From the Executive Editor
It's not only Barack Obama who opposed the Iraq War from the start, Spencer Ackerman reports in our cover story this month. It's his entire foreign-policy team, whose members also share their candidate's belief that the Democrats' perennial search for a national-security sweet spot just a little less hawkish than the Republicans' results in an unthinking Beltway bipartisanship that seldom questions the use of American power, no matter how dubious. Ackerman profiles the foreign-policy counter-establishment that has cohered around Obama's candidacy and how it might change the way America interacts with the world.
Elsewhere in this issue, Daniel Levy outlines some radically new approaches that the next president will need to take to arrest the Middle East's ongoing descent into hell. Art Levine looks at the Republicans' many-front assault on the voting rights of non-Republicans, and the efforts of ACORN, the community organizing group, to sign up low-income voters while dodging the GOP's attacks. Historian Jay Winter recounts how the nations of Europe voluntarily surrendered some of their sovereignty after 1945 rather than risk another war. And Prospect co-founder Robert Reich notes some ominous similarities between the root causes of today's downturn and the root causes of the Great Depression -- now as then, a distribution of income so skewed to the top that Americans can't afford to buy what we make. We've shopped, that is, till we've dropped.
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Barbara Dreyfuss' article "Politicians Bet the Farm" [March 2008] hits the important points on the problems with the rise in gambling.
Managing a regional economy is like filling a bathtub with the drain open. To grow, more dollars have to pour in from selling goods and services to other regions than drain out from purchases from other regions. Do casinos open the faucet and fill the tub or do they open the drain and empty the tub? This depends on where the casino revenues come from and how much of those revenues are spent locally.
In Philadelphia, roughly three-quarters of casino revenues are pulled out of the city with the vast majority of the revenues coming from local residents. This means that local businesses that recycle more dollars locally lose as people shift where they're spending and the jobs those businesses provide disappear. The result is a bigger drain and a net loss of jobs.
Frederic H. Murphy
Professor, Temple University Philadelphia, PA
Barbara Dreyfuss' recent characterization of casino expansion ignores countless studies demonstrating the positive impact of casinos.
Dreyfuss presents as fact the opinions of well-known casino opponents at the expense of independent, peer-reviewed research, which shows that casinos provide tax revenue, high-paying jobs, and infrastructure support for their host communities. It is inexcusable to ignore significant data merely because it contradicts the author's point of view.
Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr.
President and CEO, American Gaming Association
Dreyfuss responds: As Mr. Fahrenkopf states, there are narrowly focused studies showing casinos provide taxes and jobs in "their host communities," but these ignore negative effects on the broader regions. Casinos provide jobs and pay taxes but also increase crime and social problems. This, in turn, costs communities money for more police, court personnel, social services, and mental-health workers. And, when people spend their limited disposable income gambling, jobs and sales taxes are lost at the restaurants and retail shops they no longer patronize. The new, more comprehensive studies that I cited provide a more realistic assessment of how casinos impact a region. The fundamental issue, however, is whether government should promote gambling, with its economic and social costs, as a fiscal policy, rather than industries and services that add to the common good.
A Useful Crisis
I agree wholeheartedly with Robert Kuttner's discussion of the nation's economy and the politics that should guide Democrats in dealing with it ["Can the Democrats Think Big?" March 2008].
On the other hand, a bit of a crisis might be useful, too. Ronald Reagan came into office when the economy was plagued by high inflation and unemployment. For 25 years Republicans have run up big deficits in order to: 1) prime the pump so supply-side tax cuts could work their "magic"; 2) buy votes for their side with spending and tax cuts; 3) force Democrats to adopt Republican balanced-budget fiscal policies whenever Dems captured the presidency or Congress; and 4) perhaps bankrupt the government so that Grover Norquist could drown it in the bathtub.
Democrats could take a page from the Republican's book. A real economic crisis right now might be useful in rolling back the Republican propaganda machine and convincing the public of the reality that government is necessary to any modern market economy.
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