Gambling with our money

The increasing use of gambling as a source of revenue to close budget shortfalls is spreading like the plague across our nation.

Cities both large and small, devastated by the loss of hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs and the tax base that went with them, are eyeing “games of chance.” The politicians see it as a way out of their financial difficulties, their well-heeled cronies as a way to fatten their wallets, with absolutely no concern for the social ills that accompany the legalization of gambling or, to use its more “acceptable” version, “gaming.”

Since the end of World War II, up to the present, administration after administration has slowly but steadily shifted the tax burden away from corporations and onto the backs of working people. At the beginning of this period, corporations paid the bulk of federal taxes, roughly 80 percent, with the rest coming from individuals. Today, these numbers have been turned on their head. It has become so pervasive for corporations to avoid paying taxes that corporate tax lawyers, using obscure provisions of the tax code, help their employers in some cases to evade paying taxes altogether. If you looked at their tax returns you would think that they were no longer in business.

What to do with all this money? Hmmm! Let’s buy back some shares. That should raise the share price! Good idea. How about sharing the loot with our Wall Street friends by paying dividends? Ditto. Sure beats giving it to the feds. Heck, they might decide to spend it on programs to help working people.

The deliberate efforts by past and present administrations to concentrate the wealth of this country into the hands of the top 20 percent have had devastating effects for this country and its working class. Creating more billionaires does not improve our infrastructure. Creating more millionaires does not improve our schools or give us better health care. Spending for war enriches only those who invest in war.

Only by permanently reversing this trend, and instituting a tax structure similar to what we had after World War II, will the monies be available to do what needs to be done. When asked why he robbed banks, the bank robber Willie Sutton was quoted as saying, “‘Cause that where the money’s at.” We must tax those who are most able to pay. After all, their wealth came from the surplus value created by the working people of this country.

Other sources of revenue could be tapped too. Why not a 0.5 percent tax on all currency and stock transactions, treat capital gains as income, and tax profits from foreign subsidiaries at the same rate as domestic profits? All of that could generate billions of dollars of additional revenue. And last but not least, how about creating million of good-paying union jobs? Surely these workers would not mind paying their fair share, especially if they knew that their tax money would be spent to make life more pleasant and harmonious for all.

For those politicians who tell their constituents that the introduction of gambling is a panacea for their financial woes, I say bunk! Bringing in gambling also brings in all the social ills associated with it, and besides, all it really is, is a voluntary tax on working people. I say no to institutionalized gambling as a source of government revenue and yes to Friday night poker parties.

Bill Mackovich is a retired industrial worker and longtime poker player in Chicago.