I've been meaning for some time to take on Ohio Learn and Earn, but finding time to listen to the MTB podcast, breakdown the actual amendment and scry the internet for information has thus far eluded me. I'll do all that sometime, but fact is the proposal is plenty dislikable even if it works as advertised.
For those just catching up, Learn and Earn (hereinafter designated by my nickname Educate and Obfuscate or Ed and Obf) is the latest scheme to expand the decriminalization of gambling in the state. Instead of just legalizing gambling, they legalize gambling, then earmark the taxes for a college scholarship fund. Or to hear them put it, they create a scholarship program and fund it with . . . let me see here, what can we do . . . oh, taxes on slot machine earnings. That will work!
Seriously, they the gambling interests pimping this idea are touting it as a scholarship program. In fact, depending on the source, you might not know it's a gambling issue at all. Mind you, the fine print includes all sorts of pro-gambling industry goodies, like local option for full casino gambling. But remember, it's all about education.
Hence, Educate and Obfuscate.
The whole thing is so off-putting, it has accomplished something few people thought possible. No, not putting me in bed with David Zanotti -- that happened long ago. Ed and Obf has created a blog that I won't link to even though they blogroll me. In point of fact, the blogroll is like grass scent on astroturf, so it wasn't even a temptation.
While I have my differences with gambling as a growth strategy (you can catch up here, here and here), I take a particularly dim view of this scheme. First off, as a K-12 education advocate, I can testify to the albatross that is the Ohio Lottery. Talk to people about funding K-12 and they inevitably start complaining about how the lottery was supposed to take care of all of that.
The Ed and Obf folks will counter that unlike in the case of the Lottery, they have rigged their scheme so that the General Assembly can't offset the money from the slots. First off, they can find a way. But even if they don't trade off one-to-one, they can just fund schools less and let tuitions rise faster with the excuse that students should just rely on the Ed and Obf scholarships.
But more fundamentally than that, Ed and Obf lets everyone off the hook. The fundamental moral objection to gambling is that creates the illusion that a person can get something for nothing. As destructive as such an illusion might be for and individual, it is devastating for communities. Republicans have sold this illusion as fact for years. Just today we learn that a program that saves taxpayer money in the long run is going under the knife.
People are starting to see the folly in all this. People are starting to learn that "Cut taxes one more time" isn't a theory of governance.
Ed and Obf offers a mirage of free money in a state parched of education funding. Without Ed and Obf, the day would come that voters demand real leadership from their elected officials to lead them from the desert. With Ed and Obf's illusory promises, Republicans are in a win-win situation. They can run against the proposal, stir up their conservative base and paint the Democrats as amoral degenerates. But then if they win, they stand back and say "problem solved. You voted for this; it's now your higher education program."
Educate and Obfuscate is a sucker's bet.
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