It’s been a pretty typical modus operandi for President Obama: Tell any reporter or camera microphone within earshot that you are a champion of the poor, but then implement, support or adopt policies that hurt or punish them economically.
There was that time in October, when the president took that swing through western electoral battleground states to tout his “We Can’t Wait” campaign to help Americans still struggling from the recession, before departing for Hollywood, where he courted big names with big dollars for his reelection campaign.
Earlier, in February, Obama was verbally accosted by senior members of his own Democratic Party, when they appealed to him not to cut funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) by about $3 billion, in a budget he was proposing.
And of course, there is the fact that on his watch, the income gap in the U.S. between rich and poor has widened to its highest level in U.S. history.
With those obvious hypocrisies in mind, then, perhaps it should surprise no one that the administration is now backing an Internet gambling scheme for states as a way for them to generate additional revenue, which will largely come from poor people.
Remember the huge and regressive cigarette tax Obama signed shortly after he took office? Tax experts found, in the words of one organization, that “no other tax hurts the poor more than the cigarette tax.” That’s because demographically, poor people smoke more than people in higher income brackets.
Well, the same principle applies here. That’s why the Justice Department opinion, which was issued shortly (and quietly) before Christmas, allowing states to authorize Web-based, non-sports gambling within their borders will ultimately hurt poor people the most. The demographic reality is, poor people gamble more.
And yet, this president obviously cares more about the financial interests of big gaming firms that have been pushing for this change in legal opinion (many of whom likely will “repay” this kindness with campaign donations). Not only that, but in this supposed age of government austerity – which Obama has also preached – he is seen as siding with undisciplined state governments that are, like Washington, D.C., filled with self-centered lawmakers who don’t have the political spine to do what is right and cut spending instead.
Obama and Co. are content, again, to take even more from the poor, while at the same time pretending like they care about them. Why lay this at Obama’s feet? He’s the president, not the head of the Justice Department, right?
The Justice Department – as well as the Forestry Service, the Department of Agriculture, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and every other federal agency – answers to the Executive Branch. And as president, Obama is head of the Executive Branch, so the heads of these agencies all serve at his pleasure. A decision like this, with the implications it carries, would not have been made were it not for at least the implied approval of the president.
Worse, this opinion, according to some legal experts, may even violate existing federal law (the 1961 Wire Act, which deals with communication of bets).
Finally, there is, as usual, the political aspect of the decision. This is from the Christian-Science Monitor: The memo was written by Virginia Seitz, head of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel and a possible Obama nominee to the Supreme Court. To win Senate approval to serve on the court, she would need the support of Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada. Last year, most of Nevada’s big casinos became big backers of an effort to overturn the federal Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006..
Obama a champion of the poor? You be the judge.