I wouldn't classify
myself a gambling man. Sure, I've placed a good-natured bet with
friends before, but to me those don't count. Wagering just how badly
Paris Hilton's debut reggae CD is going to suck isn't exactly a game of
chance, is it? I mean, everyone can pretty much put money down for some
high level of expected stink to drift from the stereo speakers when
radio stations start playing that crap and come out a few bucks ahead.
It's a "can't lose" stake, boys and girls, a sure fire winner.

When it comes to bureaucrats, though, all bets are off. And if you work for a casino or state agency in New Jersey, that means you're off too. Off work without pay, that is.

It shouldn't surprise
the American public that a state government has again gotten in the way
of efficiency and negatively affected the lives of thousands of hard
working people. If you've ever cast a vote for a political candidate,
chances are you have knowingly helped construct another speed bump on
the road to democratic progress. This is just a fact of life here in
this country. Politicians pass laws with about as much ease as the
average woman in a department store with shoes and handbags marked off
60 percent.

I've been aware of
this for as long as I can remember, primarily because my parents kept
the television on to the news instead of tuning in to cartoons like I
begged them to, night after night when dinner was finished. Thanks, Mom
and Dad. Because of you, I have absolutely no faith in our political
system. I say this in all sincerity.

This knowledge isn't
a bad thing in the least. Being jaded and cynical was necessary
yesterday morning when I heard what a mess New Jersey
legislators created by not agreeing on a budget. What it didn't do is
make it easy to understand how a simple percentage point could bring an
entire entertainment industry that contributes millions of dollars a
day to a state's economy to a grinding halt. Better yet, it couldn't
answer why state leaders have let this happen.

For the time being, 12 Atlantic City casinos have been shut down and 15,000 workers laid off because state leaders won't increase the New Jersey
sales tax from 6 to 7 percent. According to Governor Jon S. Corzine,
this small hike, which will cost citizens about $275 per family each
year, is necessary due to a whopping $4.5 billion crater in the budget.
Legislators disagree, and since they can't vote on a budget the state
can't afford to pay non-essential (that's anyone who can't arrest you
or save your life) employee salaries. Gaming officials are employed by
the state, so … you get the picture.

Now I'm the last
person anyone needs to consult when it comes to finances. At 32 I can
barely balance my checking account, which at any given time holds
roughly $12 and some change. Taxes make about as much sense to me as
quantum physics to a poop-slinging monkey. And when the dollar amounts
total more than 50 I get glassy eyed and drool down the front of my

Somehow, though, this situation in the Garden State
isn't that hard to figure out. If you have 12 businesses each giving
you $1.3 million in revenue seven days a week for 52 weeks a year, I
think $275 annually is a drop in the bucket, especially when you
consider how many of those families earn their living as employees of
those same businesses.

The blackjack tables
and slot machines aren't the only things off limits. Public beaches,
historic sites and parks are closed as well. Again, state employees. So
you basically have all of New Jersey closed to the public during summer vacation. Hopefully this plan looked better on paper to the politicians.

Who elected these
morons, you might ask? Sadly, the same people who now have no income
until this standoff ends. They put faith in their leaders to make
decisions in their best interest. They gambled on democracy and lost
their shirts. To make matters worse, this happened a day after
Americans celebrated the anniversary of the birth of their nation. The
whole situation makes me sick.

I wonder just how
many men and women who rely on their jobs as casino workers have called
their legislative representatives and thanked them for holding out on
this tax hike. How many New Jersey politicians have been inconvenienced by not being able to take their grandkids to the beach?

I'm betting none.