Gavel Gamut By Jim Redwine
GAMBLING, GOVERNMENTS’ IRON PYRITE
When the United States had gambling only in Nevada and then Nevada and New Jersey those two states were blessed with gamblers from California to New York. Each state’s own citizens benefited greatly from the rest of us.
Now virtually every state and every group of Native Americans is mining this mother’s lode of camouflaged taxation, revenue enhancement that is. The rest of us may scoff at Illinois and its budget woes. However, as a country we have many Illinois type problems of our own, our 20 trillion dollar debt for example.
Illinois in 2015 sold, mainly to its own citizens, $2.85 billion in lottery tickets. This direct tax fell mainly on those dreamers who could least afford it. A few winners shared $1.77 billion in prizes while $398 million went to expenses (commissions). Only $8 million of the $2.85 billion went to capital improvements and $679 million went to Illinois educational institutions. That sounds helpful but not when one realizes Illinois schools spent $30.1 billion in 2015. Gambling contributed only 6.5% of that total.
The mentality by people or by governments that you can spend whatever you want because the manna will fall from heaven without pain to anyone is what gets individuals, states and countries to where Illinois is, that is: an annual $6.2 billion deficit; $14.7 billion in unpaid bills; and $130 billion of unfunded state employee pensions.
After two years without passing a budget Illinois just decided to permanently raise the state income tax 32% which should raise $5 billion. Once again, that sounds good, however, the new budget only reduces spending by $2 billion per year and the new budget totally ignores the unfunded pensions. On the other hand, to provide Soylent Green to the masses the Legislature and Governor immediately reinstituted the lottery.
I know writers are sometimes chastised for citing to their own work. However, the current budget woes of Illinois, and the rest of America, received a cautionary column from me in 2006. Of course, many other more knowledgeable authorities have frequently issued the same type of warnings. But since it is likely no one read my earlier column from over a decade ago, I offer it once again.
ARE YOU FEELING LUCKY?
(Week of January 23, 2006)
Last week I made a modest proposal of an inexpensive approach to courthouse security based on Operant Conditioning, i.e., stimulus/response. The first step was to identify potential troublemakers then use negative stimuli to extinguish their desire to come to court. Being called for jury duty seems to be a fairly reliable negative shock to most people. Therefore, I suggested this as a means of discouraging certain persons from wanting to do harm at our courthouses.
Of course, if instead of preventing unwanted actions our governments desire to encourage certain behavior, e.g., the payment of taxes, positive conditioning can be used.
In studies of behavior modification, it has been discovered by numerous scientists such as Indiana University’s Alfred Kinsey that people can be trained to behave in certain ways by using incentives, i.e., holding out the hope they will receive something they really want.
The most powerful method of training rats and people to do what is desired of them, e.g., run mazes or pay taxes, is random interval reinforcement. Instead of a constant receipt of a food pellet or public benefits, it is more successful to mess with the expectations of the subjects. For example, if a rat is rewarded only intermittently for successfully running a maze, it will try much harder than if it is rewarded every time. Take our federal government for instance. If we taxpayers get some of our money back for local projects every so often as opposed to a permanent income tax reduction, we see the occasional dribble as a welcomed gift.
This cause and effect has been well known by our federal government since Honest Abe pushed the income tax to help pay for the Civil War. What happened to that boy’s Hoosier roots?
For about 150 years our government has experimented with methods of getting us to send in our money. It has certainly been a bi-partisan effort.
In fact, when it comes to taxation, the old adage: Republicans want to tell us how to live our lives and Democrats want to tell us how to spend our money, breaks down.
In these days of profligate governments and penurious taxpayers, the battle lines are constantly shifting. We are engaged in a new era of taxation.
What with widespread public education, the ubiquitous Internet and tabloid journalism, our governments are having a devilish time sneaking new “revenue enhancers” past us.
On the other side, our governments keep experimenting with B.F. Skinner’s theories of Operant Conditioning and random rewards to get us to pay more. The ultimate scheme is to find a way to get citizens to pay more money in willingly or, best of all, without even realizing they are being taxed. I, for one, will not fall for such nefarious manipulation. However, I must end this column rather abruptly as Peg and I are heading to Casino Aztar to play the slot machines and buy a Hoosier Power Ball ticket.
I am feeling lucky!
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