11.10.2009

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words


I took this picture at the gas station down the street from my house.

I think it does a better job of summing up why I hate the lottery than any essay could.

6 comments:

David Manes 11/10/09, 12:46 PM  

I mean this as a serious question, so don't take it any other way.

What do you think about placing restrictions on what those receiving public assistance can spend their money on? For instance, maybe we could decide that while we want to keep social welfare programs, we don't want recipients to be able to spend their money on alcohol or entertainment. There are probably a lot of non-essential things that we could keep them from "wasting" their money on.

I grew up in a middle class family that never had cable television. Why should public money subsidize completely unnecessary forms of entertainment like that for welfare recipients?

Maybe we could eliminate welfare checks altogether and substitute amounts payable for certain things: school supplies, transportation, food, housing, and clothing.

I don't think it is a huge leap from the kind of criticism you imply against choices of entertainment made by the poor. By the way, I am not necessarily against that idea.

John Wright 11/10/09, 4:01 PM  

That sign is a great catch, and I completely agree. The lottery is largely a "poor and stupid" tax, which is not something any reputable government should impose.

Eoghan 11/10/09, 9:13 PM  

Hilarious sign, Luke. The lottery is, in practice, a regressive tax.

Re: David's point: I'm not sure Luke is implying that poor people shouldn't be allowed to spend money on a lottery ticket, but, rather, that state-funded lotteries are questionable ways to, for example, raise money for schools, as, in practice, it's the poor who end up buying the tickets.

Of course, it's possible that I'm incorrectly extrapolating.

Luke 11/11/09, 2:38 PM  

David,

I’m less frustrated with the way poor folks spend their money than I am with a lottery system that targets them and encourages them to make poor decisions.

That being said, you do raise an interesting topic.

As a taxpayer, I honestly have no problem with a portion of my tax dollars going to help those who are less fortunate, but it does grate on me a little to know that a portion of those funds are spent in ways that I would consider unwise.

It's just like if someone comes up to me on the street asking me for money for food or gas. I have no problem giving them money for those things, but I don't want them taking that money and spending it on cigarettes, alcohol, etc. (of course, these concerns can be bypassed if you just take them to eat, get gas, etc. rather than just handing them money, but I digress).

So in one sense, yes, it would be nice if some restrictions were in place.

On the other hand, determining what someone “needs” is awfully tricky.

I’m not an expert on the psychology of the lower classes, but my wife is a school teacher in a low income district and in her master’s program she studied poverty as it relates to education fairly extensively.

Generally speaking, lower classes spend such a high percentage of income on non-essentials (cable TV, cigarettes, lottery tickets, etc.) largely as a means of escape from the stress of dealing with poverty on a daily basis.

While a low income individual would be better off saving money gradually and trying to improve his circumstances, realistically, that's just not what happens (“Life sucks, watching cable at night distracts me from that, so I'll pay for cable whether I can afford it or not.”).

So to answer your question in a roundabout way, I think placing restrictions on public assistance is an interesting idea, but I don’t know how to implement it.

Some things (like TV, for example) that may not be technically necessary for physical life may still be necessary to attain a certain quality of life.

Suffice it to say, I don’t think the lottery is one of those things. It takes advantage of the poor and doesn't provide anything for them in return (except in the rarest of circumstances).

Luke 11/11/09, 2:39 PM  

John,

My sentiments exactly.

Luke 11/11/09, 2:42 PM  

Eoghan,

Indeed, you were right on about my implications.

And one thing that really drives me nuts is how they always refer to the AR lottery in the media as our “Scholarship Lottery.”

So now the poor parents spend money they don't have on lottery tickets, helping pay for the middle and upper class students to go to college, while their own kids get to work in convenience stores…selling lottery tickets.

Brilliant.

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