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Rendell’s casino addictionBY: Robert Zaller 01.14.2011
Is there any hope for the poor and ignorant who seem incurably addicted to casinos? Better ask: Is there hope for a governor who seems incurably addicted to casinos?
Tantrums speak louder than wordsROBERT ZALLER
Will the real Ed Rendell please stand up? I guess he has.
The Philadelphia Inquirer’s recent mug shot of Pennsylvania’s departing governor showed him in full cry at CBS news correspondent Lesley Stahl, who had questioned him a little too narrowly about his addiction to casinos. It seems that Rendell can’t get enough of the action anywhere—not on a Philadelphia waterfront, nor at Gettysburg, where Abe Lincoln once said a few words about a “new nation.”
Apparently, Rendell wants to re-found the republic on the world’s second oldest vice.
I’m not a gambling man myself, except for an occasional side bet on my editor’s patience. But I don’t much object to vice, except when it targets kids, victimizes the innocent or enlists the government as its pusher.
Leave aside the continuing spectacle of gamblers so addicted that they leave their kids to fry in the car. The picture still isn’t pretty: syndicates and public officials alike joined in common cause to prey off the desperate hopes of the poor in a Depression economy. As Rendell would say, a win-win situation.
The real crime to be punished in Pennsylvania, it seems, is poverty. Nearly eight years have passed since a State Supreme Court Commission called for an overhaul of Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system, including a moratorium on the death penalty. The main reason: Justice in the state was “systemic” only in its discrimination against minorities and the poor. Rendell’s reaction? He gave the report the bird.
When it comes to taxing the poor— which is what state-sponsored gambling is about— Rendell is the cheerleader-in-chief. But tax natural gas interests, or keep them from dumping toxic chemicals into the water supply? Not when they’ve so lavishly filled your campaign coffers. So Pennsylvania faces the certainty of an unfunded environmental disaster— rent a DVD of Gasland to see what the gas interests have already done to Wyoming and Louisiana— and maybe some new carcinogens in your faucet.
Let’s not forget, finally, the governor’s midnight $650 million bond issue, including a $47.5 million appropriation for his favorite fiscal sinkhole, the Barnes Foundation’s feckless move to Center City.
No wonder Rendell had to hire a lobbyist to insure that his “legacy” would be properly appreciated by Pennsylvania voters— at their expense, of course.
Now that his time is up at last in Harrisburg, maybe he can turn to his true forte: handicapping snowstorms for the National Football League. ♦
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