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The [Wednesday] Papers

We're sorry to see our new mayor make a sucker's bet so early in his term.

Oh wait, that's not us, that's Crain's. You know, the business publication always nattering about the business climate because its specialty is, well, business?

Here's what they have to say:

"Mayor Rahm Emanuel came out strongly last week for a casino in Chicago. He apparently buys the argument that a casino is a sure-thing producer of jobs and revenue.

"Don't fall for it Mr. Mayor.

"Casinos don't bring new spending to town. They divert local spending from other purposes. Too often, those other purposes are groceries, rent, car payments and similar family necessities.

"Studies show social ills rise in places that have casinos. Guess who bears the cost of those social ills? That's right, taxpayers."

*

This is what we do in America: We prey on the vulnerable, seduce the weak, and then complain that they don't have sufficient strength of character to deny our come-ons. And be "we" I mean society in general but really Corporate America; for who else is getting rich off fast-food restaurants, tobacco billboards and liquor stores saturating impovershed neighborhoods? Whose character is really weakest, those who can't resist the lure of the government's ad campaigns for the lottery, and those clever, artful scratch-off tickets at every convenience store checkout counter, or the rich bastards getting rich off them?

And look, it's not just the poor who get seduced. It's just worse for them.

But here's the funny thing: Wouldn't it be great if everyone stopped playing the lottery? Isn't that in some way a societal goal? If we did, though, how would the state replace that revenue?

We are working at cross-purposes.

It's like red-light cameras. As I've written before, we should all stop committing traffic violations just to spite City Hall. They want us to roll through red lights, however innocently; they want us to not get back to our cars until our meters have expired. That's how they make money.

It would be great, wouldn't it, if everyone stopped smoking. But what about all that money we collect through cigarette taxes?

Now, I'm not against "vice." I like to gamble, I like to drink, and while I don't smoke I'm not sure I want to make it illegal. But government - and our elites - encouraging vices in order to exploit human behavior for revenue while turning around and scolding our citizens for doing what the pols and corporate execs hope we do so they can get theirs, well, that's what's immoral.

If we want to legalize gambling, then legalize it. But let's stop playing this game. Not just for ethical reasons but, as Crain's notes and everyone knows, the economics are perverted too.

*

"There's something so profoundly cynical about the arrangement, so fundamentally wrong and upsetting, that it puts into perspective all the braying and screeching of the politicians," John Kass writes in The Government Is The 'House' and You're The Suckers.

"One of the loudest was state Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill that now requires only the signature of Gov. Pat Quinn to become law. Link raged against bus companies that bring Illinois gamblers to out-of-state casinos.

"'The one group I'm going to put out of business is the bus drivers,' said Link. 'They're carrying Illinois people. And they're not going half empty. They're going full. Every day of the week. And they're going with our taxpayers and our tax dollars.'"

If anyone is gonna rip off the people of Illinois, it's gonna be us, not Indiana!

*

Memo to Link: It's not taxpayer money until you decide to make it so. The folks boarding the buses are doing so with their own money.

*

"My personal opinion is that if the city can't rent trucks without corruption, they probably can't run a casino without it," the Rev. Philip Blackwell, of the Task Force to Oppose Casino Gambling in Chicago, told Kass.

*

And remember: Rahm will be rooting for you to lose. And lose big. That's the only way this will work.

*

The monstrosity served up by lawmakers is too big, too broad and, with its intrusion on the Gaming Board, far too reckless.

Oh, wait. That's not me, it's the Tribune editorial page, which also says:

"Nor would this expansion necessarily raise those gobs of new revenue. In fiscal 2010, casino gambling revenues in Illinois fell to their lowest level since 2001. Think of this as the Illinois Legislature's Loopy Law of Economics: When demand for gambling is in decline, that's the time to expand gambling! Put these lawmakers in charge of auto production and they'd have Chicago's Ford plant building Edsels, Fairlanes and Pintos."

Too bad the Tribune's newsroom assumes otherwise.

"But vetoing the plan would toss away hundreds of millions of dollars for a state still searching for money to pay old bills despite a recent income tax increase," Rick Pearson and Ray Long "report," as if the economic ramifications are obvious and without question. "And blocking the casino bonanza also risks the wrath of new Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a sharp-tongued politician who inherited a city with its own set of money problems."

If it was a sure thing, though, nobody would oppose it. Assessing the downside - and potential pitfalls - is as important (actually more) than repeating (unproven) assertions of the upside.

*

Does Pat Quinn have the testicular fortitude to be the governor? Is he willing to take on Rahm, Madigan and Cullerton?

Recent history says No.

But the casino bill now on his desk appears to have a poison pill - or four in it. If it was just about Chicago, he might let Rahm have his way. But the bill would also put casinos in Rockford, a south suburb to be determined, Danville and Park City. It would make Quinn, who already has reversed his past position on gambling by expanding video poker, the author of the state's largest gambling expansion in 20 years.

*

"Quinn looks like a man without a country," Carol Marin writes. "Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton don't need him for anything, assuming they ever did. And besides, they have Rahm and Rahm has them . . .

"So what is Quinn to do?

"Well, for one, he can veto any legislation he believes is not in Illinois' best interest - whether that's casinos, ComEd rate hikes or other bills - establishing himself as a man of principle rather than mere political pragmatist. And someone unconcerned about running for re-election.

"Two, he can try to find his voice again. For a perennial gadfly once capable of getting under the skin of entrenched power, he seems to have totally lost the knack."

But don't you see, this is why the Establishment rallied around the gadfly. Just call him Patsy Quinn.

-

See also: Welcome To The New Chicago Casino!

And So It Goes
"Former Mayor Richard M. Daley has joined Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, the law firm that negotiated the controversial lease deal to privatize Chicago's parking meters," Shia Kapos reports for Crain's.

Daley will presumably be provided with his own parking spot. If he's ever asked to show up to work, that is.

-

The Beachwood Tip Line: Double down.



Permalink

Posted on June 1, 2011


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