I got two of the five red numbers and NAILED the white one. The odds of this, I calculate: one in 5000. (One in 35 for the white number; one in 12 for each red number; so, rounding slightly, 1 in 35 x 12 x 12 = 5,000.) So how come my $2 ticket paid off just $7? What the heck kind of racket is this?
Rob Brown: “I always liked this Dilbert.”
Chris Brown: “The lottery is bad, but not 1% as insidious as advertising directed at children. We should ban all ads directed at children, period. Even if it takes a Constitutional amendment to do it. This is such a destructive force in our culture.”
Tom M.: “In my humble opinion, it surely is not fair that almost half the Country pays zero Federal Income Tax. The Lottery gives this group a chance to participate in society in another way. Using the statistics Zac provided, the vast majority of those buying a chance for wealth are the same paying zero Fed Tax.”
☞ Yes! Those bagging our groceries or cleaning our bedpans have a sweet deal. Finally: a way to make the world a little more equitable for the rest of us, who carry most of society’s burden.
Mike Martin: “Your friend Zac is amazingly short-sighted. He notes that lottery ticket sales disproportionately affect the very poor, particularly poor Black males. He then implies that the government should not participate in a program that disadvantages the poor this way. But lottery tickets long preceded the government lottery. They were sold by the mob and became a major source of funding for organized crime. But with organized crime, the payoffs were not necessarily legitimate. And people were allowed to bet with credit that then got ‘enforced’ by collectors. Numbers runners often competed with other numbers runners in petty violence. You had a system of gambling that was riddled with corruption, crime and violence. Society paid a high price that extended far beyond the poor. So government stepped in and offered an alternative system of lottery tickets that was open, transparent, and sanitized.
“The key point is that ALL free markets have to be regulated by government, otherwise they are regulated by organized crime. In some cases, such as prostitution and narcotic drugs, government decides not to regulate the market and the result is a shadow government like the drug cartels or human traffickers. So you do not actually have unregulated markets; you have markets regulated either by corruption or by government.” [And sometimes, sadly, both.] . . . “Republicans prefer ideological blinders that ignore reality and implicitly empower corruption; Democrats accept reality and the responsibility for keeping society safe and orderly. You can employ that framework on nearly every issue. Environmentalism, for example, is a Democratic effort to protect society through government regulation. In each case you find Republicans reaping financial kickbacks from those who profit from the lack of regulation — e.g., John Boehner handing out tobacco industry checks on the floor of the House of Representatives.
“When I look at the election results I see one overwhelmingly telling statistic. Where there are lots of people trying to live together in peace and harmony, the Democrats won handily. In areas with low population density, the Republicans won handily. Lottery tickets are just one example of government fulfilling a role that otherwise would enrich corrupt actors. Prohibition was an example of doing the opposite and trying to prevent, rather than regulate, social problems. The choice with lottery tickets is: whom do you want making the market: government or the mob?”
☞ Lots of food for thought. But why, Zac asks, do state governments need to promote the lottery? They don’t promote the joys of methadone. “Why do they advertise Powerball if all they’re doing is filling demand that is already there? Why do they aggressively distribute lottery tickets through liquor stores which, by the way, have a reputation for catering to people who struggle with addiction? Why did the Ohio lottery produce a media plan designed to time ad buys to coincide with Social Security payments?”
ET TU, CITIZENS UNITED? REDUX
Since talk has turned to the corrupting influence of money, I thought I’d again offer James Musters‘ link from yesterday, How Political Campaign Spending Brought Down the Roman Republic. Commenting on which, Allen Brand adds: “From a high school textbook, the ring of familiarity can be found. It seems that we should be some 2000 years smarter by now. But the money, myths and propaganda of the Republican party are still with us and contributing to those ideas and policies that destroy people and countries.”
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire:
Without tax money . . . roads and other public structures fell into disrepair. . . . Nobles and people in the cities cared more about pleasing themselves than about the well-being of other people. The idea of citizenship was being destroyed. Many Romans no longer felt a sense of duty to the empire. Many chose to get rich in business rather than serve the government. The cost of education increased, so poor Romans found it harder to become educated. People grew less informed about civic matters. Inequality of wealth, the gap between rich and poor, led to a breakdown of society, a decline of patriotism and loyalty, and indifferent citizens. People failed to participate in the government.
— World History, McDougal Littell
On the off-chance you didn’t know: Of the 19 House committee chairs the Republicans have now appointed, all 19 are men. (One, apparently, identifies not as “white” but as “Lebanese.”) And of the two slots remaining to be filled, Rachel Maddow notes that neither of those committees has a Republican woman member, so the final tally may be 21 men, zero women.
FRESH DIRECT COMES TO PHILLY
If you live in New York — or now in Philadelphia — you should really try Fresh Direct. Click here. Yes, I will get a $15 credit if you set up an account. But you will thank me for years as if I were a god in your home. Without Fresh Direct, I would actually have to walk outside and shop. And wait in lines. And carry things.
Quote of the Day
In 1800, 75% of [an American's] working man's expenditures went for food alone. By 1850, that had dropped to 50%. Today it is a little more than 11%.~The Wall Street Journal, September 20, 1996
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