LAS VEGAS -- This is a town that looks better at night. Millions of lights pierce the darkness creating a visual that is both energetic and trance-inducing. The multilayered lightshow is dazzling and unique in America.
But when the sun comes up, Las Vegas speaks directly to the recession. Half-completed buildings loom over the landscape like giant steel skeletons. Some developers ran out of money and simply walked away leaving huge, hulking abandoned structures to absorb the desert wind.
But just down Las Vegas Boulevard are the winners: lavish hotels that cater to one's every need. This is a city that best defines the two Americas and our very competitive capitalistic system. If you want to understand the free marketplace, Las Vegas is an excellent classroom.
Millions of hardworking folks come here to have fun. In order to maximize the entertainment, you have to spend money. Whether you spend it on gambling, live shows or fine dining, it's up to you. The money flow supports tens of thousands of service workers and, at a much higher level, the movers who run the tourist businesses. If you can't make a decent living in Vegas, you are in major trouble. Responsible workers are sorely needed.
But still there is destitution on display. Addiction is the primary driver of that, although laziness is featured, as well. Some of the poor in this town simply want to play all the time. And they pay a price for that, as prosperity eludes them.
Some of the have-nots sit on sidewalks hoping for money from passersby. Sometimes, gamblers give the beggars casino chips. Panhandlers say the best time for them is after midnight when the winners emerge from the gambling dens. Redistribution is much easier when you've just run the table.
President Obama should spend some time in Vegas. Maybe then he would understand capitalism better. No matter how many handouts the panhandlers get, their circumstances rarely change. The money is mostly used to feed their compulsions.
On the other end, the rich 1 percenters hustling the gambling tables are trying to increase their affluence by taking chances. In the process, they are providing salaries for the hardworking men and women who keep the entertainment establishments running. Bottom line: Both the wealthy and the poor in Vegas are exercising their personal freedoms.
From observing the action in Vegas, Obama might finally realize that it's freedom of choice that most often dictates who fails and who succeeds in the capitalistic system. In Vegas, no outcomes are guaranteed and no government can level the playing field. Prosperity or lack thereof is all about individual decision-making.
But the president would most likely never admit that, because it goes against his belief that government can impose a form of social justice by forcibly redistributing the wages of the successful.
For Barack Obama, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
Veteran TV news anchor Bill O'Reilly is host of the Fox News show "The O'Reilly Factor" and author of the book "Pinheads and Patriots: Where You Stand in the Age of Obama."