Opinion - Why Elk Grove doesn't need a mall, much less a casino; How shopping, gambling are useful distractions for conventional wisdom
By Michael Monasky | February 16, 2017 |
When there is a wide gap in wealth and income, it requires a complete abandonment of hope and reason to argue that shopping, or for that matter gambling, creates community. The minimum wage hasn't kept up for decades. Since the gutting of unions in the 1980s Reagan Era, there's a new standard of low expectations for a precariously employed workforce, like the contract employees who run our city. Elk Grove has privatized its planners at Michael Baker, and engineers at Will-Dan; after all, they'll work for peanuts to pay off that student debt.
We face two easily ignored catastrophes: global warming and financial collapse. We persist in acquiring ever larger vehicles and fast fashion, while in our competitive sprint to abundance, ignore the quickly approaching cliff of our own extinction. Having and winning are everything. Belly up to the buffet line, Mr. Mayor. Shopping is relaxation. Gambling is entertainment.
This is the zero decade of environmental disaster. By 2030, the atmosphere and the seas will have warmed nearly four degrees Fahrenheit, while millions of species disappear as the ocean acidifies. Our descendants will look back at the turn of the next century and ask why we wagered their future and did not stop burning carbon. Ironically, the city of Elk Grove burns its green waste across the street from the Thunder Valley Casino. Our grass clippings fuel incinerators, that amplify the load of atmospheric carbon and landfill soot, to electrify this climate-changing crap-shoot of competing casinos.
In 2002, the country experienced a collapse of the dot-com bubble: an Enron-based, Arthur Andersen accounting fraud/stock market crash of $5 Trillion. Millions of 457 plan investors lost what was to be their hedge against nonexistent pensions. In 2008 we suffered the worst financial disaster in our lifetime when bankers speculated and homeowners foreclosed on tens, perhaps hundreds, of trillions. From Kennedy to Clinton, the operations of commercial and investment banks had gradually co-mingled. Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission chair, former State Treasurer, and Elk Grove land developer Phil Angelides compared the aftermath of the 2008 housing collapse to a small door in a bank lobby, which opened to an Indiana Jones-style, infinite sight-line warehouse, filled to its horizon with slot machines and gaming tables. What dire consequences do we face with a casino?
True affluence is the value of things commonly held: utilities like SMUD, our publicly controlled fire, park and water districts; our public education system; government regulatory controls on business for safety and fairness; police departments which must answer to the public; a public court system; a smart public health system. Compare that to the gated communities of thought which seek not only to privatize every public resource, but sing ringing praises in a liturgy of uber-consumption.
The central tradition of 18th century economics is deeply embedded in today's conventional wisdom, which is this: we can grow our way out of these problems. This duplicates George W. Bush's error, made in response to his own concocted tales of terrorism in 2006: “...I encourage you all to go shopping more.” Because we have what we need, we're already affluent. Having more than that is unnatural and makes us crazy. The false claims of marketing and advertising are mere manipulations to consume more mindlessly.
Free education is key: everyone should have free access. Learn another language and how to think critically. I'm sure you can think of other needs greater than shopping and gambling. The Miwuk Wilton tribe has admitted it needs a hospital and good paying jobs for its members. Our collective hope is replacing consumption with meeting our needs. Conventional wisdom and business-as-usual be damned. We should reject the false economies of shopping and gambling. We should embrace being and sharing together.