I witnessed something on Election Day that shook my faith in the political process. I saw lies win out over truth and I was angry with our elected officials for their lies and the media for allowing them to go largely unchallenged.No, I'm not talking about the race for President; I've already made my feelings on that subject pretty well known. I'm speaking of the vote to authorize slot machines via the Maryland Constitution, a document with a heritage dating back to the year our nation declared its independence from England, and which is now forever sullied with a gambling provision. Not only was amending the constitution with such a statute inappropriate, it won on the basis of several falsehoods, all of which a small but vocal and dedicated group of concerned citizens tried to counter without success.
The lies started with the language of the ballot question itself which left the impression that virtually all the money raised by slots would go to education. In fact, the horse racing industry, gambling interests and local governments get their cut, leaving about half the money, most of which won't be available until 2013, for education.
Another lie was the claim that passing this bill would keep us from raising taxes or making harmful budget cuts. And what is all we're hearing about these days? How government in Maryland at all levels is cutting back and preparing for the worst. The impact on the "structural deficit?" Another lie - the revenue from slots doesn't even come into play until 2011, two budget cycles from now. The revenue projections? Another lie - the University of Maryland Baltimore County projects slots will raise about half of what the politicians told us, and the social costs will offset most of what is raised.
Even now, Governor O'Malley acknowledges they may have to adjust the law so gambling interests who are balking at the cost of bringing slots to Maryland make more money. Want to bet their share goes up and the share for education goes down?
For those of us who fought and lost, we will dust ourselves off and continue the fight by other means. When their revenue projections are revealed to be the fantasy they've always been, we will be there to educate Marylanders about the duplicity of their elected officials. When our taxes are raised and budgets cut anyway because slots revenue is too little, too late or doesn't come in at all because the gambling industry demands a better deal before putting a single machine in Maryland, we will be there to remind people who lied to them. When families who can least afford to spend their meager salaries on gambling lose their rent, food, medicine or gas money, we will lift them up with the helping hand of a neighbor and give the backs of our hands to our so-called public servants for preying on the weaknesses of their constituents, especially the working poor enticed by the hope of a miracle windfall.