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Pierce writes: "Wall Street is the most obvious example of our risk-for-risk's-sake culture, but the entire political and economic system is lurching toward a situation in which it hits on 19 and hopes for the best."

(illustration: unknown)
(illustration: unknown)

Gambling Nation

By Charles Pierce, Esquire Magazine

12 June 12


Wall Street is the most obvious example of our risk-for-risk's-sake culture, but the entire political and economic system is lurching toward a situation in which it hits on 19 and hopes for the best.

could have used a better revelation at the window on Saturday, when the laughing gods of chance - those scrimey bastids - suggested that I drop a little dough on Optimizer at the Belmont Stakes. As it happens, the laughing gods of chance combine the obvious tactical clairvoyance of Mark Penn with the sense of humor of a tackhammer, and Optimizer may well still be running, as far as I know, but, as it turns out, he wasn't the real revelation. This is what the real revelation was:

The United States of America is now nothing more than a place where you gamble.

Consider: Most every state in the Union, including the Commonwealth (God save it!) here, would rather build 20 casinos than risk raising taxes a dime, as though gambling itself were not a brutal tax. (How do I know this? Because once, long ago, on the night Mark McGwire and his pharmacist went past Roger Maris and his bartender for the single-season home run record, I sat in a casino in Tunica, Mississippi, and watched a 300-pound woman with oxygen tubes up her nose feed quarters into a slot machine while wearing a T-shirt that said, "Jesus Is The Answer." This was the same trip on which I saw a billboard outside Vicksburg that suggested, "Sell Your Car For Cash.") The entire Republican economic plan is one long gamble on a bunch of economic theories that already have failed twice in my lifetime. Ask even earnest young liberals how you manage to get a middle class without a manufacturing base, an active government, and strong unions, and you get the same kind of shrug you get along the rail when you ask someone why they bet the 5-horse when the creature plainly has hooves the size of a country ham. Ask Willard Romney the same thing, and he makes even less sense.

Get a hunch, bet a bunch.

Whaddaya say we put that on the money?

I saw it in Wisconsin, where the voters actually took seriously (twice!) the arguments made by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's editorial board that Scott Walker was worth having as governor because at least he would do something, and that made him entirely worth the risk. It's like people took all that Neustadt that we were taught in political-science after JFK got waxed and turned it into The Racing Form. It is always better to do something than to do nothing. This is how we got to President C-Plus Augustus going with his "gut," which was, admittedly, brighter than his head, but not by much.

Seriously now, does anyone really know what comes next? We are treating people like zombie-eyed granny-starver Paul Ryan, and Senator Aqua Buddha down in Kentucky, like serious people while they flirt lustily with a dystopic and Dickensian future, and we do it because we've been trained to believe that taking a chance on anything is better than standing still. People who know how to run casinos - which is to say, everyone who's run a casino except Donald Trump - got reach by demonstrating to the rubes that it was better to leave the showroom and come onto the floor, and to leave the money on the table instead of wandering to the cashier's window and thence to the noodle bar. In a country where every convenience store is now a Keno parlor, where it takes 10 minutes to buy a banana because the elderly pensioner in front of you is scratching 200 tickets in a desperate search for a $20 payday, is it any surprise that Social Security has fallen out of favor? Social Security was a sure thing, and sure things are boring, if everybody's in on them.

Wall Street's only the most obvious example of this, and the most crooked example, besides. But it seems like the entire system is lurching toward a situation in which it hits on 19 and hopes for the best. Listening to Willard Romney talk about his economic plan is like listening to one of those in-house infomercials on craps or roulette that the casino pipes into the guest rooms upstairs. He is going to "revive" the private sector and "create jobs." Now, all sentient beings who have lived through the past 20 years know that the "private sector" in this country is primarily concerned with gaming profits for the investor class. In short, the "private sector" is all about gambling with other people's money. That's how Willard got rich, after all.

Risk can be a good thing. I wish the president took more of them. But risk for risk's sake - what my grandmother assuredly would have called "throwing good money after bad" - is no way to run a republic. Democracy can tolerate a lot of things, but it cannot tolerate an economy based on the 10-minute banana. your social media marketing partner


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+52 # barkingcarpet 2012-06-12 22:01
Gambling Nation? You kidding? Fukushima # 4 teetering, Fracking, GMO'S, Endless Wars, $ profit at the expense of a livable future?

This is not gambling, this is psychotic self (and everything else) destructive insanity.

Oops. Praise Jesus, we are all in the loony bin for allowing any of this B.S. on our watch/lives. Shame on us for allowing the insane to run the show, and what are you going to do about it. Go for a drive and spew along, shopping for cheap ass disposable/non- repairable junk which is made by economic slaves?
+8 # RLF 2012-06-13 05:22
Rich are really itching for a fight...guess they are gambling that they will win.
+3 # bluepilgrim 2012-06-13 03:13
How about gambling on China? O is going to exclude China from the US banking and financial system!? Now, THAT should get interesting! Wonder what Walmart thinks?
US excludes China from Iran sanctions waiver
By Peter Symonds
13 June 2012
With the imposition of tough new US sanctions on Iran due next month, the Obama administration announced a formal waiver on Monday for seven countries, exempting them from penalties. The significant exception was China—Iran’s largest trading partner and purchaser of Iranian oil exports.

The sanctions form part of the escalating threats against Iran, including of military strikes, for refusing to accede to demands by the US and its allies to shut down key aspects of the country’s nuclear program. Washington’s unsubstantiated claim that Iran is planning to build a nuclear weapon is the pretext for intense pressure on Tehran, aimed at fashioning a regime more conducive to US interests in the Middle East and Central Asia.

The US Congressional sanctions are harsh unilateral measures aimed at countries and corporations doing business with Iran—especially involving the purchase of Iranian oil. Any foreign bank or corporation engaged in transactions with Iranian banks faces the heavy penalty of being excluded from the US banking and financial system.

+6 # RMDC 2012-06-13 04:39
Gambling nation -- that's right. The state is building casinos not far from where I live and they say it is to raise money for schools. Fat chance.

The US does not really make things anymore. The work ethic is gone. There's no honor in a trade or skill that produces objects designed to last for a long time and be carefully made. I drive a Mercedes because they still are made that way. I also have a Chev. truck and it it is a piece of junk by comparison.

Gambling is a dead end economy. In the end, the house wins. Wall Street is the final "house" and it is rapidly taking all of the money that remains in the pockets of americans.

Also good point about glorifying risk. We think that people should be rewarded for the risks they take. This gives us not only a gambling culture but one full of extreme sports, investments, movies, etc. Risk is all we value. But risk is terrible for a culture or a society. Risk is an aberration from the norms.

The one area where the US tolerates no risk is national security. We police everything and arrest or kill anyone who might be a "risk" to america.

America is the most fucked up culture on earth right now. When it finally goes bust and collapses the world will be better off. So will we. We can go home (if we have one) and sober up.
+6 # 2012-06-13 12:19
Quoting RMDC:

America is the most fucked up culture on earth right now. When it finally goes bust and collapses the world will be better off. So will we. We can go home (if we have one) and sober up.

There are lots of places in Europe, Africa,
the Middle East, Asia, South America, and
North America where things are worse than

Trash talk doesn't get us anywhere. The 99%
who are less well off need to get together,
work together, vote together. That means
we have to tolerate a wide range of ideas.
And we have to urge others to be tolerant of
our ideas. To my way of thinking, all of the
Democratic presidents since 1932 were and are
superior to any of the Republican presidents
in that period. To me having a Democratic
majority in both the House and Senate is
better than not having a majority in both
+1 # AndreM5 2012-06-13 13:38
The world market has virtually no one making things designed to last. Gambling nation, throw-away nation, attention span of a nanosecond.

If your MBz was mfg before 2002, even better before 1992, I might agree. Anything newer has proven a reliability nightmare like most cars. MBz (and BMW) are fully capable of mfg fantastic cars but they no longer expect anyone to "occupy" their cars for more than 3 years. They don't expect you to buy them, just rent them and turn them in. Consequently, they have "lifetime" maintenance included in the rental agreement, which is to say they will perform NO maintenance at all. Nothing that would give the car a chance to live a long useful life.
+8 # sharsand 2012-06-13 06:19
Okay. So now we have all these wonderful casinos that in my day were cnsidered literally sins, except for church bingo games, and they were designed to offset our state deficits. Not only is there no real accounting of an inherently corrupt system, but they have done nothing to offset our debts. The right-wing still claims that that public workers have destroyed our country and the states should defund their pensions and healthcare. Casinos are black holes and do nothing to enhance society.
+6 # Brooklyn Girl 2012-06-13 07:03
"Now, all sentient beings who have lived through the past 20 years know that the "private sector" in this country is primarily concerned with gaming profits for the investor class. In short, the "private sector" is all about gambling with other people's money. That's how Willard got rich, after all."

As evidenced by the obscenely low interest rates paid on savings accounts and CD's. I would MUCH rather not have to gamble with my retirement savings, but I don't really have a choice.
+11 # BradFromSalem 2012-06-13 07:45
The increase in lotteries and the success of casinos is not just directly a result a way for the states to avoid raising taxes, it is also a symptom of unequal wealth distribution.

When people believe that they have little chance to improve their economic status by hard work, honest living, and a good education they turn to taking risks. Some, a few, turn to crime. Others look at the odds of getting to the next economic strata up the ladder, and calculate their only shot is to put down $1 or even $100 for the opportunity to get rich or at least buy a nice dinner out.

Here in the Commonwealth, that Mr. Pierce speaks of we instituted a lottery and then a sales tax within 10 years of each other. These are the two most regressive taxes you can have, but they were passed by the voters as alternatives to progressive taxation. And that is exactly what casinos and lotteries are for; a way to raise revenues by raising taxes mainly on the Poor and to a lesser degree on the Middle Class while the wealthy pay virtually nothing.

But the wealthy are gambling too! Only they don't use their own money. They don't need to, because they have money, Federally insured banks lend them money, while they rig the bet. The wealthy win every time. RICO was supposed to end organized crime.
+6 # bluepilgrim 2012-06-13 11:51
Lotteries are a regressive tax -- you're right -- and most money is spent on them by the poor, who have no other dreams left.

Side note: we keep hearing about how conservatives are so sensitive towards and concerned with morality, but here's a prime example of how their morality shifts to suit their desires. Sharsand is correct -- gambling used to be a sin. But so was murder, lying, stealing, slander, gluttony, greed, pride, and those too have gone the way of social justice.

Frankly, I don't want to hear about so-called conservative morality any more.
0 # BradFromSalem 2012-06-14 06:32
I think your point is that Regressive taxation is immoral by its very nature.
+1 # Kootenay Coyote 2012-06-13 08:17
Rude but righteous.
+3 # DorothyK 2012-06-13 09:30
Years ago there was a movie about a RAT whose name was WILLARD.......
+2 # jwb110 2012-06-13 09:54
Put the FInancial Sector under the rule of the Gaming Commission?

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