Unqualified reservations, so to speak

This is shameless. A sleazy political action ad has been running in the Albany television market recently, excoriating the proposal to approve a new casino in Tyre, NY, a rural town a bit over half an hour west of Syracuse. This casino, the ad ominously intones, is “not the way to revitalize Upstate New York,” because it will merely “move jobs a few exits up the Thruway.” QED, tell Andrew Cuomo (the schmuck) and the Gaming Commission (by inference, the schmucks plural): no Casino in Tyre! The pressure group responsible for these ads even has lawn signs featuring a catchy logo that incorporates the “No” of “No” into “Casino.” Get it? Snorkity snork snork.

The kicker is the identity of the lobby responsible for this ad, which is discreetly noted in a pale, weak font near the bottom of the screen: Paid for by the Oneida Indian Nation. The Oneida are better known for operating their own deluxe casino and resort a bit over half an hour east of Syracuse, in the town of Verona. It’s called Turning Stone. My parents have stopped there for lunch a couple of times and were impressed. Apparently Turning Stone isn’t impressive enough to compete in a free market against other casinos, restaurants, and golf courses in Western New York. But let’s get real: it isn’t the American way to settle for honest competition in a free market when one can instead compete dishonestly in a rigged market. The Oneida Nation isn’t trying to do anything that Lockheed-Martin doesn’t actually do at the federal level every fucking week of the year.

Yes, the same sort of shit goes down in other countries, too. Of course. The big difference is that few of these countries have significant political factions in the mold of the GOP and its copycats in the Democratic Party that get bent out of shape over the need for policymakers and citizens alike to get down on bended knee in recognition of the inviolable supremacy of the free market. In Japan, for example, when the LDP dumped the public treasury into yet another freeway to nowhere, it made no effort to disguise the truth that this waste was, among other things, a direct-hire jobs project. The other things in question, which it made a slightly greater effort to hide, included opportunities for private-sector general contractors, construction equipment manufacturers, aggragate mining concerns, and the like to directly loot the treasury, but hey, they asked for a helping of that gravy, too, and it’s some cool shit, amirite. Nobody was going around with delusions of being John Galt. In Europe, that sort of up-by-the-bootstraps grandiosity was very much limited to England, especially the South; the trade unionists in Scotland and the North were leery of the Thatcherite bullshit. (Explain Wales for yourselves in the comments, if you must. Wales has that village with sixty letters that only that one weatherman knows how to pronounce, so I’m not even going there. Also, my mom swears that when we did literally go there, a Welshman served her horsemeat at his restaurant.)

Stateside, however, we are all so dispossessed of our balls that we reflexively genuflect before our pseudo-Galtian betters, who are actually much more skilled and effective gimmedats than anyone living on Section Eight in the Badlands. Our cowardice before these frauds is why we can’t have nice things, like direct-hire government jobs programs for the unemployed. Of course some asshole who lives in a mansion will complain that he’s paying for that, and that it’s going to darkies, but why should his grandiose self-righteousness about (like, a ten-thousandth of) his hard-earned tax dollars going to support (like, a ten-millionth of) the upkeep of that Wetback/Spic/Dindu/trailer trash override the public interest of keeping at least some of the unemployed from being broke, desperate, and at loose ends? Don’t we, as Americans, officially support the work ethic? How does not allowing our governments to hire these people for jobs where they at least have to show up to get paid square with expecting people to work instead of sitting on their behinds all the live-long day?

In the hinterlands around Syracuse, a government jobs program could easily be set up for the harvest and cultural management of vineyards and orchards, which are already planted in large acreages regionally. Governments could either purchase and directly operate orchards or vineyards for the primary purpose of workforce development (a slightly more expansive model than the City of Springfield, Oregon uses at the Dorris Ranch, and Tacoma at Charlotte’s Blueberry Park), or they could rewrite farm aid regulations to strip all public support from growers that refuse to preferentially hire ablebodied referrals from the welfare office who are authorized to work in the United States. These reforms are so simple that officials should be embarrassed not to have advocated them, but, if you’ve been hanging around here long, you’ve probably already been repeatedly beaten over the head with evidence that the United States is a grossly dyscivic polity, so it will come as no surprise that its officials can’t be bothered to lift a finger for the unemployed when they can instead finger the “job creators.”

The traditional New York State response to Upstate unemployment was mass incarceration, most viciously under the Rockefeller Drug Laws, but that dog don’t hunt like it used to under Massa Nelson. New York is now near the forefront for sentencing reform in the United States, and its total prison census has dropped enough to allow the Department of Corrections to close a number of facilities. Public-sector direct hiring for something useful, like horticultural grunt labor, is politically incorrect and infeasible for the reasons described above, and the Thruway is comfortable maintaining its current level of merely modest personnel bloat.

This leaves casino gambling as the only “engine” of job creation in evidence. That, and quasi-scams in STEM credentialing, but these aren’t so much workforce development schemes as excuses for bottomfeeding manufacturers with low headcounts and a love of international wage arbitrage to loot public treasuries through property tax abatements because jobs. What Americans are apparently too fucking dense to grasp these days is that casinos are as masturbatory a business as there is in this world. They don’t produce diddly; they merely diddle themselves.

This is why the Oneida Nation’s television proxies are, unfortunately, correct to argue that the opening of a new casino an hour to the west of Turning Stone will do nothing but suck a fixed pool of jobs from one Thruway exit to another. The whole thing in fact is a zero-sum game because casinos contribute nothing of positive marginal value to the real economy. Once the problem gamblers have found a place to get their fix within comfortable driving distance, the market is saturated. Casino gambling has become so popular with state governments in my lifetime that practically every market within a three-hour drive of an Indian reservation or a paddleboat slip has already been saturated. It was one thing to give dispensation for this license and fraud to a single failing boardwalk dump like Atlantic City, or to a single barren wasteland of a state like Nevada. These were exceptions that proved the rule. Now, though, every state but Utah wants its own franchise to eat all the seed corn (because Utards pretend that multilevel marketing scams are not a classic Mormon folkway). We’re turning into a village where everyone pretends to make a living by taking in everyone else’s laundry, except that laundering is a real industry and gambling is not. Also, we’re psychotic enough as a polity to call it “gaming,” on the illiterate basis that this is a powerful euphemism, not a conceit that serves only to make us look childish. Yes, we’re that self-damningly stupid.

These casinos, the proposed one that the Oneida don’t want and the existing one that they so cherish, are both located within biking distance of the Erie Canal and the New York Central’s Water Level Route, which had less choo-choo up the big grades but also less anthracite than the Lackawanna, which meant that you’ll get to Chicago with soot all over your pristine white dress. I doubt that Andrew Cuomo would recognize any of the references after the New York Central, and I’m being generous to give him anything beyond the Erie Canal. The real hidden history here, though, is that the Erie Canal corridor used to be renowned as an industrial powerhouse. It used to make things. If Cuomo considers the ongoing collapse of this industrial tradition unfortunate and worth reversing, he does a piss-poor job of communicating it. It should be embarrassing for a region to degenerate from an international leader in diversified manufacturing into urban rustbelt squalor and televised fights over which outlying town governments will secure the state’s approval to open gambling franchises, so that they can lure into pawn-shop destitution natural addicts who might otherwise have had lucrative factory careers.

This casino spat would be a bum fight if it didn’t involve a politically connected Indian tribe currently operating a high-rise casino hotel and major developers a few counties over who (barf alert) unctuously refer to “well-funded opponents of non-Native American casinos.” But they’re certainly acting like bums. They have all the class of a couple of alkies rolling around in front of the Port Authority, struggling for control of a bottle of Olde English, until one of them accidentally smashes it on the sidewalk and they both watch it flow inexorably into the storm drain. We should expect better than this of our press and our elected leaders, but we don’t. Maybe we get the government and the press that we deserve, in which we deserve a press that has been purchased by a combination of concern trolls from down on the rez and Whitey developers who think nothing of violating Godwin’s Law in their PR copy.

The real bum fights here are tangential to the casino donnybrook. People are out of work, and will remain so. The endgame probably includes arson in furtherance of insurance fraud, which has always been a treasured Adirondack folkway. But the Adirondacks have always been next to useless, an excellent homeland for the good-for-nothing Cracker of any ethnic background. When that sort of no-account flimflamming spreads into industrial and agricultural lowlands that used to be famously productive, we’re in serious trouble.

We’re Rome, but not the one with all the apples.

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