RUNNING THE NUMBERS: THE LOTTERY, PART 2

OK, so we know that lotteries are machines designed to extract money from the poor and redistribute it to the middle and upper classes in the form of property tax relief, school funds, and merit-based scholarships. This is the point at which one of our friends on the right reliably steps in to remind us that no one points a gun at the poor and forces them to buy lottery tickets. This is indisputable. It also leaves us with the question of why people willingly participate in something that siphons off income they can scarcely afford to spare in exchange for catastrophically lousy odds of striking it rich. Anyone who is poor, has been poor, has close friends or family who are poor, or works in close contact with the poor understands that long term financial planning and rational money management are not traits the poor possess in great quantity. Accordingly many people simply conclude that the poor are not smart enough to behave in their own rational self interest. This is a common way of reaching our preferred conclusion that the poor have only themselves to blame for their predicament. In reality, of course, the poor know very well that state lotteries are screwing them. That doesn't stop them because the experience of being poor in the United States is little more than getting screwed repeatedly ad infinitum until all parties are completely desensitized to the act.

Lotteries are the descendents of older, informal, private-sector prize systems like "policy wheels" (often run by neighborhood merchants as a way of distributing money people would then use to shop) or numbers games (usually run by organized crime). It wasn't until the 1960s – New Hampshire in 1964, to be specific – that states legalized, and then dove headlong into, the lotto business. The key difference for consumers when control shifted from the black market to the public sector was that the odds got a lot worse and the payoffs got much larger. Oh, and the winners got the honor of paying taxes on their prizes. Yes, lotteries actually got more exploitative when the mob stopped running them. The theory behind state control was and is simple: find a way to boost flagging revenues without taxing people who vote, and since gambling and playing the numbers are going to happen anyway (as Pennsylvania Governor Rendell so animatedly pointed out on TV recently) the state might as well get some tribute out of it. That the same logic could be applied to drugs and other illegal vices escapes most of our elected officials.

But I digress. On the original point, poor people play the lottery because they have one all-consuming goal: to be not-poor. It does not matter if the odds are ten to one or a billion to one; if the possibility exists that a given poor person can wake up the next day and instantly not be poor, he or she is going to take that chance. I have known poor and borderline poor people who play $100+ on the lottery every week. I have tried (and failed, of course) to explain that saving the $100 every week would give them over $5000 at the end of just one year. But he and I think differently about these things. The inability to save money or plan for the future are classic stupid habits we develop when we're poor, and it has the added bonus of guaranteeing that you will stay poor as well.

Blowing that $20 every day on scratch-off tickets is just one of the dozens of ways that the poor get reamed on the regular, and it's actually one of the few that offers any upside (even at long odds). They're treated unsympathetically (at best) by the police and courts. They can't afford the food that won't make them fat and sick, and they can't get to the grocery stores that sell it anyway (Not to worry! The neighborhood has a liquor/convenience store on every corner). Their own neighbors rob them and push the most addictive drugs on them. Predatory lenders offer usurious short term loans and, increasingly, credit cards and mortgages. They live among the waste products of the dirtiest, most polluting industries in their area. Politicians and planners use them as experimental subjects, shuffling them through one hare-brained Urban Renewal Plan after another. What few jobs are available are usually backbreaking and low paid – although that never stops The System from regularly reminding them that they work too little and make too much. Most of all, though, they are regularly ripped off by scam artists selling hope – the for-profit education industry, evangelists, politicians, banks, casinos, and, yes, lotteries.

Taking money from people who have little and are powerless against even the slightest chance of escaping poverty is the kind of activity usually associated with the Mafia and street gangs. State governments are more than happy to play the part though, and they've gone far beyond anything organized crime ever did in terms of exploiting the desperation of the poor and selling them false hope with terrible odds. Lotteries that take their money for the explicit purpose of giving it to people who are financially better off is evidence of how completely our governments – particularly here in the South – have abandoned even the pretense of holding the moral high ground. They've identified the victims of an exploitative system and chosen to use that to their advantage. The poor, for their part, are all too willing to play along. Spending $20 on the lotto every day may not appear to make sense until we realize that to the poor, there's no point in saving that $20 – someone or something else is just going to come along and swindle them anyway. Might as well blow that money on what might be, but never is, their literal ticket out of a life of grinding poverty.

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49 Responses to “RUNNING THE NUMBERS: THE LOTTERY, PART 2”

  1. freeportguy Says:

    Interesting exposes. Here's an interesting fact (at least to me): a number of places in the Bahamas have casinos. Nassau and Freeport for sure, although not sure about their other islands. But none has lottery.

    Generally speaking, most Bahamians are not rich people. Most jobs are in the service industry (hotel, restaurants, etc.), hence low wages. By law, Bahamian citizens and/or permanent residents are prohibited from gambling in casinos. It's been this way for years.

    However, there's been increasing efforts in the past few years to change this, coming from the population under the pretense that they are in THEIR country and should too get a shot at "the dream". Thus many are pushing for access to casinos AND a national lottery.

    I wrote a note in their blog a few years back telling them it was a bad idea. Here's the response I got:

    "I think the debate revolves around the basic principle of free will especially when others are allowed to do the same thing."

    In order words, there are people willing to bleed the poor to death, and all too many poor people willing to allow them. Sad.

  2. Middle Seaman Says:

    The last point is the important half of the problem. Our government has never catered to the unfortunate, sick, poor, undocumented or displaced. Since St. Reagan, governing has become the devil's work. Our government couldn't care less about people with income lower than 7 figures.

    Even in the best day for Democrats before they converted to assholes for the rich and before the czar of the rich, Obama, came to power, the US did never become a real welfare state. FDR's right to have a job, right to health care, housing and education (the 2nd Bill of Rights) was never seriously considered.

    Europe has many social democracies were the poor are decently supported, health care for all is guaranteed, housing is either affordable or, if needed, subsidized and education K to college is free. We were never close or we were never a real democracy.

  3. ladiesbane Says:

    Do you picture some desperate, poverty-stricken person clutching a Powerball ticket as if in prayer? The lottery is not some trickster's charm, driving the ignorant but hopeful Bob Cratchit to spend the grocery money on a piece of paper that promises salvation for the whole starving family, but is actually an addictive money suck with no value? Like basic cable?

    Lottery tickets, like beer, smokes, horoscopes, movie tickets, and soda pop, are purchased for entertainment purposes. That is their sole value, purpose, and reason for existence. The only difference is that a lottery ticket *might* benefit someone who isn't already rich.

    Is there some meaningful difference between lottery tickets and the rest of that list of diversions between birth and the grave? Comic books, fake nails, children, pets who don't earn their keep, tithing, hair color, mistresses and ex-wives alike — all the things that funnel cash away from a non-existent retirement, should one be so fortunate as to be gainfully employed, and so resourceful that not-working will seem a practical option at some point — what is the difference between one money waster and another? Why do you judge that one so harshly?

  4. Ben Says:

    ladiesbane,

    If lotto tickets are no different than basic cable, comic books and pets, then why do the middle and upper classes purchase the latter and not the former? Why are lotto purchases overwhelmingly concentrated among the poor?

    Why are there advertising campaigns geared toward striking it rich and changing your life, as documented in the last post, instead of oriented around the quiet relaxation afforded by making scratching motions on pieces of paper?

    This whole line of thought reeks of an econ 101 way of viewing society and consumption decisions. "Individuals make choices based on how much value they assign to a product, purchasing that product when they value it at least as much as the purchase price. Once essential goods like housing, food and clothing are taken care of, consumers spend their money on individual heterogeneous preference baskets that satisfy their wants."

    Fuck Jesus no. And, gotdamn, you should have caught yourself when you wrote that alcohol and tobacco are only purchased for entertainment purposes. It's somewhat defensible to get sucked into spouting that general econ 101 line. Part of the reason it's so pervasive is that it's superficially convincing. But when you start saying that the most abused drugs in the history of Western civilization are only purchased for entertainment purposes, you've gone off the deep end.

  5. Xynzee Says:

    I was going to say in yesterday's post:
    A friend of ours in Portland owned commercial real estate, particularly grocery stores which also sold lotto tickets. My home town had some fairly distinct burroughs to it. The one I grew up in was fairly upper-middle class and one was mill workers and struggling. She said the store in the blue collar struggling neighbourhood sold far and away more lotto related items than the one in my neighbourhood.

    She acknowledged that it really was a regressive tax. But like JimCat said yesterday, we're all pretty much maliciously complicit to the system as it benefits our own ends.

    Australia is horribly beholden to the pokies and gambling. At least Russell Crowe (yea that Russell Crowe) has vocalised opposition to the funding the team he's on the BOD for's dependence upon pokies. One of the best things to come with the tenuous govt we have is an independent getting pokie reform on the table. Unfortunately, he's pretty much alone because the churches are more concerned with what two consenting adults are doing.

    But I guess that's "freedom" in all of its wonderful guises. We don't want anyone telling us what we can/cannot do.

  6. c u n d gulag Says:

    NY's Lotto motto for years was, "You can't win it, unless you're in it!"
    And people went, "Hey, they've got a point!"

    And I agree with the person who said that it's for entertainment value – with a shred of hope.

    Also too, I remember reading an article years ago, about some of the people who'd won big money. And it found that most of them went broke pretty quickly – or dead. They didn't have the skills or where-with-all to keep the money they won and invest it.

    And now, more and more states want to get into legalized gambling, which is also a defacto tax on the poor.

    The question is, how much money can states expect to raise?
    When no neighboring states had gambling, and yours did, people would flock to gamble.
    But, when nearly every state will have legalized gambling, the pool of people with money grows smaller and smaller. So, what's the profitability threshold for each state, and the scumbag companies they choose to run the casino's? Not much – but enough to make it profitable by lowering the odds, and paying staff like sh*t.

    The only people who will profit from the growing number of states with casino's and legalized gambling, will be the politicians who push for it, and their cronies and family members.

    And it's yet another safe place to land for those politicians. F*ck-up and lose an election, or get kicked out of office? Well, if some Wingnut Welfare lobbying group won't take you, maybe the crony you steered towards the casino contract can make a nice 6-figure spot for you? VP of Something or other… Marketing? Yeah, VP of Marketing – where you won't need to know or do jack-sh*t to get your nice salary, bonuses, and benefits. Maybe a nice pension, too.
    It's only called "gambling' if you're not the one coming in the door to try to beat "The House."
    For "The House," it's "easy money!"

  7. belle Says:

    "particularly in the South"? excuse me?

    you said yourself New Hampshire was the first. the Northern states universally had Lotto well before the lottery made reluctant inroads into Southern states.

    the rest of the essay is excellent, but your regional prejudice is showing.

  8. ladiesbane Says:

    Ben, lottery tickets are strictly for entertainment value in that they serve no practical purpose to the purchaser. Did you really have to ask that one?

    Why are lottery purchases concentrated among the poor? Because wealthier people buy their lottery tickets through stockbrokers. If you think THAT's not gambling, talk to the schmoes who forgot that money was being manipulated at risk, and lost the bulk of what had been earned as well as any gains from investments. They call it playing the stock market for a reason.

    Moreover, the gambling urges among the higher tax brackets can be indulged during travel to places like Vegas. Everyone, high and low, has access to bars with video poker, private card games, horse tracks, dog tracks, riverboats, and two-up in the alley behind the diner. Why aren't people frothing against casinos? Why does the lottery, of all things, earn such special ire? Please don't tell me it's because you think the poor are all morons who don't understand that they won't automatically win, and need you to save them from themselves.

  9. Tim H. Says:

    Ha, bad government, perfected in the old confederacy is now being rolled out to the rest of the country. And any native charlie foxtrot traditions will be lovingly preserved and blended with the new order.

  10. Orpho Says:

    @LB Oooooh, playing the stocks is like gambling, lottos are gambling, so it's the same thing really, just a class divide.

    Bailouts for excessive gambling should be coming any day now. I know a lot of folks who play the lotto who're "too big to fail."
    ….

    Your logic is not like our Earth logic.

  11. Xynzee Says:

    @ladies: "Why aren't people frothing against casinos?"
    We had the "Vegas" talk last month.
    C U just fired a shot in that direction too.

    Drive up the 5 through Washington. You can go Indian exit, whiteman exit. They just leap frog each other. How can you tell? One has a casino, the other has an outlet mall.

    The stories coming out the reservations seem to say that there's quite a bit of cronyism happening. Anyone complaining about wanting a bigger cut suddenly finds themselves disenfranchised.

  12. Monkey Business Says:

    It all comes back to education.

    An average student that completes high school with straight Cs will have been exposed to the following topics: English (American Literature, World Literature, and Composition), Social Studies (World History, US History, Government, and Economics), Mathematics (Pre-Algebra, Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry), and Science (Earth Science, Chemistry, Biology, Physics).

    The problem is, our public schools are failing us, because we are failing our public schools. There's no such thing as "average" students any more. There's no one getting straight Cs. The poor kids that come from families that don't understand the value of education drop out or flunk out, never go to college, and pass the same bad habits their parents passed on to them to their children. The rich kids are bolstered by tutors and preferential treatment, cakewalk through high school, and make their way to colleges and universities which in many cases have become expensive babysitters.

    The only time I see any of my friends (all of whom are college graduates) buy a lottery ticket, whether its a Powerball or scratch off, is when the jackpot becomes absurdly huge or it's someone's birthday.

  13. Mo Says:

    Oh boy! Time to dust off Mike's review of The Persistence of Poverty!

    ignore Amazon disses

    This book changed my attitude entirely when contemplating what if would be like if I actually fell off the tipping point onto the poor side.

  14. bb in GA Says:

    @Tim H

    Yeah, the 'old confederacy' being the US of A under the Articles of Confederation :-)

    http://www.library.ca.gov/crb/97/03/Chapt2.html

    "All 13 original colonies established lotteries, usually more than one, to raise revenue. Playing the lottery became a civic responsibility.

    Proceeds helped establish some of the nation's earliest and most prestigious universities — Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Dartmouth, Princeton, and William and Mary.

    Lottery funds were also used to build churches and libraries. Ben Franklin, John Hancock, and George Washington were all prominent sponsors of specific lotteries for public works projects."

    //bb

  15. Chicagojon Says:

    @ladiesbane
    "Everyone, high and low, has access to bars with"
    video poker

    – Can be played for a positive return with a machine with a good payout structure and proper play. The worst return I've seen for video poker and a good simple strategy is 93%
    private card games
    – I hope I don't have to explain that private card games are a game of skill and don't relate to these others. Of course people lose money at them but I think we're talking about lotteries, not the greater issue of gambling (though I'd be happy to talk about gambling and addiction in America and the lottery's role as state-sponsored gambling)
    horse tracks, dog tracks
    – Again, these are inherently skill games. Of course player can casually pick numbers and see if they come up. I" admit don't know what the expected return is from animal racing, but my guess is that the house takes under 10%. Not related to this post IMO dog tracks should certainly be shut down for humanitarian reasons. Horse tracks I don't know as much about and would likely leave to tradition with proper regulation
    riverboats
    -Pick a game. Slots? Likely 90%+ return and games that will say '99% return' on the game (and are regulated as such). Table games? Generally 93%+. Me playing blackjack on a 6-deck shoe with a manual shuffler? 100%+
    and two-up in the alley behind the diner.
    -whatever

    Why does the lottery, of all things, earn such special ire?
    – Because it's a 58% return (in IL) and the winnings are then taxed by the Federal government and the state! It's a state sponsored tax with less than 50% of the money going to the gamblers. They money disproportionately comes from the poor. The portion of winnings that are put back into education and used in defense of the system disproportionately serve higher income individuals than those who put the money in. This is not a difficult concept to understand.
    -The Mega millions multi-state lottery is similar to the IL lottery with ~60% return, 25% to states, and 15% profit

    Please don't tell me it's because you think the poor are all morons who don't understand that they won't automatically win, and need you to save them from themselves.
    – No, I think you're a moron. Comparing other forms of gambling and general vices as you did to the modern state-funded lottery is silly.
    I see what you're doing with your 'need you to save them from themselves' faux-libertarianism, but I'm not going to roll over and say 'you're right, they should fend for themselves' because I'm not a moron are your argument is a false choice.
    I can see that the lottery system is corrupt and that it feeds disproportionately upon the poor. This isn't a point of argument, it's a fact. If you think that my wanting to change it is me being authoritarian and without respect for the poor that's fine, but my way gets rid of the system. I'd rather be an authoritarian protecting the poor than a jackass faux-libertarian. Faux-libertarianism doesn't work — it's just the same tired racism and classism that already exists wrapped in a new package to make white people feel better about their privilege and not have to acknowledge it.

  16. Chicagojon Says:

    Wow, that got long.

    Also, to whomever says 'the lottery is a poor tax' (with it's implication that poor=foolish/uneducated) please allow me a preemptive 'fuck you'. Unless you've been poor and faced the choices that Ed summarizes nicely ($20 for a chance at $xxxxx or $20 saved for someone else to swindle later) and have at least done some reading into the history of state run lotteries parroting the phrase 'the lottery is a poor tax' is about the stupidest thing one can add to a discussion.

  17. jeneria Says:

    "An Associated Press survey of Wisconsin lottery purchases found that residents living in the poorest neighborhoods in the state spent, on average, four times as much of their income on lottery tickets as did those in wealthier neighborhoods." From the Chicago Times, 1995.

    "Eighty percent of Wisconsin casino revenues come from Wisconsin residents, according to a study released in 1995." “The Economic Impact of Native American Gaming in Wisconsin,” Wisconsin Policy Research Institute Report , April 1995.

    And I also read somewhere that states that use lottery/gambling money for educational funding actually end up spending less on education in the long run because voters won't vote for referendums, levies, etc because the lottery makes so much money. It's hard to see an upside to the machine.

  18. Blakenator Says:

    Minor point: Urban renewal is all about keeping property values up and dishing contracts to cronies.

  19. ladiesbane Says:

    My (now dead) step-grandmother lived at a very low income level her whole life, and got way more than $5 worth of pleasure out of her weekly lottery purchases. It was fun for her to pick numbers, anticipate the drawing, imagine what she'd do if she won, watch the numbers get pulled, and commiserate with friends the next day. It amused her hugely.

    If she had gone without that small amusement, she could have saved up a few hundred bucks, after more than a year, and it would have gone to a boring necessity they would have found the money to cover anyway.

    If the system is odious and corrupt, by all means, fight it. Work to regulate it, or tear it down. But don't make this about saving the poor people who don't know that they should be scrimping instead of having a little fun.

  20. Patrick Says:

    There is a slight caveat. Lotteries with accumulating payouts(The payout grows by a percentage of ticket sales and there is no guarantee that anyone will win on any particular drawing) can have positive expected values at certain times.

    For example, in the recent $656 million mega-millions jackpot, the probability of winning on a ticket was 1 in 175,711,536. Which means that the expected value of each $1 ticket was $3.73. Now it probably still isn't a good investment because the variance on your expected return is so astronomically high, but still, the lottery isn't always an unambiguously stupid purchase.

  21. Xynzee Says:

    CJ: while you bring some good numbers to the table your agression undermines you. Just sayin'.

    To come back to the original point of this and yesterday's posts it's not so much that the lotteries are bad. It's that the original intent was to help those who couldn't afford to go to college. This system has now been gamed so that the people who were to be helped are no longer getting it. Instead it's putting a down payment on a Beemer for some trust fund kid.

    In away a lotto should have been more like a Building Society. Where people all put in money that would help each other build a house. Or an insurance plan where the young and healthy, bankroll the services for the less healthy.
    So if the cut off for getting this scholarship was lowered to $50k (or lower), and going to those who have the ability but not the means would we be as much concern?
    So if lotteries are played by those in lower socio-economic brackets.
    Effectively, the situation would be that what we have is the lower socio-economic group pooling their money to send their best and brightest to college who then can help lift the rest of the community out of their situation.
    While the situation is very dire in many communities for good education, it's hard to say that amongst that there aren't more than a few diamonds. Those with the drive and smarts to learn. That in these schools that there aren't teachers who want their kids to succeed. Certainly these kids can achieve the necessary scores.

    Really, the change then should be forcing a return of the means funded caps. Returning the money to those schools that do not have the tax pool to raise decent school levies. So you can't get rid of the lotto infrastructure, but you can work towards getting changes to the system.

  22. Xynzee Says:

    …would *there* be…

  23. DB Says:

    @ ladiesbane

    "[W]hat is the difference between one money waster and another? Why do you judge that one so harshly?"

    In other words, "Why do you criticize X when you could also be criticizing Y, Z and A for the same reasons? Why the selectivity?"

    Um, maybe because the writer just wanted to talk about X? Because there's this thing called having a topic. And because there's this thing that writers do when they're trying to address a topic; it's called focusing on that topic, which entails not addressing other topics.

    Your line of questioning doesn't even apply to this case, since, as other commenters have pointed out, there are significant distinctions between X and Y, Z and A in this case

  24. DB Says:

    (continued)
    , but even if it did, there would be no reason to give a shit.

  25. E* Says:

    Forgive me if I'm mistaken, but I think the point of this post was not that lotteries are bad, but that the government shouldn't be engaged in them.

    Ladiesbane makes the fair point that lottery tickets are like comic books, fake nails, children, pets who don't earn their keep, tithing, hair color, mistresses and ex-wives, in that their purpose is for entertainment and amusement.

    However, the government isn't in the business of comic books, fake nails, children, pets who don't earn their keep, tithing, hair color, mistresses and ex-wives, nor should it be. And it shouldn't be in the business of the lottery either, for all of the excellent reasons that Ed has spelled out.

  26. Fiddlin' Bill Says:

    You're right on, and the "entertainment" concept tossed into this discussion is beside the point, a distraction used just as glibly by people like Limbaugh when they're cornered. I'd offer one other thought–that in the world of poverty, luck plays a much more vivid role in existence. Thus, the idea that luck might smile on a particular lottery purchase seems more likely to a person struggling through life, generally. Indeed, it is wealth which holds luck at bay. This is why, at the macro level of nations, the US has the biggest military–it's a hedge against fate.

  27. bb in GA Says:

    @Fiddlin' Bill

    I was a long time listener to RHL. I've never seen or heard HIM use the entertainer line, only his detractors trying to minimize or discredit his opinion or position.

    I have heard him mock the charge – "Well, I'm only an entertainer, right?" but never use it to defend himself.

    //bb

  28. doug Says:

    I agree ladiesbane. it is entertainment and a free choice to make.Like playing a round of golf (at a municipal course E*)

  29. JazzBumpa Says:

    bb –

    I've only ever listened to limbaugh by accident. Seriously, I avoid him like the poison merchant that he is.

    And I have heard him refer to himself as an entertainer. He did not, as I recall, use the word "only," and your bringing it into play obfuscates.

    No, he doesn't use it to defend himself. I' don't think anyone suggested that.

    JzB

  30. Patrick Says:

    It isn't like playing golf. It is like doing drugs. Gambling addiction is pretty well established in the medical world. Golf: not so much. The same logic of drug legalization applies to legalized gambling.

    Incidentally, most state lotteries are actually run by private companies who split the proceeds with the states. The major point that I took away from the post was lottery money should be redistributed to the poor not the rich. Not that government should stop taking lottery proceeds. Cause lotteries are inevitable and poor people will be most likely to play them. If that money came back to them indirectly, it would be a more just world.

  31. doug Says:

    Patrick, the golf comment was in response to E* comment that the gov't was not in the entertainment business, as a example of them being in the entertainment business. Municipal fishing piers come to mind as well. I agree with your comment about addiction, and I agree that the percentage paid out is ludicrously low.

    As for a more just world, I am not expecting it, even as I work for it in every way I can.

  32. bb in GA Says:

    @JzB

    Help me here…

    "You're right on, and the "entertainment" concept tossed into this discussion is beside the point, a distraction used just as glibly by people like Limbaugh when they're cornered."

    Using something when you are "cornered" equals defending yourself w/ it, no?

    I am willing to be corrected if I am distorting. But I am talking about a history of years and never hearing him defend himself with that tack.

    //bb

  33. GertieGreen Says:

    When it comes to the lottery, I believe that (1) targeted advertising to the poor must be stopped. (I realize it is a standard marketing practice to identify your target audience and develop an advertising campaign designed to appeal to that audience. But, our own government has a history of limiting advertising for the health and welfare of our citizenry, when advertising cigarettes and alcohol for example. And, (2) I believe that the proceeds of the lottery should be distributed in accordance to where the tickets were purchased. If they cannot find enough Hope scholars to meet their criteria from the neighborhoods where the majority of the tickets were purchased they can use the lottery money to improve the high schools until the disparity becomes less glaring.

  34. GertieGreen Says:

    Oh, and Ladiesbain, I'm addressing this to you, since I get the feeling that you would like to bully people into taking your side by accusing them of thinking:

    "…the poor are all morons who don't understand that they won't automatically win, and need you to save them from themselves."

    No, we don't believe the poor are morons. Nor do we believe that the poor are "desperate" or "ignorant" or any of the other words you threw out there. I think what we are saying is that it would be nice, for once, if they were to experience life on a level playing field, without their own government conspiring to lure them into a scheme to take their hard-earned money, with the promise of a huge pay-off that they will most likely never see but, if they do see it, said government will tax to the limit. And, as an added bonus, the profits from this scheme will go not to their community, but to the middle and upper class.

  35. Fiddlin' Bill Says:

    Limbaugh has said zillions of times things such as "I'm just a fuzzball entertainer." He uses the description to counter assertions that he's a news person, a serious analyst, etc–but only when whatever seemingly serious analysis he's put forward falls under credible attack. E.g, eventually his days long diatribe on Ms Fluke became "what, don't you libs get the joke–it was irony folks, etc." (Please note, I'm paraphrasing, not literally quoting the lying scumbag.)

  36. Jenny Islander Says:

    If all you have to put away is a hundred bucks a week and you have access to a credit union, or you can put that hundred bucks on top of a nice pad of existing savings, then you can actually accumulate a little bit of value. The credit union may even have a rewards program, so you can get a gift card good for ice cream for the whole family at McD's or something, and meanwhile nobody can steal your money.

    If all you have to put away is a hundred bucks a week and you have no credit union and no existing pad of savings at the bank, the bank will eat up all the interest you make on that hundred bucks a week, plus more. Or apply somebody else's automatic debit to your account and refuse to listen when you tell them that you are not that person. Or fiddle your auto pay so that you get charged three times in a month as penalty for their having not entered your payment in time.

    If you have no bank, you get to cash your paycheck at Wal-Mart, where they take some of the money off the top and hand you cash or a debit card. Better use it up before you lose it or it gets stolen.

    This country needs a credit union on every corner.

    And does everybody here understand that playing the lottery makes sense if you know that $5,200 means dick if you are trying to get out of your crappy rental or buy a car that won't immediately break down? If you want to stop paying the poor tax,* you have to find a lot more than $5,200 per year. $52 million sounds nice.

    *If I understand correctly, the poor tax is the extra I have to nickel and dime away because I can't buy in quantity and save unit price/get the most efficient car with the best repair record/buy a nice energy efficient house close to my place of work/move in order to take advantage of a job offer far away.

  37. tenacitus Says:

    As usual you are on point. I just want to add that poor people do not only live in urban areas but rural ones too. In fact the rural poor might actually have it worse because they tend to support more policies that are not helpful to them over the long term.

    Not that I I think it's legitimate in anyway to play the poverty olympiics since everyone who is working class or lower is hurting and not counted as much in the country. After see the drug problems that people had in rural Iowa, the poverty, lack of jobs and desperation of people who were too old, or too young to leave. Or folks who rightly thought that they should not have to leave to make a decent living I started to see poverty as a national problem not just one in the urban areas.

    I remember that it was harder for me to get stuff that was used or from the salvation army, goodwill and such places when I lived in Iowa, Alaska and rural Alabama than when I lived in Minneapolis.

    Again I completely agree with you and always enjoy your blog. I hope that I did not derail from the thread.

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    [Spending a hundred means you are bad at math.]

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