John Crisp is a liberal leaning college professor from Texas that writes a regular Op-Ed published by my local paper. I rarely agree with him. Even when I agree with his conclusion, I don’t always agree with his logic. He was shocked to be in agreement with a Tea Party Republican in doing away with the state sponsored lottery in Texas. As a libertarian minded person, I have a different view on the subject.
I do not object to gambling. If that is how people want to waste their money, more power to them. Other people waste their money on other vices like gluttony and pride. Feel free to gamble yourself into the poor house, eat yourself to death, or go into debt buying McMansions and BMWs.
I object to a government that lures the stupid into gambling their limited resources away in false hope of a big payoff. State run lotteries are a tax on the stupid. Dumb people gamble. Smart people do not. Politicians and government bureaucrats know that poor people can be lured into gambling with slick TV propaganda designed by Edward Bernays taught advertising maggots. I’m constantly bombarded with TV ads, paid for with my tax dollars, showing average schmucks hitting the jackpot and living the good life. They don’t publicize the odds being 500 million to 1 of you actually winning the jackpot.
Lotteries, payroll taxes, gasoline taxes, property taxes, etc. are all regressive. The poor will always be screwed by the rich because the rich know that most of the poor are too stupid to know they are getting screwed.
The best part of the story below is how the noble, principled legislators reversed their votes when they were faced with a loss of $2 billion from the tax on the stupid. What would we do without the stupid people. There wouldn’t be any reality TV.
Lotteries are really a tax on the poor
Monday, April 29,2013
A strange event occurred last week here in Texas: I found myself agreeing with a Tea Partier.
Republican Scott Sanford, a CPA and Baptist pastor, was elected to the Texas House in November. He appears to be a wholesome family man whose politics place him solidly in Tea Party country. He’s emphatically pro-Second Amendment, anti-tax and anti-Obamacare. He firmly asserts that life begins at the instant of conception.
Sanford and other Tea Party Republicans turned heads in the Texas House last week when they raised objections to a routine bill that would re-authorize the Texas Lottery Commission until 2025.
Sanford pointed out that Texans without high school diplomas — that is, those with the least money — spend around $600 a year on the lottery, while those with graduate degrees spend around a quarter of that amount.
Sanford was opposing the re-authorization on “the moral grounds that the lottery is a tax on poor people … It is therefore immoral and wrong.”
Good for you, Mr. Sanford, for professing an easily verifiable principle: poor people play the lottery much more than rich people.
I suspect that this principle is universal, that it applies to the ancient lotteries of the Romans, to the many lotteries of colonial America and to the lotteries of the 43 states that currently have them.
It makes sense. To be anywhere close to the poverty line in America these days means to be increasingly desperate. Over the last several decades wealth in our country has shifted exponentially from the poor and the middle class in the direction of the already wealthy, and the shift shows little sign of reversing itself.
In the meantime, the income gap continues to widen and upward mobility is down. Good blue-collar work isn’t as plentiful as it once was and college is becoming more and more costly.
In the course of this enormous shift of wealth, the wealthy have somehow managed to keep our collective cultural anger pointed away from themselves and at the poor — the lazy, the addicted, the welfare-cheater — who, according to the wealthy and many in what’s left of the middle class, could pull themselves up by their own bootstraps if only they weren’t so shiftless.
Of course, nobody makes the poor play the lottery. Yet, if poor people manage to scrape together enough to afford a television, they observe constantly the good life in America, the one that’s tantalizingly beyond their reach.
And if that’s not enough enticement, the Texas Lottery Commission spends millions for commercials that promise the poor that for only a few dollars and with just a little luck, this Saturday night’s drawing could be the one that gives them a life they’re unlikely to reach any other way.
Others joined Sanford in his objections to the re-authorization of the lottery and, with the support of several liberal Democrats, the House voted to abandon the lottery, 82-64.
Then the House recessed for a “hastily called lunch break,” as the Associated Press put it, during which reality set in. Lottery supporters noted that the $2 billion that the lottery provides for school funding had already been built into the budget. That gap and the unwillingness to raise taxes to fill it — along with a few twisted arms — resulted in a vote to re-authorize the lottery, 91-53.
So, when I walk over to the convenience store a couple of blocks from where I live — why do there appear to be more lottery outlets in less-than-elegant neighborhoods like mine? — getting through the checkout line with my newspaper and taco will take a little longer.
The poor and near poor on their way to work will continue to spend a few extra bucks — or $10 or $20 — on the lotto. They’re not going to win but we’ve spent a lot of money to convince them otherwise. And, as other opportunities diminish, why not take a chance?
John M. Crisp teaches in the English Department at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas.