Lightfoot and the Bears

Heritage Explains

Lightfoot and the Bears

Lori Lightfoot Says “Bye Bye” to the Chicago Bears?

When the news broke that the owners of the Chicago Bears football team purchased a massive piece of property in a suburb 30 miles outside of downtown Chicago, the narrative quickly developed that the Bears could be leaving their historic stadium for the suburbs. Many news outlets say it’s because the owners see more opportunity to make profit—they'll have an easier time with things like sports betting, generational change in ownership, or maybe it’s just time. But we wonder if there are other factors at work here.

In this episode, our friend Stephen Moore joins us for a fun discussion on the other factors that could be lending to the Bears organization considering leaving their historic home in downtown Chicago, and the policy consequences that come with it.

Tim Doescher: From The Heritage Foundation. I'm Tim Doescher and this is Heritage Explains.

Doescher: Hey, America, fall is here and it is awesome.

Doescher: Man, I'm feeling it, baby. By the way, where did all the pumpkin stuff come from? Pumpkin spice coffee, pumpkin candles, pumpkin patches, pumpkin beer, pumpkin pancakes.

Clip: I'm David Pumpkins. Any questions?

Doescher: Thank you, David. Now I'm not complaining. It's all awesome. It's just funny how it just kind of appeared overnight, but give me some cider and donuts to go with it, also some good music and concerts, and life is booming. Oh, and let's not forget football. That's back too. Now as a Detroit Lions fan, I know a couple of things, loyalty, losing and false optimism. Nevertheless, I love it. So when I hear something about NFC North rival, the Chicago Bears.

Clip: The Bears.

Doescher: The Bears?

Clip: The Bears.

Doescher: The Bears. I pay close attention.

Clip: The Chicago Bears have reportedly signed an agreement to purchase a site of Arlington Park. And this could be the team taking a big step to moving out of downtown Chicago.

Doescher: I mean, this is crazy. Soldier Field is legendary, even rivals in Detroit have respect for that old stadium on Lake Michigan, right in the heart of downtown Chicago.

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Doescher: So why is this happening? Many of the media reports claim it's because the owners see more opportunity to make profits if they move or they may have an easier time with things like sports betting or maybe generational change in ownership, or perhaps it's just time. But we wonder if there are other factors at work here. Our friends at the Illinois Policy Institute cover what's happening in the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago, and I just wanted to share a few bits. Since COVID-19, enrollment in Chicago Public Schools has declined by nearly 25,000 students.

Doescher: Illinois has $219 billion in pension debt and Chicago owns well over 50 billion of that burden. Illinois property taxes are sky high, ranking second highest in the nation. And rogue prosecutor Kim Fox is presiding over skyrocketing crime rates. We read about them in the news all the time. We'll go ahead and link to these reports. Just log on and read about it. It's devastating. Now, regardless of whether or not this is the reason the Bears could potentially leave Chicago, all of these things are chilling and scream of devastating policy decisions.

Doescher: So let's dig in. Steve Moore is my former boss here at the Heritage Foundation. He since founded the Committee to Unleash Prosperity, he's a regular on Fox News. He also was a part of the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal. Better yet, he was an unofficial economic advisor to President Trump. These issues are right up his alley. And even better, he's a lifelong Bears fan from Chicago. So get ready, we're going to bear down right after this.

Doescher: Okay, Steve. So when news broke on the purchase of land about 30 miles north of the city of Chicago currently where Soldier Field is right in the heart of Chicago. I said, I don't know who else to bring in here except like the biggest Chicago Bears fan that I know, my former boss, Steve Moore. So Steve, thank you for being here to talk about your Bears.

Steve Moore: Thanks, Tim.

Doescher: Yeah.

Moore: We call them da Bears.

Doescher: Da Bears.

Doescher: Yeah, actually, yeah, we definitely covered that up in the top and I'm not sure if a Gen Z-ers know exactly where that comes from anymore, but ...

Moore: Saturday Night Live.

Doescher: Yes, exactly. It's a good history lesson for them, I guess.

Moore: There's Ditka.

Doescher: Ditka, Bears. We can just do the whole bit here. Yeah. Well, so ...

Moore: I'll tell you one story about the Bears, which you're not going to believe because is that I was at the game in Wrigley Field because the Bears actually played in Wrigley field in the 1960s, the baseball stadium where the Cubs play. And Gale Sears, maybe one of the top three running backs in the history of the NFL, scored six touchdowns that game.

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Doescher: Wow.

Moore: And I tell my friends that I was there for that game and people, "Yeah, you and 600,000 other people were there." I was there.

Doescher: Wait a minute, hold on a second. You said the third best, but number one is clearly Barry Sanders of the Detroit Lions. Right?

Moore: He was awfully great. You got to put up, maybe Walter.

Doescher: Well, Walter. Okay, fine.

Moore: There's a big debate in Chicago about whether Walter Payton or Gail Sayers, but Gayle Sayers had a very short career. Incidentally, just as an indication of the advances that we've made in medicine over the last 40 or 50 years, Gayle Sayers suffered a ACL injury and it ended his career. Today, running backs come back pretty regularly from that kind of injury. So, the advances we've made in healthcare are sometimes under appreciated. But, I think he was well, Barry Sanders and Gail Sayers were the greatest open field runners of all time.

Doescher: I mean, I would debate ...

Moore: I know you're from Michigan ...

Doescher: I mean, I would debate ...

Moore: They were incredible ...

Doescher: The best ever, but hey, that's your thing. But you're a proud Bears fan and all this is, is we're trying to establish the rivalry between Detroit and Chicago, which really isn't a rivalry. The Bears have a head up on the Lions. But that being said, this grabbed my attention is just the NFC North thing. Chicago is always the weekend city for Detroit people to go over, experience that great place and then get out.

Moore: Yeah. So it's ...

Doescher: After the weekend is over.

Moore: It's actually a sad story of Chicago's demise. And it's very sad because really I'm a big sports fan and I love the downtown stadiums where you can go to the bar, have a nice dinner and then walk over. They did it actually right in DC where they have the basketball stadium is right in the heart of downtown. You have a great time and you don't have to find parking and so on. And so the Bears leaving Soldier Field is really, I think, a big blow to the Bears. I think they're making a big mistake, but it's also a big blow to the city.

Moore: I mean, the revenues from having a sports team in the city are huge in terms of restaurants and hotels and bars and all of that. And it just loses its flavor as a Chicago team by them moving out to Arlington Heights. I think it's so discouraging that it's come to this, but Chicago has so many problems. It's the high taxes, it's the crime, it's the woke culture there that the Bears just couldn't see a future in that city.

Doescher: It's so funny because when you say that, I was watching when it was initially posited this year. I mean, they've been saying this for a while that they might move. But when it was posited this year, Lori Lightfoot, the mayor, laughed initially, and I think that that gives kind of a posture.

Moore: She called their bluff. Yeah, she called their bluff. And that was a really, she's been a disaster as a mayor. And I don't think this would have happened out of Richard Daley, either Richard Daley, the boss, or Richie Daley, his son, who are between the two of them mayor for 50 years. I don't even think Rahm Emmanuel would have allowed this to happen. Lori Lightfoot is incompetent. She was incompetent and the way she dealt with the COVID crisis. She was incompetent in the way she shut down the city.

Doescher: She's incompetent in terms of dealing with the police. And so it's a sad chapter in a city that is really a great city and it's losing one of its real cherished hallmarks.

Doescher: And one of the interesting things about it, as you know, this is a stadium Soldier Field, which is owned by the city and they put this big renovation in 10 years ago ...

Moore: They spent hundreds of millions of dollars.

Doescher: Hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars, and the taxpayers are still on the hook for most of it. This is something that's crazy.

Moore: I know you think this is a done deal, but I still think that reason will prevail and that the Bears will come to an agreement with Chicago. Maybe, this is like ...

Doescher: You may have the only take.

Moore: ... Rooting for the Cubs to win the World Series, but I still ...

Doescher: You might have the only take ...

Moore: Hold out hope because it's just such a bad decision for the NFL. It's a bad decision for the city of Chicago. It's a bad decision for the workers of Chicago. And it's a bad decision for the Bears franchise. So, let's hope that something can happen at the 11th hour and save the Chicago Bears.

Doescher: Now, hold on a sec. But again, there are other factors playing here other than just your nostalgia of going to Soldier Field or going to Chicago seeing Gale Sayers, all that stuff. But at the top of the episode, we shared a few bits and I just wanted to rehash them here because I think it says something about what we're dealing with here. This is one of our friends, Robert Brutvan from the Illinois Policy Institute, he compiled the list of things. Enrollment in Chicago Public Schools has declined nearly 25,000 students since the beginning of COVID.

Doescher: 219 billion in pension debt throughout the state of Illinois, that's $45,000 per family, per household. And Chicago owns about 50 to 60 billion of that burden alone.

Moore: Yes.

Doescher: Property taxes are the second highest in the country. And then of course you have the other issues, like the rogue prosecutor, Kim Fox, taking the crime rates sky high. It's devastating things. And so I'm wondering, I don't know if the Bears would ever say the McCaskey family would ever say this, politically, it might not work for them, but maybe this has something to do with them leaving.

Moore: I don't think there's any question. There's absolutely no question that it's not just about the money. It's also about the fact that Chicago has become so inhospitable to families and businesses. There's no question about that. And that's why it's so sad. Look, Donald Trump used to go to the big cities and he would tell voters vote Republican, what have you got to lose? And I always thought that was a very wise thing. I mean, the cities of America have been run by left-wing Democrats now for the last 50 or 60 years, whether it's Detroit or Cleveland or St. Louis or New York or Milwaukee, or Los Angeles and San Francisco, and they destroy everything that they touch.

Moore: You've had some instances where you've had really great mayors take over liberal cities like Rudy Giuliani of New York, and you'd see almost overnight the improvement. Leadership does matter. And we have leaders of cities now. Look at the mayor of Portland, look at the mayor of Seattle, look at the mayor of Cleveland, they don't stand up to the thugs and they're allowing encampments of homeless people. I was in Los Angeles two weeks ago, and you've got needles on the beaches. You can't even walk down the beaches in barefoot.

Moore: Compare that with Florida and Tampa or Miami, you don't see that kind of thing. So, these cities are really the victims and not just the cities, the inner city residents are the victims of progressive left wing politics.

Doescher: So keep going on that because your work with the health of states and cities, your publication that you do with our friends from ALEC, Jonathan Williams, Art Laffer, you do this yearly, you call it Rich States, Poor States. And I'm curious if you can share common shared themes. We talked about the bad legal scene, law enforcement scene, but other common themes within the states within these cities that are controlled by the left.

Moore: The interesting thing about cities is that when I grew up in the '70s in Chicago, it was not safe to be downtown Chicago after dark. It just wasn't, in the loop area. And then over the next 20 years or so from around the time Rudy Giuliani fixed New York, you had a real renaissance of big cities. People actually move back into cities. Washington, DC is a perfect example. I mean, there are areas in Washington, DC when I came here, even around the Heritage Foundation where we are right now, you'd go two blocks away, you were in a really, really dangerous area.

Moore: So cities really went through a renaissance. And look, I love America's big cities. I love Chicago. I love New York. I love Los Angeles. I love these great cities. And now they're being ruined because you've replaced sort of liberalism with wacko progressivism that feels like ... I mean, who in their right mind thinks you're going to reduce crime by getting rid of police? And by the way, there are abusive place. There needs to be better control of the police, and we need to reprimand bad police, no question about it.

Moore: But you're not going to solve the crime problem by cutting your police force in half. You're just not going to.

Doescher: Yeah. I mean, and another thing that I've seen is we don't talk about it so much, but what about these underfunded pensions that they've promised after year after year after year, they double down, they double down. And the next thing you know, they're asking for a bailout from the federal government for it, which this ...

Moore: I don't think the American people are going to go for bailing out these big pension plans, but I've always said the problem with three cities is threefold. It's taxes, it's crime and it's schools. So, the taxes keep rising in these cities, and you mentioned Chicago high taxes. The sales tax is 10% in Chicago, 10%. That's a high on top of the highest property taxes and the highest other taxes that they have. So taxes are driving business out, crime as we just talked about, and the other one is schools.

Moore: So, I mean, look, you can't, unless you're really, really rich, you can't move into the inner city because you can't send your kids to the public schools because they're so bad. And so the people who tend to be in the cities now are really, really affluent people or really, really poor people. And the affluent people send their kids to private schools.

Doescher: It was incredible because just going back to Chicago. I just looked up crime statistics. And it is, I mean, night and day compared to Arlington Heights where they just bought the property, which could turn into the new Bears stadium, if they decide to do that, versus inner city Chicago. It is night and day, Steve, and what a contrast just 30 miles.

Moore: So you're seeing one of the other things that's happening in urban areas here is you're seeing these kinds of parallel cities being developed. A good example is my good friend, Kemper Freeman, who developed Bellevue outside of Seattle.

Doescher: Isn't he in transportation? Is that ...

Moore: He's a transportation expert. He's one of the great entrepreneurs. He has one of the largest shopping areas, malls in the country. Anyway, Bellevue is just booming. It has become a twin city to Seattle, and Microsoft and Google and all these companies are moving out to Bellevue because they don't have the crime. They don't have the racial politics. They don't have the incompetent leadership. They do have decent schools. You see that outside of Atlanta where areas are really developing that are shopping areas and places with a lot of commerce.

Moore: And I think the question is, is Arlington Heights going to become one of those things? I've been to Arlington Heights. I'm not so sure that that's going to be the next big city. But, I think the cities really do risk seeing their commerce just flowing out of these areas if they don't get their act together.

Doescher: All right. One of the reasons why I respect you so much is because for some reason you are an optimist, you believe the best is yet to come. In fact, you wrote a book called It's Getting Better All the Time, taking a line from one of my favorite bands, The Beatles. And you wrote that with Julian Simon, who's a renowned economist who ...

Moore: And was a senior fellow here at the Heritage Foundation.

Doescher: Yeah.

Moore: Yeah.

Doescher: Yeah. And basically, you took trends and proved that through human ingenuity, we can get better. We can do this. So taking that logic, and you've used it a little bit now, what are some first steps to take for far left, far left cities to get back to getting better?

Moore: Well, look, cities have such natural, as I was discussing, they have such natural advantages and they have some of the best restaurants in the world, some of the best cultural things, whether you're into opera or sports or whether you're into theater. I mean, in fact, old people, senior citizens, when their kids leave home, they've actually been moving into the cities. It used to be moving out. So, I am optimistic about the future of cities. I do think that they're going to correct themselves. I think that will come from the citizens, the power to the people movement of taking back their control of their cities.

Moore: So you get rid of crime, you get rid of the high taxes, you get rid of the lousy schools. You can't let the teachers unions run the schools, that's a lesson. And so I think that you are going to see a renaissance, another renaissance. What killed cities over the last few years has been COVID. I mean, COVID was really destructive and the mayors did, for the most part, really horrific jobs in terms of dealing with COVID. But I think the racial politics doesn't work well either. The fact that the mayors did not take control of the streets of their cities, and they allowed hoodlums and gangsters and criminals reign.

Moore: It was like a scene out of Bat ...

Doescher: That was not a legitimate protesting.

Moore: Yeah. They weren't protesters. They were rioters. A lot of them were professional criminals. But look, yeah, I am. I think that cities will make a big comeback because I think we don't have socialism in our DNA. Americans do believe in the free enterprise system, and they also were very practical people. If something isn't working, we demand change. And I think that's going to happen in cities.

Doescher: Some of the proposals and some of the things that have been implemented in cities like Chicago are making an appearance here on Capitol Hill right now, in terms of what we call the reconciliation bill, this non infrastructure bill, they call it infrastructure. We call it non infrastructure bill. And I'm wondering to what extent this far left very, very, very far left idea, Lori Lightfoot-type ideas, if it has a chance to be the federal stage and actually be implemented to the tune of five trillion, $10 trillion, like the left wants.

Moore: This is the real thing. These people are out to massively raise taxes to the levels they were in the 1970s. They want to reverse all the gains we've made in school choice. They want to really hammer small businesses. Family-owned businesses would just get crushed by this agenda. How many years have we worked? You worked on it, Tim, advancing right to work laws. We now have 27 states. They want to abolish right to work laws to require millions of workers to join unions without their consent. I mean, I could talk for half an hour about how horrific the bill is.

Moore: I mean, it massively increases our debt, doubles it in the next 12 years, and the tax rates go way up. So I think in the end of the day, we can stop this. I think the polls are showing two out of three Americans are against it. The American people didn't vote for this, by the way. How many people went to the polls in November and said, I'm going to vote for Joe Biden. He's going to run up the debt and the government cost by 10 trillion? Now, I know what you're saying, Tim, it's all free. It costs nothing.

Moore: But, this is the mentality of the left now that they really do believe in this concept called modern monetary theory that they can spend and spend and borrow and borrow and borrow. And as long as we're the world reserve currency, we can send the debt and the spending into the stratosphere. And that is an extraordinarily dangerous paradigm. And I always ask my liberal friends, "Okay. Show me where's it ever worked. Where? Show me one time in history where massive increases in government spending actually led to an improvement in living standards because you can't find one."

Doescher: Steve, I am so appreciative of you coming in, sharing the love for Chicago. And if we could, on the count of three, we can end this episode by just saying da Bears. All right. So here we go.

Moore: Well, I'm going to say something different. I'm going to end this episode by saying, save our country, kill the bill.

Doescher: Steve. Thanks so much for being here.

Moore: Thank you, Tim.

Doescher: Thank you so much for listening to Heritage Explains. That's going to do it for us this week. However, next week, we're going to be back. But before we end the show, I just wanted to ask you hit that like button, hit that share button. You can leave us a comment or you can check out the show notes where I linked to a lot of the work that helped to build out this episode. It's a great place for resources. So please check it out. Michelle's up next week. We'll see you then.

Heritage Explains is brought to you by more than half a million members of The Heritage Foundation. It is produced by Michelle Cordero and Tim Doescher with editing by John Popp.