Wednesday, May 03, 2006

142: “Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts”


In the Greek epic poem The Iliad, by the immortal bard Homer, the fall of the city-state of Troy is depicted. Months [years?] after Trojan Prince Paris abducts Helen from Greek King Menelaus, the Greeks have about run out of steam in their attempt to capture the besieged city of Ilium (Troy was the country in which Ilium was the capitol, hence the name of Homer’s epic poem The Iliad). Homer’s tale ends there. His next tale picks up with the epic and wondrous tales of the Greek Odysseus and his sailors trying to return home from the war.

To find out what happened to the City-State of Troy, however, we must rely on other poets who record the tale, primarily the Roman poet Virgil, who tells in his epic poem The Aeneid, the story of the actual fall of the city of Ilium and of Troy with it, and the flight from Troy by the Trojan Aeneas and a group of survivors, who then go on to settle in what is now Italy, where their descendants eventually found the City of Rome.

The Greeks apparently gave up, and pulled their ships from the beaches of Troy and sailed away home – or so the Trojans thought. Before they left, however, the Greeks left a gift for the Trojans – a giant wooden horse. In their joy, the Trojans decided to haul the giant horse into their city for their big celebration. Before they could do so, however, a priest named Laocoon called out a warning, “I am wary of Greeks even when they are bringing gifts.” [Today it has been changed to “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts”]. Laocoon was very suspicious. Things had suddenly turned around a little too easily in favor of the Trojans, and after more than ten years of war, it was unlikely there persistant Greeks would simply surrender by departure. Into the city came the large wooden horse, and the party was on.

While the Trojan people were celebrating, apparently with far too much wine, the Greeks, who had not gone home, returned to the walls of Ilium and waited. Inside, a small group of men, led by the great Odysseus, waited hidden inside the giant wooden horse until the quiet of the wine-sleep overtook the Trojans. Silently the Greeks opened a hidden door in the side of the horse and slid down ropes to the street below. Some ran to the gates of the city and opened them to admit the Greek army waiting outside, while others raced through the streets killing Trojans as they slept off their drunken celebration. Thus the city-state of Troy fell to the Greeks, and Helen, possessor of the Face that Launched a Thousand Ships (thank you Christopher Marlowe) was returned to Menelaus, accompanying him back to Sparta.

The story, that is, the basic story, is true, and historically accurate as to names and places, cause and effect, and results. A hollow Greek gift led the unsuspecting Trojans to their doom.

So, where are we going with this?

Beware of State Legislators bearing gifts!

The property tax relief bill, recently hammered out in a bicameral conference committee that also included the governor, passed the Senate yesterday with only 9 dissenting votes. That the bulk of those nine dissenting votes came from the mid-state area tells you where the bulk of the tax relief will be going – to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. And, while there is a clause in the bill that repeals the horrendous Act 72 that was overwhelmingly rejected by the school districts of Pennsylvania over a year ago, the bill, in essence, reintroduces Act 72 back into play: gambling money to fund the school districts of the state, while the voters must approve school district tax increases.

What you are getting with this bill is Act 72, plus promised tax rebates to the low income renters and property owners, and most of them live in and around Philly and Pittsburgh.

Your state Senators and your Governor just thumbed their noses at you and flipped you the bird. Sometime today, the House of Representatives will do the same. If this goes through, and you live outside of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, your school districts will get less than they would have with Act 72.

What’s worse, the low income renters and homeowners from those two cities will remember the pride with which their governor and their legislators “passed a bill that puts money in their pocket.”

That noise you just heard was those Greeks dropping out of that giant wooden horse.

Already people are excoriating the bill, and its wild promises that likely will not be filled. And the discussion boards in the non-Philly/Pittsburgh areas are throbbing with venom toward the legislature and the governor. The head of the State School Board Association called the bill an even worse version of Act 72, which 80% of the school boards across the state rejected. And a school district in Berks County has already declared for rejection of this bill saying it would not accept gambling money.

Now for a little geography lesson. If you look at a map of Pennsylvania, and envision the location of all those casinos, even the ones in the racetracks, only four areas stand to make out of state money. The two casinos in Philadelphia, and the one at the new Chester Downs Harness Racing Track in Delaware County will make out of state money because there are large populations across the Delaware River in New Jersey for whom the trip is much shorter than to go to Atlantic City, and the same holds true for northern Delaware where the folks from Wilmington, Claymont and Newark will have an easier time going up US 95 to Chester or beyond, to Philadelphia.

The third proposed casino is one having trouble in getting off the ground, and that is in Erie. The casino there would draw from the Buffalo, and Jamestown, New York area, the Cleveland and Youngtown areas of Ohio, and perhaps even some Canadian visitors.

The final area is Gettysburg, where the casino clientele will come north out of D.C. and Maryland, and South out of Harrisburg’s West Shore area. Harrisburgers will go to Penn National Race Course.

The other 9 casinos (ten if one of the Philly casinos goes to the East Falls section where it would draw most of its customers from the city itself, and the northern and western suburbs of Bucks, and Montgomery County, primarily) will draw Pennsylvanians. That is, 67%, possibly more, of the casinos when built will draw their income almost exclusively out of the pockets of Pennsylvanians.

Why would somebody from New Jersey come to Bethlehem, or Allentown or the Poconos, when their roads are so much better than ours and they are closer time-wise to Atlantic City, or in the cases of North Jersey and New York City, to the casinos in Connecticut. Why would people from Ohio drive into Pittsburgh to play the slots?

With the cost of gas at nearly $3/gallon, who is going to come to Pennsylvania to lose money?

Yet the governor and the leadership in the General Assembly insist on playing with this Trojan Horse.

What you will get out of this is a massive redistribution of wealth from the lower and middle class to the upper class.

If you don’t take immediate action to stop the House of Representatives from passing this legislation today, or later, then you are not only inviting the Trojan Horse into your life, you are paying for it to be constructed, too. And just as the Trojan Horse was dragged in by its intended victims, so too are you dragging this Trojan Horse into your life. That’s self-destructive when you know what’s coming.

Never mind that this is as unconstitutionally done as Act 71, and last year’s pay raise; if that doesn’t anger you to action, the numbers depicted above certainly should!

You know what you have to do, Call your Representative this morning. Demand that he or she vote no on the property tax relief bill. It’s a Trojan Horse. It was designed with one purpose: to reelect the incumbents.

False hope, and false promises. That's all this governor and legislature can manage. Except for the wealthy, who will continue to get wealthier.

And we know what to do about that, don’t we?

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