Why do taxpayers bother to have a government? Why don’t they simply send their tax dollars directly to the ultimate recipients and cut out the middleman? Because the middleman controls the play and takes his cut. The government, like a casino, owns and operates the tax-flow machinery and takes a percentage of every game.
There are no card-counters allowed inside a casino, unless you are clever enough to figure out a way to fool the casino or bribe a dealer to look the other way. Sort of like cheating on your taxes, finding a tax loophole, or paying to have one inserted in the code for your benefit.
No pictures allowed in our casino. Keep the real workings hidden from view, like Congressmen or their toadies meeting in dark restaurants and lobbies. We don’t want you figuring out how much the handle is or how we monitor the dealers and the play. We have our hidden cameras. So does the government. We can teach them a trick or two, but they’re learning fast. We can spot card counters with sensors in the table. The government can’t do that — not yet. It’s still using clunky old wiretaps. Heck, we’ll give you a reward card, and then we’ll know how long you spend sneaking a cigar when your wife isn’t looking.
We do a lot of counting and checking, counting and checking. So does the government, but we do it more efficiently. You really ought to let us take your money, not the government. You’ll have more fun, and the whole family can have a good time. Who needs a government to take your money when you have us?
Have a drink or a meal on the house if you will only keep playing. When you win, forget that the money was yours to begin with. Sure, we shuffle it around and redistribute it by chance. So does the government. You can’t figure that out either. So enjoy the action, the scenery, and the entertainment. Forget we’re even taking a cut.
You don’t enjoy withholding taxes, mailing in estimated tax payments, or sweating over tax forms and tables. The government has no imagination! It inflicts needless pain. Plus it has all this division and endless bickering over who gets what. Who needs it? We’ll take your money if you like, and we’ll provide action, lights, sounds, surprise, payoffs, and people-watching in the bargain.
Who needs elections? If you like, we’ll make all taxpayers go to a casino and bet half their income. All money bet on slot machines (after the State’s take, oops, the casino’s take) will go to defense contractors. All money bet on roulette will go to rich farmers. All money bet at the crap tables will go to people over 65. Do you really care who gets how much? Then bet the game of your choice.
If you like variety, we’ll give you four levels of casino play: local, county, state, and federal. We’ll vary the action at each level. And you get to choose your game. Who needs multi-level government confusion? Choose the change of scenery you want. You can have a little old rustic western poker game or a big old glitzy Manhattan skyline.
And who needs a checkoff box for election money? Your hand and pen are tempted. You always have to remember to ignore it. If you insist on gimmicks like that, we’ll accommodate you. We can deduct an added percentage for the casino take every time you press the button located at the top of the slot machine. It won’t cost you a dime.
If the government can come up with new games, like prescription drug benefits (?) or shock and awe campaigns, you bet we can too: Spanish 21, Omaha Poker, Sic Bo, Texas Hold’em, Pai Gow Poker, Double Exposure, I Dream of Jeannie slots. We’ll pay you off with your favorite song. We’ll let you bet a penny if you like. Free tickets to a show? We’ll arrange that. A complimentary meal? No problem. Whatever freebie the government can "give" you, we can outdo it easily. Even a penthouse suite can be yours. Just keep gambling.
Can we casinos replace government? Not right now. We know we’re not competitive. We know our failings. For instance, we can’t print money, but we would if we could. Then when you gambled it, we’d pay you even more! You’d win more, think of that. We wish we’d gotten into printing money first, but the government beat us to it.
We can’t start wars either, but how entertaining are they? We can stage a decent simulated war or a race or a football game for a lot less money, and you can watch it. None of this secrecy. None of this embedded journalism junk.
We think that the government’s giving us unfair competition and ought to be fined and put out of business. We can’t push people around the way the government officials do, taking property and regulating every business in sight — or else. They must get a kick out of it, because it doesn’t come down to bottom-line profits. We think they’re skimming, but we can’t prove it except now and then.
We have a better business model. We’ll let you work all you want tax free, but then you must bet with us. Let us coddle you all the way to your next paycheck or the poorhouse, whichever comes first.
Another thing. Why do all these governments insist on horning in on our turf, with all their jackpots, lotteries, pick fours, lottos, powerballs, scratch for cash, and mega millions? We don’t horn in on them. It’s unfair. We’d take the case to court, only they run the court.
Michael S. Rozeff [send him mail] is the Louis M. Jacobs Professor of Finance at University at Buffalo.