You'll be pleased to learn that your state legislative leaders have discovered the cure for high unemployment, yea verily the recession itself: Expanded gambling. Bring on the slots at the racetracks, bring on the casinos and soon all will be well. The economy will be saved. Who needs a jobs bill when you've got gambling? When people lose billions of dollars, everybody gets richer!
Quick, let President Obama know! Tell him to take it national. By fall, everybody will be so happy that the Dems won't lose a single seat.
Yes, this is the Through-the-Looking-Glass logic that prevails among those we have elected to represent us, to guard the public purse, to make sure that the billions of dollars we send them each year are spent prudently and efficiently.
Instead they tax us to exhaustion, and then upbraid us when we object by telling us we "can't have something for nothing."
But even that is never enough. So, with unemployment high, people "under water" with their mortgages and high credit card debt, what is the solution here in progressive Massachusetts, home of undying empathy and compassion for "hard-working people" and "the less fortunate"?
Seduce even more money away from them, through more gambling.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo announced earlier this month that he wants slot machines at all four of the state's racetracks (two of which conveniently happen to be in his district) and at least two "destination" resort casinos. He'll be filing a bill later this month, or perhaps in early April.
As usual, this is all done in very genteel, civilized fashion. The Orwellian manipulation of plain language is on display. Mayors and labor unions pushing for more taxes and more gambling call themselves the Massachusetts Coalition for Jobs and Growth. Nobody is ever so gauche as to say the words "taxes" or "gambling." It is "revenue" and "gaming."
And it is probably a done deal. The reason it failed a couple of years ago is because the former House speaker, the disgraced Sal DiMasi, opposed it. So did Haverhill Democratic Rep. Brian Dempsey, who is now helping DeLeo. It's all about — what else? — jobs.
The efforts of casino opponents like the outgoing Sen. Susan Tucker, D-Andover, and her former aide, Les Bernal of Lawrence, will be drowned by an avalanche of lemmings with dollar signs in their eyes.
But it is not done yet. And it is worthwhile to remember what the price for those dollar signs will be. When the state is awash in gambling and still can't pay its bills (New Jersey, anyone?), think back to what you read here:
Remember the colossal irony between the liberal credo that government should protect "the most vulnerable among us," and their heavy promotion of "recreation" designed to seduce them out of their money. Remember that these are the same people described by elder advocates as so poor that they are forced to make the "agonizing" choice between food and their medications.
Remember that politicians remain in a lather about predatory lending, but welcome predatory gambling, in which the slots hook people into playing to "extinction," which is to say, until they are broke?
Remember, if the casino promise of another $400 million or so in taxes every year is true, how much will people have to lose to make that possible. It's in the billions.
Remember the pitch that, while the Lottery may be regressive because the overwhelming percentage of those who play it are those who can least afford it, casinos are different. Supposedly, it's the middle, or upper-middle class who will gamble there. They can afford to lose their money.
Could have fooled me. In my one visit to Foxwoods in Connecticut, I thought I was at a retirement convention.
Remember what Richard Young, president of Casino Free Mass, has been saying — that for every dollar the state gets from casinos or slots, it will have to spend another $3 dealing with "social costs" like increased crime, lost work time, bankruptcy and family disintegration.
Remember that Attorney General Martha Coakley, anticipating casinos and slots, is pushing for "expanded wiretapping authority and a new definition of money laundering aimed at curbing sophisticated economic crimes." These are weapons to use against the upper levels of organized crime.
She also suggested to the Legislature that the state may need to add laws governing gambling-related crimes like cheating and counterfeiting, and to update its telephone wagering law. All this for some good, clean fun?
Remember what will be needed to enforce all these new regulations and laws. Coakley said she likes Nevada's model best, which includes a three-member state control board that employs about 450 people in seven divisions including investigations, corporate securities, technology, audit, enforcement, tax and license and administration.
Finally, remember that when it comes to gambling, the House always wins. Which means that unless you're employed by government, you lose.
Taylor Armerding is associate editorial page editor of The Eagle-Tribune. He may be reached at 978-946-2213 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read him daily at The Soapbox, the Eagle-Tribune blog at blogs.eagletribune.com/soapbox