[posted by K.Y. Tsang, Ph.D.]
The casino industry is big business in Las Vegas. In order to lure Californians to gamble in Vegas, the casinos offer free bus rides, free food, easy credits, &c. Full bus loads take off from L.A. Chinatown every day. On the way back, one can see a handful of happy faces among dozens of long ones.
The Democratic assemblyman representing the 90012 district promotes a bill in Sacramento that the state of California will hand out cash at the Chinatown bus stop to everyone who gets off the casino buses with a long face. After all, shouldn’t everybody be entitled to a happy face? Isn’t this the American Dream?
The bill is supported by all Democrats. The Republicans, facing reëlection, are reluctant to oppose the bill, since they don’t want to be labelled as anti-happy-face. Governor Schwartzenegger has threatened to veto the bill, claiming that public money should not be used to bail out people who have chosen to gamble. However, under pressure from Republicans who have to face reëlection on an uphill battle, Arnold is more and more likely to let the bill become law. Some even argue that the casinos should be bailed out too, since they’ve spent too much on free food, free rides, &c. A few politically incorrect opponents question the merit of the bill: Why should wise taxpayers, who made the wise decision not to gamble, foot the bill for the stupid gamblers?
Is this fiction? Welcome to the land of the American Dream.
The casino business is actually not in Vegas: it is the mortgage industry on Wall Street. The bill is not in Sacramento: it is in D.C. Yet the same question is: Why should taxpayers subsidize gamble-losers? Is rewarding gambling part of the American Dream? Or is that an American nightmare?
Dr. K.Y. Tsang (Ph.D. 1986, University of California, Berkeley) has taught physics at Auburn University and the Georgia Institute of Technology. He continues research in chaos theory.