Unequal enforcement perpetuates bad laws
By Seth Grossman, Political Columnist
(Reprinted from the March 17, 2010 Current-Gazette Newspapers of Atlantic and Cape May Counties, http://www.shorenewstoday.com/news.php?id=7819)
“Laws are to govern all alike ? I know of no method to secure the repeal of bad or obnoxious laws so effective as their stringent execution.”?
? President Ulysses S. Grant, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1869.
Bad and obnoxious laws are choking the liberty that once brought jobs and prosperity to New Jersey and the rest of America. But they are rarely ?stringently enforced,? especially against people with political clout. Therefore, very few people bother to demand that they be repealed.
If children from “good” families in “nice” neighborhoods got the same prison terms for buying marijuana as “bad” kids from “rough” neighborhoods get for selling it, our bad and obnoxious marijuana laws would have been repealed years ago.
Many state laws force us to give big pay hikes, benefits and pensions to local government and public school employees ? and pay high property taxes that most of us can?t afford. But most senior citizens, who vote in high numbers, get tax abatements, freezes and rebates.
Government employees, also with big voting power, get automatic pay hikes to cover their tax bills. Neither group wants to repeal the laws that cause high taxes for everyone else.
The most powerful business and professional associations support tax breaks, low-interest loans, and special “redevelopment” and Urban Enterprise Zone special deals for their members. The last thing they want is a free market where everyone has an equal chance.
And so the Chamber of Commerce wants $400 million in tax breaks for Morgan Stanley?s $2 billion Revel Casino with 1,900 rooms. But why spend $2 billion on a new 1,900-room casino hotel when you can buy the used Tropicana with 2,127 hotel rooms in a prime location for just $200 million? You could buy 10 used Tropicanas for the price of just one Morgan Stanley Revel! You could probably pick up the 728-room Trump Marina for about $150 million.
Why is it so expensive to build a new casino hotel in Atlantic City? Blame bad and obnoxious laws.
First, you must convince the state Department of Environmental Protection that your new building won?t destroy the environment. Atlantic City should be exempt from this law since the whole town was built up 140 years ago.
We once had enough buildings to house, feed and entertain hundreds of thousands of summer visitors and 68,000 residents, but now every new casino project must go through the bad and obnoxious Coastal Area Facilities Review Act.
Then you need a license from the Casino Control Commission. It was created to keep organized crime out of Atlantic City casinos. But now it makes sure the union is satisfied with your bathrooms, and that every politician thinks your equal opportunity and affirmative action plan is taking care of enough of their friends.
You must also comply with local zoning laws that were carefully designed to make sure every major project is in violation of something. And so no matter how big you are, you must beg the local politicians on the planning and/or zoning board for variances that exempt you from those parts of the law.
Before a single shovel goes into the ground, every casino developer must spend a fortune just to get permits from these three agencies ? and there are many more. The developer not only pays for his own lawyers and consultants, he pays huge application fees for the high salaries, pensions and benefits of every government employee who reviews his project.
But since even perfect applications can be rejected or delayed for any or no reason, casino developers also buy ?insurance? ? political influence.
Casino executives, of course, are strictly barred from holding public office, contributing to political candidates or even publicly saying anything that may sound political. And so casinos spend even more on high-priced lawyers, consultants and contractors who wine and dine politicians from all over the state and give buckets of campaign cash.
The only way to end this madness is to elect leaders like the ones who stood up to the rich and powerful slave owners who almost ruined this country 150 years ago.
For nearly 20 years, Ulysses S. Grant, as a Republican Party leader, military commander and two-term president, used his political influence, brute military force, and the full power of the federal government to enforce all laws equally and protect the rights of blacks, Indians and others with little political power.
We again need strict enforcement of all laws ? and leaders like Ulysses S. Grant.
Somers Point attorney Seth Grossman appears live on WVLT-92.1FM heard throughout South Jersey 8-9 a.m. every Saturday. For information see www.libertyandprosperity.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (609) 927-7333. Breakfast discussions are 9:30-10:30 a.m. every Saturday at the Athena Diner, 1515 New Road, Northfield.