Obviously, I am disappointed in the fact that Ohio voters approved Issue 3, which will result in the construction of full-scale casinos in Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Toledo. What is really sad about the passage of Issue 3, however, is what it says more generally about The Buckeye State in particular and The American Dream in general.
There is no doubt that that principal reason that Ohio voters backed Issue 3 — after having repeatedly rejected statewide casino gambling initiatives in the very recent past — is that it promised to create 34,000 jobs. What does it say about our state that the promise of a few thousand jobs as casino workers is enough to cause voters to reverse their longstanding opposition to gambling and welcome casinos to some of our major cities? I think it clearly speaks of reduced expectations, reduced hopes, and reduced dreams.
Ohio used to be a state that was chock full of good jobs for all. In the Akron area where I grew up, thousands of citizens were successful blue collar workers in the rubber and auto industries. They had union jobs that allowed them to buy nice homes, take nice vacations, grill out on weekends, and support the Browns and Indians. They lived on the same streets as carpenters, shoe repairmen, dentists, lawyers, and car dealers. Those American workers made tires, furniture, televisions, textile products, glass, and other actual tangible objects that were bought and sold. They were proud of their jobs, proud of their state, and proud of their country. All of them hoped and expected that their children would have even better jobs and better lives.
Most of the manufacturing jobs that I remember from my youth have long since left our state. We can argue about why they are gone — whether it was overly greedy management or overly greedy unions, poor business planning or poor business practices, workers compensation awards that were too generous or tax schemes that were too aggressive, environmental regulation, or general business costs that simply were too high to compete with what businesses will pay in Mexico or China — but there is no dispute that they are gone. And, as a result, we have in Ohio a population of people who are desperate for a job, any job — even if it is a job wearing a bow tie and a fake smile as you deal cards to surly, drunken gamblers at a blackjack table at 2 a.m.
Does anyone believe that these desperate people dream The American Dream anymore? That is what I find so deeply saddening about the passage of Issue 3. Even sadder, I doubt that the Ohioans who sacrificed their principles and swallowed their misgivings and succumbed to the siren’s song of casino gambling are very much different from millions of desperate Americans in every other state in the union.