by James J. Devine
State lotteries amount to a hidden tax on the poor. They eat up about 9 percent of take-home incomes from households making less than $13,000 a year.
Since government-sponsored gambling does far more harm than good, especially at the bottom of the economic ladder, combative Gov. Chris Christie wants to make things worse.
Though New Jersey had a record $2.7 billion in lottery sales in fiscal 2012, Christie says a private company can do better.
There’s no evidence to support his position and the one bid his administration received includes a company that has missed revenue goals since taking over the lottery in Illinois, but Christie joins a growing list of Republican governors who are seeking private investors to rob and rape public assets.
If he succeeds, profits diverted will be away from taxpayers, who will lose money so that Christie can advance the evil Republican myth that government does not work.
“It’s not like private companies have some magic wand to wave and make things better,” said Victor Matheson, an economics professor at College of the Holy Cross in Boston.
Everyone knows private investors are seeking to maximize profits, and they care nothing for taxpayers, employees, consumers, vendors who offer ticket sales or the institutions — including veterans homes, psychiatric hospitals and schools — that received $950 million from the lottery’s receipts last year.
“Giving the lottery to a private vendor is like killing the goose that laid the golden egg,” said Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan Jr. “It’s difficult to rationalize privatization under any circumstances, but it would be irresponsible to go forward with an award when only one bid was submitted.”
“The proposal to privatize without public explanation one of our most profitable and well-run assets is troubling,” said Assemblyman Vincent Prieto, who heads the budget committee. “The Christie administration appears ready to forfeit substantial long-term revenue for a one-shot payment that will also hurt small business owners and risk vital programs.”
Christie told reporters, “Privatization is the right way to go,” because GOP mythology suggests that Americans and their government can do nothing right by comparison with the heartless free market, which brought us the foreclosure crisis, a global economic meltdown and at least $6 trillion worth of bank bailouts.
Advancing potentially disastrous right-wing policies while maintaining the appearance of a moderate, Christie could very well be the most dangerous man in America. With his landslide re-election almost universally accepted as a simple matter of time, the country may not even need to hold an election in 2016 before sending Christie to the White House.
While the public has more access to information than ever in the Internet age, information overload has maimed the public’s ability to process simple ideas, discern facts from fiction or simply survive.
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