Alan Chartock | I Publius: Real lottery winners are the rich and powerful


GREAT BARRINGTON >> What if I were to tell you that I had just won half a billion dollars in the lottery? Would you like me more? Would you hate me more? Would you look at a system that is screwing you over or would you say, "Maybe I'll win next time?"

Human nature is such that we all have great hopes of changing our lives by purchasing a scrap of paper. Winning the lottery could move us from the rank and file of relative have-nots in a society that shows signs of putting more and more distance between the rich and everyone else.

In fact, things have gotten so bad that most of us are grasping at straws. I spent 20 bucks on a recent Powerball lottery on the theory that someone has to win. If I didn't take a chance, I was a fool.

In fact, the opposite was true. I was a fool to play. It was a total waste of money. When it comes to the lottery, we are a country of fools. We are suckers.

We are paying a regressive tax imposed by a government that plays upon our greed, hopes and aspirations. The government can get the money painlessly without imposing a progressive tax structure that would take more from those who would feel it the least.

Read that last sentence again and think of the quintessential New Yorker who fled to Vermont, Bernie Sanders. He has great appeal to all of us grunts who certainly know that we are being had by nonsense like the various lotteries. He rails against the capitalistic structure that plays with all of our lives.

Oh, I know you don't like this. After all, lotteries are glorified gambling and we Americans love to gamble. Just look around us at all the gambling emporiums that we are building to further fleece those who just can't admit that we are being had.

In fact, even the churches that may not like gambling offer their bingo games which, we all know, is gambling. We can certainly hope that their moral objection to gambling is not a way to get rid of the competition. Don't bet on it.

Everyone is in on it. TV news is full of stories about what you could spend your half a billion dollars on, including Islands and boats and Italian sports cars that sell for immense amounts of money. The whole idea is to pull the suckers in and it's working, big time!

In the meantime, on the island of Manhattan the government gives tax breaks to those who need them the least. We never even think of that. Marie Antoinette is given credit for sayings like, "Let them eat cake."

When you buy a lottery ticket you are being distracted from the realities of life. Remember defined pensions? They're almost gone. Now we are trapped in 401(k) plans that sink like rocks every time something goes wrong in China.

Millennials and the like have no idea about how they are being played. But when they get to the end of their working life, which I assure them will happen in about a minute and a half, they will see what they have to live on and, if certain Republican candidates have their way, they probably won't even have the few measly bucks that today's older people get now.

If you took a referendum asking people to vote on whether or not to continue the lottery, they would undoubtedly vote to continue the whole loaded game.

Every once in a while someone will ask politicians where the money goes. The politicians will talk about education but they won't talk about the bloated bureaucracy that eats so much of the money or all the public relations people out there who are paid huge bucks to con the people out of whatever little they may have.

This is a huge industry and we are all eating Marie Antoinette's cake, n'est–ce pas?

Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany.


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