Robbing Peter to pay Paul

St Paul's  from flickr 5172661797_d7003e47a8_m

St Paul’s             flickr 5172661797_d7003e47a8_m

5639243328_ce8f602a7b_mStPeter's

 

 

 

 

St Peter’s ,  photo from Flickr

 

     Some cynic wrote “Whoever robs Peter to pay Paul can always count on Paul’s support.”  Too many people, though they might  hesitate to call gambling robbery, are comfortable with  government’s taking gambling-derived revenues from Peter (the gambler)  and converting them into what looks like a fiscal benefit  to Paul.  Paul here is the citizen whose tax rates were not perceptibly increased when government got revenue another way, from its share of Peter’s losses at legalized gambling.   Paul is expected to be grateful for government’s easing up on him thanks to  Peter’s losses.  To feel that way in good conscience,  though,  he has to think it’s really not “robbery,”  merely  “parting a fool from his money.”

     In NY we are most all Pauls, thanking government for fending off tax rate increases by reaping Lottery money.  There are two things wrong with this state of affairs that should make us change it, hard as that would be.  First, about half the revenue to government from gambling it sanctions is from the losses of addicted and problem gamblers.  To keep “playing,” these people almost always have to take money from others who trust them. Whether predatory gambling literally robs the gambler himself or herself can be disputed.  (See discussion below the “read more”  break.)  That it robs others via the gambler cannot be disputed.  It robs them not only of savings accounts, vehicles, retirement funds, lunch money,  furniture etc., but of reputation, affection and self-esteem.  These others number,  for each affected gambler, as many as 10 to 17 [Politzer et al, 1992 citing Lesieur 1977].

      Then there is robbery going on to keep Paul’s tax rate from rising. Paul can still be comfortable with that, if the identity of the victims is  abstract enough.  He ought also to realize, however, that he is not really benefiting by the apparent flatness of his tax rate.  The money Peter cozened  from his trusting family and associates (referred to as “abused dollars”) are only a piece of the hidden quantifiable socioeconomic costs of gambling.   Counting in all those hidden costs doubles what it costs society to  raise a dollar by tax-on-casino instead of by  stepping up the rate of a conventional distortionary tax like sales tax or income tax. [Earl Grinols (2004), Gambling in America  pp 180-181]

     If Paul feels no compunction about seeming to get a break on his taxes due to revenue  to government from gambling,  still insists  it’s a free lunch,  it’s not.  He gave at the office without knowing it.  Some of his tax money went to criminal justice administration or social services triggered by events in  the gambling exchange.  He is also part of an economy hurt by lost productivity and lost creativity due to gambling.  This is  a touch of rot. Continue reading

The Albany Gambling Diet

albanydiet  The Albany Gambling Diet

Thoughts on Healthier Eating

by

David Colavito

 

 

 

     When you consider how injurious the socioeconomic consequences of state-sponsored gambling are, compared to its benefits, you have to ask why Governor Cuomo is promoting the expansion of casino gambling, let alone as economic development.  Sure, “gambling is already here” and “New York needs jobs” – neither is in dispute.  And used as they are to promote the Governor’s plan, they’re certainly appealing.  That’s the sweet side of half-truths many of us prefer to our vegetables.  But if Albany isn’t serving a balanced meal, it’s in our interests to understand why.  I’m suggesting it’s a failure of imagination. 

    The thesis has been with me for some time and came into sharper focus recently while reading False Idyll, an essay by J.B. MacKinnon.  Dealing with an unrelated topic, MacKinnon’s words struck me as eerily apropos to the social injustice inherent to the casino economy – “…  the way you see the world determines much about the world you are willing to live in …“ 

    And because I choose to be generous in spirit, I choose to believe Governor Cuomo’s promotion of the casino economy is rooted more in how he sees the world rather than in the belief he can make it better.  It’s an unfortunate conclusion, considering what life would still be like if others before him had constrained their own imaginations when confronted with the same choice on important public policy matters: emancipation and suffrage to name just two.

    And though you might argue Mr. Cuomo’s recent policy commitments to gun control and gay marriage render my thesis flawed, I’d respond by saying perhaps you’re correct, but unlike for example integration in the south, I don’t think either would have occurred without strong political winds blowing at Mr. Cuomo’s back.  Regardless, what really matters is the facts of the casino economy, their implications for social injustice, and Mr. Cuomo’s refusal to acknowledge either in his pursuit to fill state coffers.  All of which is also to say, his fixation on the gambling economy is apt subject material for an as-yet conceived book to be titled after MacKinnon’s essay.

    So, what might we imagine if enough people in Albany saw the world more through the lens of what it could be rather than the way it is?   Given that the majority of casino gambling revenue dollars come from the minority of gamblers with serious gambling disorders, would lawmakers continue to endorse expanding that predatory business model to increase state revenues?  And given the well-established relationship that increased opportunity to gamble produces more people with serious gambling disorders, would they continue promoting state policies that cultivate making people sick to balance budgets?  Or, might they instead work to formulate policies that mitigate the interstate impacts of gambling so often used to conscript state residents in a race-to-the-bottom casino economy?  I think we know what they’d choose.  And there’s also recent precedence for pursing equally important objectives.  Consider, for example, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  Regardless of where you come down on the 2nd amendment debate, Mayor Bloomberg doesn’t just believe in the need for federal gun policies that don’t undermine those of states; he’s a fierce advocate for them in Washington.

    Still shooting for the stars you say?  How about then just punting for the moon?  Albany could acknowledge a false premise it uses to pursue expanding the failed policy of state-sponsored gambling, though I suspect it isn’t spoken aloud there often.  It’s the keystone for the arch of my thesis – “we’re desperate; what else can we do if we don’t promote gambling?”

    The answer is, plenty. 

Continue reading