforce of 300, defaulted on a million-dollar loan owed to the state, and asked taxpayers for millions of dollars more in subsidies. Then, he went bull-goose nuts, defiantly declaring: "I've done nothing but create jobs and create economy." He might as well have said, paraphrasing a sports metaphor, "There's no 'I' in narcissism."

A former TV sportscaster who covered Schilling in Boston says he was always a know-it-all, but "he wasn't smart enough to know what he didn't know." The one thing to know about this story is that it's not just about one guy gaming the system, but about the corporate welfare system itself being a losing game, inviting the corruption that it inevitably attracts.

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