Chris Powell: Conn. to replace Mass. gamblers with its own


With their joint venture to put a casino in East Windsor, Conn., to intercept potential traffic to the resort casino being built just over the Massachusetts line, in Springfield, the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Indian tribes say they aim to save jobs for Connecticut and gambling royalty revenue for state government.

This isn't quite accurate. The real objective of the interceptor casino is to replace gamblers from Massachusetts who have been patronizing the tribes' casinos in southeastern Connecticut and who are expected to start gambling in Springfield instead. The Massachusetts gamblers are to be replaced in East Windsor with gamblers from Connecticut itself.

This change in the source of gamblers and revenue should bear heavily on the General Assembly's decision whether to authorize the casino in East Windsor. For it is one thing to draw money from Massachusetts gamblers and send them home with the consequences of their excesses and addictions and their increased inclinations to rob and embezzle. At least then the money comes from out of state and the social burden is borne there.

It is something else to draw money from Connecticut gamblers and stick Connecticut with the consequences of excessive gambling. For if the casino revenue is to be drawn from Connecticut itself, it will come only from other commerce in the state, and the social burden of increased gambling will be borne here.

What then is the advantage of saving casino jobs in Connecticut if those jobs come at the expense of other commerce and jobs in the state? And gambling royalty revenue to state government cannot be fairly calculated without also calculating the expense of increased financial crime and broken homes and lives.

The casino racket is just about finished for state government. Connecticut has pushed its neighboring states into the business and now there's no one left to plunder but the state's own people. There's little profit in that except for the casino operators.


 This is income tax week, and a new book by Vanessa Williamson of the Brookings Institution argues that Americans on the whole are "proud to pay taxes," considering it their civic duty to support their government. But on the national level, rather than the state and municipal levels, taxes are not really needed to support the government at all, since the national government has the inherent power of money creation and to finance its operations it does not need to borrow money or obtain gold or any other monetary commodity.

The purposes of taxation at the national level are quite different. In 1946 the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Beardsley Ruml, described them this way: "1. As an instrument of fiscal policy to help stabilize the purchasing power of the dollar. " 2. To express public policy in the distribution of wealth and income, as in the case of the progressive income and estate taxes. "3. To express public policy in subsidizing or penalizing various industries and economic groups. " 4. To isolate and assess directly the costs of certain national benefits, such as highways and Social Security."

That is, the purpose of federal taxation is to advance certain social and economic policies, to shape the people's behavior, and to allocate power in society. So while people justly can be proud of paying taxes on the state and municipal levels, where their taxes really do underwrite government, and while they can be proud of their country, on the national level their taxes are mainly the mechanism by which government controls them. On the whole those controls may be good ones but there's nothing particularly to be proud of in doing as one is told. Those controls are just the terms of the right to live in the country.

Chris Powell, a frequent contributor to New England Diary, is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Conn.