Friday, March 30, 2012

$2 is too rich for my blood.

Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks PowerBall blew it by doubling their ticket price.  They made the move because they wanted higher jackpots to set them apart from the other lottery games, but they drove their customers to Mega-Millions, and now it’s Mega-Millions that is all over the media with a half billion dollar jackpot.  Why would you pay $2 to lose at a game that you can lose at for $1?  Whether it costs $1 or $2, I am ambivalent to the lottery.

On the one hand, it is definitely a poor tax in my mind.  People who can least afford to play are the ones who spend the most.  Legislators spend all kinds of time debating our tax code, trying to determine how to fairly distribute the load, and many people argue tirelessly that the burden needs to be lifted off of struggling families, but those same families go out and spend an average of $500 a year on lottery tickets (according to this morning’s news), leading our government to pay for schools and roads by institutionalizing gambling, instead of taxing wealth.

On the other hand, who doesn’t want in?  I’m not spending my dollar because I think I’ll win.  I’m spending it, because if they’re giving away millions of dollars, I at least want my name in the pot.  I’m like my daughter, who puts $1 into the Crane Machine at the arcade every time we go.  We know that we are wasting our money.  We know that we have better chances of contracting Mad Cow Disease from a panda, than actually winning.  But if someone’s going to walk away with a stuffed Scooby Doo the size of a yak, for $1, we want our shot.

If everyone approached the lottery with that mentality, I probably wouldn’t loath it the way I do.  Yes, I buy a ticket now and then.  I will even buy a ticket when the pot is only $20 million.  Maybe I couldn’t pay off my house, send my kids to college, visit the Great Barrier Reef, and help plant a church with that, but…wait…yes, I could do all that with even the smallest jackpot.  So I throw my name in the hat for the price of a pack of gum.  But despite playing, I still loath the way it tempts us.  I hate that people buy lottery tickets instead of milk for their kids.  I despise that it reinforces the American cultural aspiration that we are all going to somehow get rich quick; an aspiration that fuels our drive to climb on each others’ heads to get what we want.  An aspiration that more often than not makes people poor, instead of rich.

Let’s face it.  The house always wins.

you abuse the poor and demand heavy taxes from them. Amos 5:11


  1. We're in for 20$ and we have milk. I wonder if people (me) follow through on the pre-lottery generosity after they win.

  2. and now we'll never know.

  3. Well, maybe we'll know someday. Just not this week. Right?