clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

KADNER: If overtaxed, how do we explain gambling and Kardashians?

J.B. Pritzker, right, and Gov. Bruce Rauner, left. Sun-Times File Photos by Max Herman.

My conservative buddy wondered if I will ever concede the wealthy are overtaxed.

I thought about it for a moment and said, “When rich folks can afford to spend only $10 million of their own money on political campaigns, I think I would say we’ve gone far enough.”

I was thinking of our Republican governor, Bruce Rauner, who reportedly is spending about $100 million of his own money running for reelection, and his potential Democratic opponent, J.B. Pritzker, who is prepared to match the governor dollar for dollar.

OPINION

Rauner earned his money while Pritzker inherited his, my conservative buddy said, which in his mind invalidates the Democrat’s right to spend what amounts to pocket change on a political joy ride.

Actually, while conservatives call me a liberal, government spending worries me. Illinois is billions of dollars in debt and unable to pay its bills. Even with a large income tax hike, we’re not going to be able to make our pension funds whole.

Chicago’s public schools are a financial mess as well.

And what’s been going on here for decades is being replicated in Washington, D.C. where no one seems to worry about Social Security and Medicare, which face financial disaster unless people begin planning for the future today.

Democrats like to spend and raise taxes, but seem to have no stomach for making the hard decisions to keep government running efficiently.

Republicans talk about cuts and tax reform, which usually means cutting programs for the poor while making working-class people pay more for less.

No one wants to roll up their sleeves and do the dirty work of fixing the broken government machinery. That’s not easy to brag about on the campaign trail and, frankly, voters don’t want to hear it.

Voters want to hear they can pay less and get more because they believe the nation is terribly overtaxed. It’s getting so bad people won’t be able to put food on the table.

Yet, Americans lose about $115 billion to $120 billion a year on legal gambling games. We wager about $70 billion a year alone on government-sponsored lottery games.

There’s another $93 billion illegally wagered on NFL and college football games each season, according to the American Gambling Association.

The National Basketball Association commissioner has estimated that illegal gaming is a $400-billion-a-year industry, but there are no statistics available to verify that and many critics believe he overestimates the size of the problem.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that figure is only $200 billion a year.

There’s an additional $100 billion a year spent on illegal drugs in the United States, according to a RAND study. That’s $1 trillion spent on illegal drugs over the past 10 years. Again, it’s difficult to really estimate this stuff because people aren’t keeping records or, if they are, they’re not opening up their books for public inspection.

The point is that if we’re overtaxed and can’t afford to save Social Security or provide universal health care to everyone, how is it there’s so much cash around for gambling, illegal drugs and political campaigns.

In 2016, $6.8 billion was spent on federal election campaigns, which was more than the entire country spent on cereal that year.

People have the right to spend their money entertaining themselves, even if their idea of fun includes running for governor of Illinois.

It just seems to me that if we’re all so overtaxed, the Kardashians wouldn’t have been able to earn more than $100 million last year.

Email: philkadner@gmail.com

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com.