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The Predator State

The recent interview of Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell by Leslie Stahl on 60 Minutes was quite revealing and gave us a good glimpse into the true motivations of State ministers and how they think and operate. The issue was Pennsylvania’s gambling casinos and slots that Rendell had put in place as governor as a means of collecting more revenues for the state, especially as an aid to reduce property taxes. But there has been a problem of “gambling addiction,” in which some people are losing their entire paychecks and more because they can’t control their gambling habits.

Now, I believe in personal responsibility and free will, and that it’s up to the individual to control one’s behavior and habits. If you lost your whole paycheck on gambling, then YOU lost your whole paycheck, not the gambling and not the slot machines.

But when Stahl pressed Rendell on the point that the state is taking advantage of people’s weaknesses, Rendell lost his cool, and angrily called Stahl and her producers “simpletons” and “idiots” because he couldn’t get it across to her that people were going to lose their money anyway, gambling at other places. So here is how that conversation went (as transcribed at the CBS News website):

“You brought these casinos to the state. Do you ever just say to yourself, ‘Oh, my God, there are a lotta people who are suffering. And they’re taking whatever money they have…,” Stahl asked Pennsylvania’s Ed Rendell. “…and they’re throwing it away in these casinos.’ And do you ever just say…’Oh, what have I done?’”

“You don’t listen. Anyone who has that bent would be doing it in other places had Pennsylvania not legalized gambling,” Rendell argued.

“The counter argument is that you’re creating new gamblers. And lots of new gamblers,” Stahl said.

“We’re not creating new gamblers,” Rendell replied.

“Well, ’cause it’s down the street,” Stahl said.

“Those people play the lottery. They bet on football. How much money is bet on the Super Bowl,” Rendell said.

“People are losing money for the state to get its revenue. They’re losing money,” Stahl said.

“Let me answer this. I’ve known of for two or three decades, you’re a very smart person,” Rendell said.

“But not now,” Stahl remarked.

“But you’re not getting it,” Rendell replied.

“I’m dumb now,” Stahl said.

“You’re not getting it. Those people would lose that money anyway. Don’t you understand?” Rendell replied.

Our pressing him on this point led to an angry response from Rendell: “You guys don’t get that. You’re simpletons. You’re idiots if you don’t get that!”

We couldn’t figure out why all the emotion. But his main point was that gambling is good entertainment, and people should be allowed to make their own decisions about it. But since the first casino opened in Pennsylvania five years ago, calls to gambling addiction hotlines in the state have tripled…

So, Gov. Rendell is trying to say that, because people are going to lose their money anyway at other gambling establishments, then they might as well lose it under state control, and let the state take advantage of those revenues. In other words, rather than thinking, “Hmmm, if people are gambling too much and losing their money, then maybe we should be doing something to discourage them from doing so, or even helping them to overcome their problem.” Instead, his thinking exemplifies how the State preys on others, as the State searches for new ways, ethical or not, to suck in more money to fund all the state’s extra agencies, bureaus, commissions, all the important administrators, the assistant administrators, the assistant to the assistant administrators and liaisons whose main importance is soliciting campaign contributions for the high ministers’ and chairmen’s and very important office-holders’ reelection campaigns.

Given how IMPORTANT it is that the state rake in as much of middle-class workers’ and producers’ wealth and property, one can see why Rendell would become so angry when questioned about it.

Here is the link to the full CBS News video of Leslie Stahl’s story. The Rendell interview is about 2/3 into the story.

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