Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Not so fast, Katie!

Before writing about her column yesterday, Spot has a question for you boys and girls. Was it Katie's paternal or maternal "grandfather-in-law" who was the Cass County Sheriff? You can figure it out to a fair degree of certainty just by being a reader of Spot's blog.

Oh come on, Spotty! You don't know the answer to that.

Yes, grasshopper, Spot thinks he does. First hint, from the linked column:

Sixty years ago, Elmer Johnson -- then Cass County sheriff -- returned from the Bar Harbor nightclub near Nisswa to Walker, Minn., with a load of illegal slot machines. He dragged them behind the jail and smashed them to pieces with gusto.

Johnson was my husband's grandfather. "I could have been a rich man if I'd looked the other way at Bar Harbor," he later told his children.

Other than the thrilling tale of the summary execution of some slot machines, it doesn't tell us which grandfather it was. And by the way, what did Elmer Johnson do with the money in the slot machines at the time he smashed them?

Sheriff Johnson undoubtedly contributed the money to Gamblers Anonymous. Here's the hint that will give you the answer to the question:

So how did Katie meet her hubby?

I finally stumbled on Mr. Right by a stroke of good fortune. After I left my job to go to law school, he was assigned to the seat next to mine in antitrust class.

And then Spot observed:

Katie and her new boyfriend undoubtedly had romantic conversations about how to beat the regulators in a Sherman Act price-fixing investigation! And based on the alphabetical seating arrangements in most law school classrooms, Spot bets Katie's hubby is named something like Johnson or Lindholm.

Of course, Spotty! Sheriff Johnson is almost certainly Katie's paternal "grandfather-in-law."

Very good grasshopper. On to the column. Katie makes the remarkable--for Katie, anyway--observation that government is supposed to be about promoting the public good; she says this about state lotteries:

Slick advertising can mask a sobering fact about state lotteries: They have the worst odds of any common form of gambling, according the bipartisan National Gambling Impact Study Commission report of 1999. The odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are 1 in about 146 million. (Your odds of winning are the same whether you buy a ticket or not, one wag has quipped.) Hot Lotto jackpot odds are about 1 in 11 million.

You might retort: So what? At a buck or two a ticket, the lottery is low-cost fun.

Not for some vulnerable players. Economist David Mustard of the University of Georgia found that the average lottery player in his home state spends about $900 a year. Many of these are low-income folks, he adds.

Minnesota lottery officials don't know how much the average player here spends, said state lottery director Clint Harris.

But the lottery's most troubling impact may be its opening the way for other forms of gambling. Lottery directors are under constant pressure from state political authorities to maintain and -- if possible -- to increase revenues, according to the study commission's report. In the view of many, it adds, state lotteries "have become active agents for the expansion of gambling, setting the stage for the introduction of commercial gambling in all its forms."Is this a proper function of government?" the report asks.

Why is government in the gambling racket? Simple: Politicians want to spend more money, but don't want to raise taxes. They often attempt to justify lotteries by earmarking some proceeds for popular causes like the environment.

You see, boys and girls, the lottery is the gateway to perdition. As much as Spot hates to admit it, Katie is right, with politicians being the biggest gambling addicts. Where Spot parts company with Katie, however, is where she says that "Politicians want to spend more money." Spot would say it is because politicians are too lily-livered to fund--that is, raise revenue for--necessary state activities without resorting to gimmicks like the lottery, accounting fund and timing shifts, and raiding the tobacco settlement fund.

It was Governor Pepsodent and Senator Dick "racino" Day who wanted to get the state into casino gambling. You don't suppose, boys and girls, that Katie is so quiet about identifying these recent champions of gambling because they're Republicans?

Update: Ollie Ox urges us not to forget Racino Randy Demmer.

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