Monday, October 25, 2004

Something Giver, Maybe?

Memo to Tim Pawlenty, governor of Minnesota: YOU DUMB, EVIL, FUCK.
On behalf of the European invading force, I'd like to once again apologize to the indiginous peoples of America. We seem to be biologically incapable of not fucking you over every chance we get. Every once in a while, we give you something we think we don't want as a half-assed way of making up for all the shit we've pulled in the past. And then it turns out there's actually MONEY in it, and we take it back, and give you something ELSE we think is worthless to make up for it. You know, there used to be an expression for that, but I just can't remember what it is. In any event, it's a shitty way to act, but at this point, it's practically enshrined as tradition.
Which doesn't excuse Tim Pawlenty for not only trying to do it again, but doing it in such a crass manner that I'm surprised he's not throwing in a truckload of smallpox-laden blankets to sweeten the deal.
See, back in 1989, Minnesota negotiated a deal with tribal leaders that let them run gambling casinos in the state. Since then, the casinos have done pretty well for themselves, because, well, a whole lot of people find flashing lights, buffet tables, and Wayne Newton* much more interesting than statistics and math. They've made quite a bit of money in the past fifteen years, and don't think we haven't noticed.
See, in 1989, the agreement that was reached was that the tribes would keep their money, and not give any of it to the state of Minnesota. Because they're technically sovereign nations, and because technically we've fucked them non-stop for five centuries. Unfortunately, Republicans are a lot like Daffy Duck. You can't leave a big pile of money lying around like that without them going all bug-eyed at it and conniving ways to get some of it for themselves.
Pawlenty, being the conscientious sort, explored all the options available to him before settling on blatant extortion.
Our fine governor has basically demanded that the tribal leaders meet with him to negotiate a better deal for the state. Better to the tune of three hundred and fifty million dollars. Per year. As the Star Tribune helpfully pointed out to put this in perspective, this is roughly half as much money as the state took in this year from every other corporation's income taxes PUT TOGETHER. Pawlenty says that's about 25% of the tribes' casino profits, which, much like the "75% of Al Qaeda" figure, should be taken at face value and not examined in any detail at all, please..
Since this would obviously be a crappy deal to make from the tribes' perspective, Pawenty's going to need a pretty big stick to get them to come to the table to negotiate away their money. So he's threatening to bring in non-tribal casinos from the big casinso companies, under the argument that even though Indian tribes have had exclusive casino rights for the last 15 years, it's not really exclusive, and if they want it to really be exclusive, they'd better pony up the dough.
Even when you ignore the issues of sovereignty and legality, the whole thing stinks to high heaven. Imagine if Pawlenty went to the board of directors of, say, OfficeMax. And he goes to them and he says, "Gimme a whole bunch of money, which I estimate is a quarter of your profits no matter what your numbers actually say. If you don't, I'm going to use my power in the government to open up a whole bunch of Staples stores, capice?"
There'd be a HUGE uproar and scandal. And that's without a long history of our ancestors attempting to wipe out all the paper salesmen in the prairie. But do you think most of the people here are going to stand up for the tribes? Me neither. Even when the state's representatives are blatantly using the kind of threatening language you'd normally find in a bad "Sopranos" episode. Yes, it's ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!
"The issue here is the tribes have a choice. I came away from my [Las Vegas] meeting thinking that the best outcome would be a new arrangement with our tribes. [The state could get] substantially more revenue from a private gaming option, [but] we would have pressure to have more than one casino, although that could be done. We'd also have to establish a gaming commission. But that could be done too." - Dan McElroy, Pawlenty's chief of staff.
Appalling. He might as well have come out and said "I'd hate for anything... bad... to happen to your lovely casino," while one of his henchmen smashed in a slot machine with a baseball bat. If they could get $350 million a year out of a couple of new, non-Indian casinos, and the previous agreements really allow it, then what's stopping him? I'll tell you what. More casinos means less profit per casino. There isn't, despite a certain amount of anecdotal evidence to the contrary, an infinite supply of suckers with money in this state.
So instead, Pawlenty, like so many of his forebears, is going to try to strongarm the natives to get their piece of action they wanted no part of in years past. Thanks for making us all look bad again, fuckhead.
*Here's an interesting behind the scenes moment for you. I planned to just type in Wayne Newton as a prime example of the kind of entertainment they have at casinos, but I decided, in fairness, to visit Grand Casino's Minnesota web site. And right there, listed for Friday, October 22 at their Hinckley casino was... WAYNE NEWTON.