NEW YORK's new governor recently proposed that the state take over the numbers game there, or, at any rate, establish a competitor to it. Coupled with the already existent Off-Track Betting Commission, it will provide the state with a solid front in its efforts to muscle in on formerly illegal activity. The aim, of course, is to cut taxes. Everybody in state government wants to cut taxes. Taxes are way too high. Of course, by and large, it's the well-off who pay the taxes. The poor just play the numbers. So the state figures it might as well take from the poor, who are badly off anyway and don't know any better, and give to the rich, who, God knows, have burdens enough as it is.
This latest in progressive concepts has now attracted considerable attention among a shadowy group of operators down in Washington, according to reliable sources close to the heart of the matter. This "family," as it might be called, is known to work out of a large white building within sight of the Capitol, and is in control of a vast organization sometimes jokingly referred to by insiders as the "Federal Government." Little is yet known of the inner workings of this particular mob, but investigation and infiltration by law enforcement agents have provided us with some idea of what to expect in the weeks to come.
Sources say that sometime in February, probably by the 14th, we can expect the public announcement of a new inter-office agency, the League of Official Vice and Extortion (LOVE). The League will cut across all departmental boundaries, and unite federal, state and local efforts of similar concern. Tentative plans call for LOVE to operate everything from urban prostitution rings (based on conscription, if necessary) to computerized heroin delivery systems to massive protection schemes aimed at America's largest private institutions. If gasoline rationing is imposed LOVE reportedly hopes to set up a nationwide bootlegging agency to bring illegal but lucrative fuel to all parts of the country.
PROFITS WILL be collected entirely by the federal government, but in an updating of revenue sharing large transfusions of capital will be channeled back to the local level in the form of pay-offs to police departments, district attorneys' offices, and the appropriate elected leaders. LOVE's architects stress that the program's primary consideration is not community service but individual profit. Its theoretical purpose, in other words, will be to direct the energies of the governmental bodies it involves more acutely to the needs of those they actually serve. It is hoped that LOVE will be able to eliminate the enormous amounts of effort that are currently expended on programs that fail to aid those who don't stand to benefit from them. Through LOVE, the government plans to lay to rest all those bothersome accusations of wrongdoing that have cropped up over the last year by making wrongdoing itself a positive, vital force in its program for the future.
Classified files that have been judiciously leaked to the press would seem to indicate that the groundwork for LOVE was laid last summer in response to the high Neilson rating enjoyed by the Senate Watergate hearings. The agency was tentatively dubbed the Government Office of Depravity (GOD), but this was changed in late August for fear of alienating the crucial religious vote in the 1974 elections to the League of Official Vice (LOV). After the Agnew debacle "Extortion" was added to the name to emphasize its inclusion in the new federal program.
The big push, though, has come since Governor Wilson announced his numbers plan for New York State. Administration planners have been working feverishly in the last few days ironing out the final problems facing the establishment of LOVE.
Confidence is now reportedly on the rise in the powerful circles close to the top. "I think we're finally on the right track," said one high official who wished to remain anonymous. "This policy of benign neglect which we've been following in regard to the underworld for years and years just hasn't paid off in dollars and cents. It's as if General Motors never made any cars or trucks and just tried to wish Ford out of business. That's ridiculous, of course. Why should things be any different in the public sector? The states and cities are going to handle the small-time stuff, you know, and the Feds are going to take care of the big deals, and you know, we're going to go out there, into the streets, and we're going to offer a better product. And believe you me, we're going to give these Vegas entrepreneurs and others of their kind a run for their money. Howard Hughes said we could. That's the way to get ahead. Pure competition. What we're hoping for, of course, is that the public is going to see for the first time that the government is really seriously interested in helping itself. We're going to try to establish a new tone for this whole nation: get out there, don't expect any favors, what can I do for me? In other words, you ignore us and we'll ignore you."
Another highly placed official added, "Let me say this about that. You might ask--and you would have every right to ask, it says so right in the Constitution, and believe me, I love the Constitution (some of my best friends are amendments, you know)--you might ask if this isn't the formulation of a somewhat different stance. Some--and I'm not going to name any names--might even suggest that we're experiencing a situation brought about by a shortfall of morals. Well, let's be honest. Let's face the facts. As you know, before this administration took office, the so-called New Morality swept the nation. I don't think I have to go into the sordid details about that. Many of us--good, solid Americans--were upset. I confess there were times when I thought of being upset myself. You know, that would be the popular and easy thing to do. But this administration is pledged to leading the nation, not following it. If there's going to be a New Morality, we're going to be in charge. Make no mistake about that. Now, as you know, we've recently been carrying on some very delicate negotiations with some lawyers whose names and Ivy League backgrounds I can't divulge. It's important that we stay Number One. I don't think the American people would want it any other way. They don't want to see their President going to the bargaining table with his hands tied behind his back. That's why we must be courageous, and take this bold step."
IN ONE RESPECT, LOVE is a renewal of the old Trickle Down Theory. Administration economists surmise that the kickbacks, rebates, shake-downs, and out-and-out bribes extorted from the captains of industry will be passed along to the consumer in the form of higher prices and shoddier services. "LOVE is really a blessing in disguise," suggested one expert. "It ought to give the American economy the kick in the pants it needs."
"When was the last time you heard anyone from Continental Grain complaining?" asked a colleague, with a wry chuckle.
Administration strategists are candid in their expectations. "I really think this is going to turn things around," said one "People are sick and tired of all the grubby sneaking around that's been going on. We're going to take all that and put it right out into the open. LOVE will be like a breath of fresh air."
An associate of his suggested that the problems currently besetting the government are the result of often ludicrous attempts to adopt the great ideas of modern society. "We tried Keynes, we tried Churchill, we tried Roosevelt, Lombardi, Eisenhower, of course. We even tried Kennedy. And the whole thing was ridiculous. But now we're wising up. Look who's been coming into power recently. Gerald Ford. Abe Beame in New York. And of course Malcolm Wilson up there in Albany, God bless him. Now we're stealing their plans. Exalt the ideas of midgets, if you know what I mean. You're bound to look good in comparison."
Crimson editorial opinions, representing the views of the staff, appear unsigned on the editorial page. Dissenting opinions expressed at editorial meetings appear on the editorial page under the designation "Minority opinion." All other pieces appearing on the editorial page of The Crimson are signed and represent only the views of their authors.
The Crimson welcomes any correspondence from its readers, and attempts to publish the letters that it receives, space permitting. The Crimson does not publish anonymous letters, although under certain circumstances it will withhold the name of a correspondent at that person's request. Any letters purporting to represent the views of an undergraduate or other organization must bear the names of at least two officers on that organization, who can be contacted in advance to vouch for the validity of the communication.