As Vince “Double Down” Vaughn might have said to President Barack Obama: “You’re money, baby—and you don’t even know it.”
No sooner did Obama joke to a Nashua, N.H., crowd Tuesday that “You don't blow a bunch of cash on Vegas when you’re trying to save for college,” than a bipartisan chorus of Nevada politicians cracked on him for hating on their state’s tourism industry.
The message was pretty straightforward—“What gets spent in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”
But while Obama might have cut against the grain of his own strategy for stimulative spending, he was also speaking truth. Americans are experts at throwing away money. We love Vegas, and always will. (Hell, I’ll be there next month—see you on the strip…)
What Americans need to learn is how to save money. Vegas can’t help with that.
On the other hand, Las Vegas would be a perfect spot for Obama to kill two or three birds with one stone. If he took his family, the White House staff, OMB Director Peter Orszag’s fiancée and his baby mama to Vegas for a three-night blowout, the president's entourage would easily counterbalance any damage done by his remarks by refilling the wallets of Vegas cabbies, waiters, concierges and dealers. Obama could use a Gambling and Clubbing 101 tutorial to give the country a Ross Perot-style economics lesson. And he could put his top advisers to the test to find out once and for all who does—and doesn’t—have the right stuff.
The House Always Wins
Memo to Vegas: If you’re charging $25 for one Johnnie Walker at the lobby bar during a recession, don’t turn around and complain when the president starts ordering well drinks.
Yes—a lot of people in Vegas depend on tourism to pay their mortgages. But Vegas is also where a lot of mortgages from the rest of the country go to die. Las Vegans would be the first ones to tell you that “the house always wins,” so a town whose economy is based on gambling shouldn’t be caught off guard when their overheated housing bubble bursts.
You Can’t Win if You Don’t Play
Economists agree that Obama’s 2009 recovery package was essential to preventing a depression, but the president is still catching flak for his stimulus spending—even while congressional Republicans are voting down his bipartisan deficit reduction commission.
So the president should do a live, televised night out on the Vegas strip with the first lady to illustrate the power of stimulus spending. The Obamas would go the cheapskate route. We’d see them hitting an all-you-can-eat buffet, stiffing casino waitresses, and standing on line at a club for hours, waiting to get in because they won’t style off the bouncer at the door. Meanwhile, we’d see Vice President and Mrs. Joe “Spendin’ Cheese” Biden on split-screen, dining on steaks at Spago, tipping generously and ordering bottle service in VIP. Viewers could text to vote on who had the better night.
Always Bet on Blackjack
ESPN’s Bill Simmons once proposed that before anyone gets an NFL head coaching job, they ought to be evaluated on how they handle themselves at a Las Vegas blackjack table.
This should go double for cabinet secretaries. If you’re at a $25-a-hand blackjack table, whom do you want playing in front of you—Treasury Secretary Tim “Soft 17” Geithner or Obama’s rock-steady TARP czar, Elizabeth “All That Glitters Is Not Gold” Warren?:
In the end, Las Vegas has something to teach the rest of the country about dealing with a recession, and Vegas has something to learn from the president. Obama should think twice before he knocks casinos—after all, pit bosses have to eat, too. But Vegas has to go from being part of the problem to being part of the solution. And—someone needs to find me a cheap flight on Southwest.
Vegas, baby. Vegas.
David Swerdlick is a regular contributor to The Root. Follow him on Twitter.
David Swerdlick is an associate editor at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.