America’s Future is a Dollar & a Dream (Opinion)
The people of Detroit, Michigan are living in a world I only know from Mad Max movies. A new video circulating on the Internet features two minutes and some change of a drive through Detroit after dark. Prostitutes pose for passing motorists, open fires burn along the streets as people drink around the warmth and a local liquor store has a large banner over its door for lottery sales.Twenty some years ago, I went to hear a speech from Texan and former Presidential candidate Ross Perot. I remember only fragments but he did say the lottery was designed to prey on the most vulnerable. “A tax on the poor,” he maintained. Ten years later a retired illegal bookmaker appeared on my radio show and called it, “A tax on the stupid!”
This morning, I was talking with a woman at the grocery store service counter about lottery sales. She explained the latest enticement is to sell tickets for an additional dollar with the promise of a megaplier or powerplay. These are words from the same roots of two popular national games. On the nights there are drawings for these particular contests, a separate number is drawn and can increase the prize by a factor of the number. Lottery commissions learned long ago the promise of a larger payout increases sales. It’s no longer enough to have the money to pay off a mortgage, auto loan or credit card debt. Lottery players all want second homes, yachts and vacations in Biarritz.
Do you recall the wealthy porn star Anna Nicole Smith? She inherited a fortune after marrying an old codger on his deathbed. After her untimely death, a reporter traveled to her hometown for reaction. A waitress at a local diner whined Smith hadn’t shared the money with the folks back home. Never mind Smith had a miserable childhood in Texas. Some people believe they’re entitled to what others have whether earned, inherited or won in a game of chance. A few years ago, I joined friends at a fundraiser for policer officers at a casino in Delaware. We watched football in a giant ballroom. At halftime, my buddy, John Brady, went across the hall and won a stack of money. When he came back for the second half, I didn’t demand he share his good fortune. I offered congratulations. John had some expenses to cover at his law office. I’d rather he be on sound financial footing.
Thirty years ago when I was working as a young broadcaster, my program director shared a story about a family in Pennsylvania that had struck lottery gold by winning a 6 million dollar jackpot. Of course, you don’t get six-million in cash. You get considerably less if you choose a lump sum payout. The jackpot is an estimated annuity to be paid over twenty to twenty five years. And depending on where you live, the state and federal governments can take nearly half.
The winning family bought a radio station. During a period when local on-air talent was being replaced by automated or syndicated shows, the radio station continued local programming. Until the day someone on staff learned ownership had won a lottery. The jocks walked out and picketed for a share of someone else’s luck.
At the time, I was a lot more politically liberal in my worldview, but I was shocked by the story. The people on staff agreed to the salaries they received and then issued demands for something they hadn’t earned. We need to say it’s irrelevant ownership may also haven’t earned the small fortune. The lottery winners turned their money into creating local jobs only to be portrayed as robber barons.
How did we get here? In the last 3 decades, it has only worsened. More and more Americans believe they deserve a cut of success. I’m sorry but flipping burgers after goofing off in school doesn’t guarantee a second home, a recreational vehicle and a pleasure boat. I’ve got none of these things and I was awake in class. Come November, we’ll learn if the jealous and covetous now control America.