Monday, March 5, 2012

Week of 03/05/2012

The “Predatory State” Is Already Here
– by David Matthews 2

In his regular column in the Barrow County News here in Georgia, Ray Newman reiterated the usual comments being made when it comes to gambling; namely that it “preys” on the community in general and that there are “other ways” that state and local governments should be able to generate needed revenue. Mister Newman even brought up a quote from Warren Buffet - one of the few “one-percent”-ers that actually admits that he doesn’t pay “enough” in taxes – and called state-sponsored gambling a “tax on ignorance” and that he doesn’t like the idea of government getting their money by “hoodwinking citizens”.

Sadly for Misters Newman and Buffet, governments large and small have been doing just that for many generations now without resorting to lotteries. Has anyone tried to make sense out of the tax code lately? Politicians have been “hoodwinking citizens” on a continual basis by making promises of change that end up profiting the wealthy and screwing over the needy. Politicians have earned every inch of scorn, every ounce of revulsion, and every drop of bile, through their actions and the actions of their predecessors in facilitating these never-ending con games

If anything, a lottery system is far more honest than anything that Misters Newman and Buffet would call “acceptable” sources of revenue. The odds are not hidden in mice-type and befuddled in lawyer-speak. Yes, the odds are astronomically high. One would have a better chance being hit by lightning than winning the grand prize. But at the same time, one can still win a little money when played wisely. There are people that get their income from playing the lottery, and nothing but. They are rare, but they do exist.

But when government forces you to buy insurance, be it for a home, an apartment, a car, or (coming soon) for healthcare, what are the chances that you will make any money over what you put into it? The odds are next to zero, because insurance companies are gambling that you will not need their services, and if their odds on you needing it go up, then they will penalize you to make up the difference. Insurance companies gamble with their customers on a regular basis, and they almost always win, and yet their parasitic nature is considered “acceptable”, but playing a scratch-off game where you could win back a portion of what you spend is considered “wrong”.

Speaking of gambling, how about Wall Street and their manipulative games? The same kind of confusing games that brought down companies like Enron in 2002 nearly brought down the rest of the economy in 2008, and yet to this day that is still considered far more “acceptable” than any game of chance.

But I’m really not here to talk about the pros and cons of either a lottery system or to legalize gambling. What I am here for is to open Mister Newman’s eyes when it comes to the idea of a “Predatory State”.

Let’s get brutally honest here… the “predatory state” is already here, and it really has nothing to do with lotteries or scratch-off tickets. It has to do with corporate attitudes and how businesses see local residents.

We have watched as businesses have taken manufacturing jobs out of the area, out of the state, and even out of the country. Jobs that used to be the lifeblood of communities. Jobs that gave whole generations the financial stability to buy those homes, to buy those cars, to buy those appliances, and to spend their money in local businesses.

Who can afford to buy those homes and those cars and those appliances and to otherwise spend their money in local businesses when the jobs that paid for those things are no longer there?

When a factory worker goes from working fulltime at $20-an-hour to working part-time at the local big-box store for $10-an-hour, they just don’t have the money to spend like they used to. How can they be expected to “jumpstart the economy” when they have to choose between keeping a roof over their heads or putting food on the table? They’re not going to buy that big-screen HDTV in the big-box store. They’re not going to buy that new car at the local dealership. They’re not going to buy that $5 cup of coffee that they used to get every morning on the way to work. They won’t be looking at that new dining room suite in the furniture store. They cannot invest in the local businesses like they used to when they worked for that factory that paid them $20-an-hour.

When that factory is gone, and with it all the jobs that kept the rest of the community sustained, what happens to the businesses that remain? They try to continue, sure. But like frogs in a pot that is slowly coming to a boil, they have no idea that the environment around them is toxic.

I’ve been there, Mister Newman. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I have seen a local community here in Georgia succumb to entropy when their big employers gut the workforce in the name of higher profits. You watch as one-by-one little stores shut down for lack of revenue. The local mall gets emptier and emptier. Soon those franchise stores pull up stakes and head on out. Neighborhoods start emptying out. More and more houses are on the market. Streets cannot be maintained. Police and fire departments get shut down. People get desperate when they find out that they can’t rely on local services like they used to. Any of this sound familiar?

When the bank still presumes that you can keep paying your mortgage with only half the revenue, and the local cable company feels justified in jacking up rates, and your water and sewer and electric rates go up, and the oil industry decides to jack up the price of gasoline, and your healthcare and auto insurer both decide to raise your premiums and cut your benefits, then you are already in a “Predatory State”.

Millions of Americans have lost their jobs, their life savings, even their homes, and some of them have been deliberately and systematically written off by Corporate America and our government. We’re not talking about a handful of people either. We are talking millions of Americans. Millions. The very people that would otherwise be turning the economy around have been intentionally forsaken!

But the perpetrators of our misery have yet to be held to account for their actions. Instead they get trillions in bailout money, post record profits, give themselves obscene bonuses, and then proceed to impose new fees on the very customers that bailed them out and wonder why anyone would complain about it.

And you want to sit there and worry about whether or not we “would be” in a “predatory state”? Well then worry no more, because we’re already here. In fact we’ve been here for quite some time. Where have you been?

These things did not come about because of some lottery system. These things came about because Corporate America has stopped treating the rest of us as customers and instead have regarded us as a resource to plunder and exploit. Bringing in the lottery or to legalize gambling is an alternative to doing what really needs to be done, which would be to frog-march the real predators straight to prison. You know which ones I’m talking about; the very predators that run the businesses you deem to be “acceptable”.

And if that’s asking too much, we can always follow Nevada’s lead and legalize brothels. Corporate America already regards our governments as such anyway, so why should they be the only ones to have fun?

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