Proposition A: why public policy needs a makeover

Scattered debates have contemplated the merits and downfalls of Proposition A, one of Missouri’s “hot topic” ballot initiatives. The measure seeks to remove Missouri’s $500 loss-limit at casinos, and essentially raise casino tax in order to funnel some of that extra revenue into Missouri schools.


Proponents say that the loss-limit is an outdated law, and the changes are necessary to keep Missouri casinos (and the respective jobs which accompany them) competitive with those in nearby states. According to their website, supporters call it a “Schools first initiative” and believe that a “yes” vote on A is best “for our schools [and] for our economy.”


Opponents point out that the loss-limit removal comes with baggage: it also stipulates that identification is only required to show proof of age. Therefore those addicted gamblers who have placed themselves on self-ban lists from casinos will no longer have this additional enforcement. Objectors argue that the additional school revenue won’t amount to much in the long run and that the proposal will only harm Missourians.


Amidst various arguments, the debate has excluded what should be an obvious critique: the deeply flawed logic behind the proposal itself. The school system is broken, so they want to fix it by expanding and then taxing an industry driven by greed and addiction?


I see several major problems with this. First of all, where is the political creativity? If education is truly vital to our society and in dire need of assistance, policymakers need to do more than offhandedly tax a vice-ridden industry. Prove its importance by giving it prioritized energy, resources, and programming.


This leads to a second objection I have to this proposal: infusing money into a broken system is not a solution. Funding is important, but the strategic management of that funding in conjunction with dedicated, well-trained professionals is the key to strengthening education.  A good plan for education incorporates both of these crucial components, not just one or the other.


Proposition A is not the first time an American ballot has seen this kind of initiative. Time and time again, policymakers launch these initiatives of seeming resourcefulness, when all they do is reinforce a consistent failure to address the issues hidden deep behind societal problems.


This is another one of those situations, and it’s a tricky one. I myself have gone back and forth as to whether or not it’s just a necessary evil. After all, isn’t education a more sustainable and worthwhile investment than the gambling industry? Ask yourself these questions, and do some last-minute research before you cast your vote tomorrow. I implore you, however, to contemplate the thwarted ingenuity behind these kinds of initiatives.


I will personally be voting “No” on Proposition A, but not because I want to help addicted gamblers, deny funding to the school system or prevent casinos from raking in some more cash. I am saying “No” because I believe that this proposal, a flawed plan in both substance and logic, should not be on the ballot in the first place.

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