Friday, September 21, 2012

Ken Supports Expanded Gambling (Friday LINKS)

Ken Ulman was one of three County Executives that spoke in favor of expanded gambling yesterday.  The other two were Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker and Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett.

I was disappointed to see that.

Before we even get to the issues of whether gambling is good or bad for the state, it just seems like additional revenue based on games of chance is a very "un-Ken" thing to do.  Here's the guy that has made a name for himself in terms of government innovation and efficiency, thinking "outside the box", and rejecting the status quo when the status quo is wrong.  Gambling is clumsy, filthy, and may not even provide the benefits that are being sold.  That's not to mention the nagging fact that Howard County does not really have a dog in this fight.  We're trading increased state revenues, primarily directed to the jurisdictions with casinos, for an industry that has shown itself very effective at running our government to its own benefit; even insofar as when they hold meetings.

"Oh, but Tom.  There will be these jobs, ya see?  And we'll get all this new money for education, right?  It'll be real nice like.  You'll see."

The jobs are cheap and the money will be meaningless without any real attention being paid to the State's structural deficit.  State budget analysts have already concluded that the money directed to the "Education Trust Fund" will be diverted starting as early as 2017.

And look, I got this far without even mentioning how expanding gambling brings in revenue at the expense of Maryland's most vulnerable.

These three County Executives were selective in their support, and did not mention the tax breaks that were included with expanded gambling, effectively cutting revenue from casinos simultaneous with a tax increase on Marylanders across the State.

We have good legislators in Howard County.  I've had a chance to talk to a number of them informally about the Special Session over the past few months.  To a person, they say "We needed the money" and "Mike Miller would have made my life hell if I voted against it."  That is not the type of support you will hear for a good bill.  That is the concession of someone who was put in a desperate place.  I have to imagine that Ken has heard the same lines, which makes it all the more puzzling that he is being so vocal in his support. 

If you want expanded gambling, do it with your fists closed, get every dime for taxpayers, and show us some benefit other than shiny new restaurants and felt table-tops.  This whole mess feels like Maryland was open for harvest and law-makers are telling us to take the reaping without complaint.


Meanwhile, the University of Maryland has launched "a center aimed at training thousands of health professionals to help gambling addicts, operate a telephone hot line and launch a public awareness campaign."  There is something truly sick about this.  I can't put my finger on it.

Ezra Klein wrote a great piece in the Washington Post about the oppression of poverty and how hard it is for those of us with discretionary income, predictable meals, and reliable health care to empathize with that condition.  He takes some significant pot shots at Mitt Romney, but hopefully you can look past that (or revel in it) and appreciate the manner in which he addresses America's poor.

Recent polls are showing that Obama's post-convention bounce in National Polls is subsiding, putting him back to where he was pre-conventions (+2).  However, those polls also show some distance being opened up in many of the critical swing states, including Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, and Virginia.

Census data has indicated that Maryland women earn 86 cents for every dollar earned by men.  While disappointing, this is much improved from the National statistic of 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.

Baltimore County schools will be rolling out a plan to provide air conditioning to all of its schools by 2014 as a part of a $1.7 billion infrastructure improvement plan.  When crayons are sweating in elementary schools, it is time to get to work.

Featured Blog Post of the Day: TJ examines the "art of the insult", which is all too often ignored in the age of civility.  (Gasp).  No seriously, we need to be able to loosen up our conversation in a way that is not intended to shame or embarrass, but rather (as TJ points out) challenge.  "We'll agree to disagree" is a cop out.  It means "I am going to hold on to my half-baked idea and I would prefer if you stopped trying to make me think any deeper about this" or (more unfortunately) "I am finding myself agreeing with you, but would see such agreement as defeat, so please get away from me", which, quite frankly, is most uncivil.  Please check out TJ's post and offer your thoughts in the comments.  So long as you are not a brazen jerk, he'll probably be nice to you.

That's all for today.  Have a great Friday doing what you love!  It's impossible not to.

Ravens 23, Patriots 21.  (Baltimore calms its last minute field goal insecurity).