When Governments Give Up
Stop the presses! We have definitive proof that Gov. Chris Christie gave up on governing New Jersey a long time ago. It is just impossible to do, apparently. And the state Senate agrees. Ditto the state Assembly. Same thing can be said for Congressmen Frank LoBiondo and Frank Pallone Jr. Real governing? Can’t be done! Though the two representatives work out of Washington (work being a relative term), they have weighed in on the Garden State’s ability to have an effectively run government. Our elected officials have abandoned their responsibilities, and worse, much worse, are prepared to blame future problems on us, the voters. Expand gambling in New Jersey? Well, if that’s what the people want ...
So we may just get more casinos and maybe even legal sports betting.
I, the eternal optimist, now feel despair. I believe our country is self-destructing in a manner not thought possible just a generation ago. We have survived as a nation, as a unique American people, through wars and natural disasters, through civil strife and inequalities, through depressions and recessions, through anything that came our way because Americans, by nature, seemed dedicated to the notion that we succeed. We succeed. We just do.
And the cornerstone of that success has always been: hard work.
Our political leaders often helped, often hurt and, most often, were irrelevant to that success. Because of the strength of our democratic system and the brilliance of our Constitution, we have overcome incompetent presidents and governors, even corrupt ones. We have been governed by Congresses that were as ineffective as any imaginable legislative body in any country, in any time. This president, for all his faults, and this Congress, for all its partisan gridlock and pettiness, pale in comparison to many other presidents and Congresses in history. New Jersey has had as many bad politicians (a truly redundant phrase) as any state.
We have overcome them all. We have remained a vibrant, successful, energetic, imaginative, powerful nation, sometimes with the help of great leadership (e.g. Lincoln, both Roosevelts, Reagan), sometimes in spite of our leaders (e.g. Hoover, Carter, George W. Bush).
Whether in Washington, D.C., or the statehouses, elected officials sometimes inspired us, sometimes frustrated us, sometimes did the right thing, sometimes not. But they seldom just gave up and admitted they could not effectively run their government.
And they never preyed on the people they were elected to serve – using them for their own means while all the time knowing that they were enticing them into ruin.
Harsh words, I know. But that is just what they have done when they turn to gambling as a source of income, and then keep expanding that gambling until it ceases to be a form of recreation and instead becomes legalized addiction.
Atlantic City is a failure by any realistic measurement. And so New Jersey voters will be asked to approve more casinos, this time in northern Jersey.
On Nov. 8, as we enter the voting booth to vote against someone for president, we will also cast a ballot for or against expanded casino gambling to northern New Jersey. The idea, I suppose, is that these new casinos will generate huge revenues for state coffers. Of course, the state will also lower the revenue it gets from Atlantic City by at least $200 million annually. And who, exactly, wants another part of New Jersey to become an Atlantic City replicate?
So, please, common sense says vote “no” to expanded gambling. Then we can get around to figuring out who our next governor will be and whether he or she has some real ideas on how to cut spending and raise revenues in the Garden State.
Common sense also says that legalized sports betting is a slippery slope to gambling addiction. Yet that is what Reps. LoBiondo and Pallone Jr. have long supported.
But everyone bets on sports, you say, especially football.
No, they don’t. Yes, approximately $1 billion is bet each week on the NFL, and $5 billion to $10 billion is bet on the Super Bowl each year. But only 3 to 4 percent of Americans currently have a gambling addiction. And I use the word “only” facetiously – that translates to almost eight million people! How many more will become addicted once they can easily, legally, bet on baseball, football or whatever is their favorite sport ?
And how many more New Jersey residents will find a casino nearer to them, perhaps in a “better” area (currently, that is) than Atlantic City too attractive to pass up, if just for “once in a while,” which is how gambling addiction begins?
Government-sanctioned gambling began with the lottery, which was billed as a way to raise money for education. And while all the money raised by the lottery went to education, it was not additional funding for education. It merely replaced other general revenue funds that had been allocated to education. A scam in every sense of the word.
And while the lottery was meant to take money from the illegal bookies and the “numbers racket,” what it really did was turn millions of Americans into gamblers.
Christie has essentially admitted that he can’t run New Jersey. He can’t effectively manage a budget, implement policies that will create jobs, provide needed services, implement a fair and sound system of taxation, turn around New Jersey’s troubled cities and create a vibrant economy. He simply cannot do it.
LoBiondo and Pallone also recognize that fact.
So the governor, the state Senate and the state Assembly are doing what my Uncle Junior did back in Brooklyn in the 1950s: They are trying to expand their bookmaking operation.
I knew my share of gamblers and bookies. But here’s the thing: I never knew a rich gambler or a poor bookie.
Sports betting did seem like an easy answer to our fiscal woes back in the days when the governor was spending most of his time (or at least more of his time than he is doing now) being governor. That position and its annoying responsibilities have taken a back seat to running for president and now to being Donald Trump’s sycophant. So he still has little time for us, and little time to devote to solving the state’s budget woes and the mess that is Atlantic City.
Reps. LoBiondo and Pallone are all too happy to oblige, reintroducing their bills to this sorry end. They say in a statement that legalizing sports betting will give Atlantic City a “hand up” and help “crack down” on criminal enterprises that offer sports betting.
If you can’t stop them, become them.
Here I must admit to one noteworthy fact: Polls have shown that the majority of New Jersey residents would approve of legalized gambling on sporting events if they could.
So what? The majority, ladies and gentlemen, does not always rule. If it did, there would be no income taxes (for everyone, not just for Trump), no beach badge fees, no 23-cent raise in our gas tax, no tolls, etc. But our elected officials are supposed to govern.
Putting an awful idea on the ballot and then saying “majority rules” is not governing. It is an abdication of responsibility.
Gambling will do, is doing, to this country what all the vices and self-destructive behaviors before it could not do. It is eating away at the American work ethic and destroying families.
So why would we make it easier? Vote “no” on Nov. 8.
John M. Imperiale of Harvey Cedars can be reached at Imperiale@msn.com.