North Carolina lottery is ‘essentially a scam’

North Carolina state legislators are considering a proposal to bar the sale of lottery tickets to people who qualify for welfare or are in bankruptcy.

This effort reeks of that weird, seething resentment of the poor that twists so much of American policy — reshaping it around the driving principle that we must, at all costs, make sure no tax dollars are ever spent in a way that would give any poor person, anywhere, even a single moment’s pleasure. At best, the plan represents a heavy-handed, micro-meddling paternalism that treats the poor as a sub-citizen class subject to special rules and regulations, supposedly for their own good.

But I’m also sympathetic to part of House Majority Leader Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam’s argument here, because Stam is right about this much: State lotteries are a rip-off and they prey on the poor.

Consider the most basic games: the Pick 3 or Pick 4 daily number games.

What are the odds of winning the Pick 3? 1 in 1,000. Is the jackpot for a $1 bet $1,000 or greater? Not even close.

What are the odds of winning the Pick 4? 1 in 10,000. Is the jackpot for a $1 bet $10,000 or greater? Not even close.

These are lousy games. They’re predatory games that stack the deck. You’ve got much better odds at the slots or at the track.

When Stam says games structured like that are “essentially a scam,” he’s telling the truth.

Stam is just leaving out part of that truth — that this scam is North Carolina’s, and almost every states’, response to his Republican party’s decades-long war against adequate revenue through legitimate taxation.

You can oppose the predatory scam of the state lotteries. Or you can be a reflexively anti-tax disciple of Grover Norquist. But you cannot do both.

Stam also said that some of the North Carolina lottery advertising is “just fraudulent,” according to the Raleigh News & Observer.

That’s also true. State lottery advertising regularly violates the law governing the advertising of every other type of contest, raffle or sweepstakes. But state lotteries are, legally, allowed to be fraudulent. State lotteries are exempt from truth-in-advertising laws.

Stam is a North Carolina Republican, and I’m pretty sure there’s not much that he and I would agree on politically. But if he introduced legislation to remove the lotteries’ exemption from truth-in-advertising laws, I’d back that effort 100 percent.

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  • PurpleAardvaark

    The comment that lotteries are a tax on people who are bad at math is often true.  While there are people who will speculate a few dollars a week on a dream in the big jackpot games, far too many people with few dollars to spare spend them on “instant win”  scratch off type tickets.  I have seen people who appear to be old enough to be getting Social Security walk into a convenience store and drop a 10 or 20 dollar bill on a string of scratch off tickets, go outside and scratch them all off. Sometimes they get a dollar or two or a “free” ticket.   On the average, you will get back no more than 50 cents for every dollar spent on lottery tickets.

    And here in Pennsyltucky, our governor wants to privatize the lottery to people who will guarantee more returns to the state IF THEY ARE ALLOWED TO EXPAND the opportunities to gamble by adding new games, and selling tickets at bars and other retail locations where lottery sales are prohibited.  It’s class warfare all right, they’re making war on the poor.

  • Magic_Cracker

    So, as a fellow Pennsylvanian, do want to kill “the second most famous groundhog in Pennsylvania” as much as I do?

    I despise lotteries and casinos, especially since legalized gambling* is sold to the public as a panacea for the commonwealth’s budget woes, but every year we are met with yet another “budget crisis.”

    *Only some gambling is legal and in specified locations. Every few months, the DA breaks up yet another still-illegal gambling ring in My Fair County.  There are no (legal) mom-and-pop cards parlors. Legal gambling in PA is Big Business (licensed casinos), State Business (lottery), and Church Business (Bingo).

  • rizzo

     Ugh, even my parents, who are good at math, buy into it unfortunately.  The PA lottery is really good at making people think they can be rich.

    Oh and screw Corbett, he’s a friggen crook.

  • Eric B.

    I once saw that you have better odds of being drafted by the NBA than you have of winning the Powerball.

  • Michael Pullmann

     Are they including me, a 31-year-old man with no basketball experience who doesn’t really work out, in that statement?

  • P J Evans

     You have better odds of being hit by lightning than of winning a big lottery prize. (Buying a ticket once in a while is probably okay. Expecting to win is not.)

  • Carstonio

    Excellent column. It should be possible to condemn the predatory nature of lotteries without being paternalistic. Fred is exactly right that the real problem is the cowardice of states in rejecting adequate taxation.

    If we’re going to have lotteries, how about one that’s targeted to the wealthy? Hold a drawing for a dinner with a celebrity for, say, $5,000 a ticket.

  • Lori

    I feel like we have this same conversation every time we talk about lotteries. Yes, some people buy tickets because they just don’t get the math. I think more people who buy tickets know (in a general, if not mathematical way) that there is very little chance that they will win, but they’re buying a couple bucks worth of hope. For many of them hope is in such short supply in their lives that the lottery is really it. Attacking them for being desperate is not a good thing.

    I guess what I’m saying is that I wish we could talk about lotteries with out doing the whole “they’re so dumb” dance. Lotteries are class warfare waged against the poor. Lotteries are the result of decades of GOP anti-tax crap. The fact that any Republican anywhere has the gall to moralize about people buying lottery tickets is appalling and should earn that person a well-deserved electoral smack down (but almost certainly won’t because gerrymandering is just OOC). Those are the issues that need to be discussed, not the fact that ticket buyers are supposedly bad at math.

  • The_L1985

    gerrymandering is just OOC

    I’m not sure what it says about me that my first thought was, “Just how is that out of character?” instead of “Yes, it really is out of control.”

  • AnonymousSam

    It’s even worse for me, since I know communities that use OOC to mean “out of context” (and often use it to refer to general discussion, as opposed to the community’s primary focus) while I use the acronym to refer to anything said outside of role-playing.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    The proposal in question to the N.C. legislature is a game of three-card Monte’: watch the queen, find the queen, don’t lose track of the winning card! 

    The proposal would punish vendors who sell tickets “to someone who they know is on welfare or in bankruptcy”. 

    The lottery agencies? Not affected. They have powerful lobbyists.
    The players? Not affected; the agencies don’t want to discourage potential customers!

    Only the vendors in the middle are being targeted. And how, exactly, would one enforce such a law? The language from the news story says only vendors who know their customer is on welfare or in bankruptcy would be punished. So the most likely method of enforcement would be a “sting” by police: send a person in to buy a lottery ticket, and prior to making the purchase, have the person announce to the cashier that they are in bankruptcy or on welfare.

    God, times are tough. I just had to declare bankruptcy. Sell me one of those “big winner” scratcher tickets, would you? I could sure use a break!”

    Of course, if such a law were enacted, it would take one, maybe two runs of “stings” for vendors to react. They would post signs by the lottery case stating “We cannot sell lottery tickets to any person we know is on welfare or bankruptcy”, which is the retail-world equivalent of a wink and a nod. 

    Local police get to shake down vendors, actual lottery sales suffer zero actual impact, and politicians get to pat themselves on the back. 

  • smrnda

    As a person with an education and in demand job skills and an understanding of probability, the lottery has never appealed to me. I can go out and work and make enough money to have a good life and a secure future.

    However, for poor people, it’s a different story. No matter how hard they work they’ll be working for low wages and minimal benefits, with pretty much no chance of getting a better job. For a poor person, even though the odds of winning the lottery are very small indeed, they’re pretty much the only chance they have at not being poor. They’d still be poor whether nor not they blew their money on lotto tickets.

    Because of this, I try not to feel superior to people who buy lottery tickets. This is their only chance of making it out of poverty. I also agree that it’s a way of avoiding raising taxes on everyone and just raising them on the poor. Growing up in Chicago, I often heard middle – class white people call the lottery the “Black tax” – so I’d argue that lotteries are both classist and racist. The idea is that middle class people have more political clout, so if taxes will be raised, it will be raised on the poor or minorities through lotteries which they are driven to play because work pays badly so non-working shareholders can make a killing.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    No matter how hard they work they’ll be working for low wages and minimal benefits, with pretty much no chance of getting a better job.

    I’m poor.

    I was tempted to just respond “bite me” to your post, but I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m going to say: you have massive unexamined privilege. Examine it. 

    It’s one thing to point out that the American Dream is not always obtainable, and that if we structure society differently, it will become more obtainable for more people. It’s another to pretend that abso-frickin-every poor person in the country is stuck there forever and ever amen. We don’t actually live in 19th century Russia.

  • smrnda

     Apologies – I thought I was making a pretty obvious point about myself being a privileged person by stating that I, a privileged person, know I will likely have a great deal of economic security and that other people do not, and that I cannot blame them for that because society is structured in such a way that they do not have very good choices available to them. Right now we don’t have a lot of upward mobility in the US, and we won’t without some massive changes. I examine my privilege every day when I realize that not only do I make more money than some people, but I also don’t have to ask permission to use a bathroom, don’t have to punch a time-clock, don’t have to wear a uniform and that my hours don’t change abruptly without notice, and I don’t get flak if I say I’m not feeling well and can’t come into work. These are privileged I have that most people don’t – you can get fired for being sick on some jobs because they can claim you’re ‘faking it’ and then, thanks to ‘right to work’ or ‘at will’ employment legislation, there’s nothing you can do.  I’m also not subject to being dropped to 38 hours instead of 40 and having my benefits magically disappearing. I live near several grocery stores so that even though I cannot drive, I can get food whereas if I lived in a rural area or an urban food desert this would be a big problem. Am I incorrect that, at present, in the US, it is not likely that poor people can easily stop being poor, given that their wages are left to stagnate in favor of higher returns for investors (who don’t work) and that their jobs are shipped over to nations with far lower wages and no worker protections? I get sick of other people with similar level of privilege to me who think that poor people are simply poor because they made bad choices as opposed to the privileged person’s good choices.

    Sorry, but if I am basically stating that 1. things are going well for me because I was privileged and that 2. less privileged people, no matter how hard they work, end up stuck because of a system that doesn’t offer them a chance to get ahead I think we’re really making the same point. I didn’t imply that this was necessarily always going to be the case – some very simple things like making sure all workers made living wages and got COLA increases would do some good, and that would be only the beginning.

    What I was trying to argue against is the viewpoint that people are either affluent or poor because of their willingness to work, and that I get irritated when affluent people knock poor people for buying lotto tickets.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    2. less privileged people, no matter how hard they work, end up stuck because of a system that doesn’t offer them a chance to get ahead I think we’re really making the same point. I didn’t imply that this was necessarily always going to be the case

    No, you are repeatedly stating that this is the case now. It is not.

    I have a lot of education. (Maybe too much? Too expensive anyway.) Before I became disabled, I was using my writing skills in order to make money. Within a year, if things kept going the way they were (and there is no reason to think they would not have), I would have been making at least a decent living doing so. 

    There are a lot of poor people in this country with excellent educations and in-demand job skills. There is upward mobility as well as downward. It isn’t a simple matter of everyone being stuck all the time forever and ever. No, of course poor people are not poor because we don’t work hard enough (well, I can’t work); and rich people are not rich because they work hard. But that does not mean literally everything is completely beyond our control, particularly for people who have their health. That wasn’t even the case under feudalism.

    We can make things better, and we need to do so. People who think everyone deserves what they get are ignorant and tiresome. But things are not as simple as it sucking horribly and terribly and awfully to be poor and you’re stuck there forever. I see this last attitude very often on this blog — and the thing is, I would not trade my life for anyone else’s.

  • stardreamer42

     higher returns for investors (who don’t work)

    One caveat about that assumption. There are a lot of people with middle-class working backgrounds and lifestyles who do invest some of their money in the stock market. There are even a couple of brokerage companies who cater to small investors, which would not be the case if there weren’t enough of them to make it worthwhile. While the stereotype of the investor/stockholder is the Idle Rich, the sad fact is that right now the stock market is a better place to put your retirement nest egg than the bank, as long as you avoid speculation.

    I remember when 5% interest on savings was routine, and you could get up to 12% on long-term CDs. Now you’re lucky to get 0.5% on savings, and maybe 3% on CDs. That doesn’t even keep up with inflation — so in a very real sense, telling the poor to put savings in the bank is actually counterproductive, if your goal is to get them out of poverty.

  • smrnda

     Agreed, but as these middle class investors don’t own that many shared compared to the wealthy, so these middle class people don’t have the power to set corporate policy. And even their gains in stock value come at the expense of workers.

    I’m actually more or less against the publicly trading stock on moral grounds. It gives investors a say in a company, but not the workers. I’d be okay with an employee owned cooperative, or with a privately held company that would accept money from investors who could either keep it in or pull it out, but not have a say in running the company.

    I probably miss out on some money by not investing, but I just don’t feel ethical doing it. When I had no money and was on disability my ‘no investment’ stance was purely academic, but now it’s something I realize I’m losing money on, and I’m happy not to be getting the money.

    I think that lack of decent paying jobs is probably the biggest force driving poverty: read “The Betrayal of Work” by  Beth Shulman, which is a pretty good exploration of the growth of the working poor, and what forces keep wages low.

  • The_L1985

     True, but to be able to live off of investments (as I’ve heard some people do), you have to be pretty darn rich to start with.

  • The_L1985

    Worse:  math classes still act as if interest rates of 3-10% on savings accounts were typical. I have taught classes with such high interest rates in the examples within the past year.  Where are these mythical banks, and how can I get in on such incredible wealth?

  • Wednesday

    Simple: you own a textbook publishing company and put out new editions of Math for Non-STEM majors books every few years without bothering to change actual issues in the book, like the exercises that the book claims will help you with GRE (even though the logic puzzle section was removed a decade ago), the probability exercises that state the birth rate of infants with Tay-Sachs among Ashkenazi Jews as what it would be if genetic screening didn’t exist (it does), and also randomly adding in color lottery logos to further justify jacking up the price.

    Oh, and then after all of that, you “sell” e-books for $100 that expire after 6 months, so you can say you’re helping students keep their costs down.

  • The_L1985

     Ugh, don’t remind me.

  • Madhabmatics

     http://thankstextbooks.tumblr.com/

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     I remember when 5% interest on savings was routine, and you could get up
    to 12% on long-term CDs. Now you’re lucky to get 0.5% on savings, and
    maybe 3% on CDs. That doesn’t even keep up with inflation — so in a
    very real sense, telling the poor to put savings in the bank is actually
    counterproductive, if your goal is to get them out of poverty.

    What happened?  Aside from the ongoing generalized hollowing out of our economy, I mean.  Did some congressmorons repeal a law, or something?

  • Gotchaye

    Interest rates have gone down all around.  This is all pretty closely linked to the interest rates on US debt.  In 1990 that was about 8%.  In 2000 it was about 6%.  Now it’s basically zero.  It’s been mentioned before on this blog that the bond market is willing to “pay the US to borrow”.  That’s referring to negative real (inflation-adjusted) interest rates on US debt.  But unfortunately that trickles down.  A bank has no reason to pay an individual 5% for a loan when other banks would be thrilled to get those terms. On the bright side, the rates individuals pay on loans that they take out are also lower.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Interest rates have basically collapsed since 2007. In the 1990s, it was a definite rule of thumb as a rentier (especially in Canada) that stocks and bonds could pull in a nice easy 5 to 10 percent per year and even money market could get you four percent.

  • The_L1985

     Possibly.  Just like credit-card interest rates skyrocketed after usury laws were repealed–before then, you couldn’t charge more than 10% interest on any kind of loan or credit.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Now you’re lucky to get 0.5% on savings, and maybe 3% on CDs. That doesn’t even keep up with inflation — so in a very real sense, telling the poor to put savings in the bank is actually counterproductive, if your goal is to get them out of poverty.

    Yes and no. Some money in bank is essential to getting out of poverty, if one doesn’t want the next major unexpected expense to dump one straight back in. Having cash on hand to cover that expense means not having to ask for a loan, and having cash on hand for a couple months of living expenses means having a cushion in case of job loss.

    Trouble of course being getting that money in the bank in the first place. Especially if local rules re food stamps or whatever have a maximum assets bit…

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    It’s another to pretend that abso-frickin-every poor person in the country is stuck there forever and ever amen. We don’t actually live in 19th century Russia.

    Some days it sure feels like it with all the stories Bernie Sanders told of the folks who’d scrimp and save to the point of almost perpetually being in danger of running out of gas days before payday.

  • hidden_urchin

    As a person with an education and in demand job skills and an understanding of probability…

    Hello.  I am a person with an education and an understanding of probability and I am in the process of obtaining “in demand job skills.”  I am also poor.

    No matter how hard they work they’ll be working for low wages and minimal benefits…

    That’s news to me.  Here I was thinking mechanical engineers actually made a decent salary.  Apparently, there’s no difference between working as an engineer for an oil company or the like and working as a cashier at a local restaurant. 

    Seriously, though, Lliira is right.  It’s damned hard to get out of poverty but it’s not impossible.  Just because someone is poor right now it does not mean that person will always be poor. 

    For a poor person, even though the odds of winning the lottery are very small indeed, they’re pretty much the only chance they have at not being poor.

    Wrong. Try again.  The best chance a poor person has at not being poor is by obtaining “in demand job skills” or a decent education that allows them to get something better than a minimum wage job.

    Because of this, I try not to feel superior to people who buy lottery tickets.

    You may be trying but I can see the FAIL from here.  Just read those first two paragraphs which are dripping with superiority and smug condescension.  Yikes.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

     No, the best chance a person have of not being poor is not being born poor.  FULL STOP

    Obtaining “in demand job skills” or an education is something that is practically impossible for poor people to do. 

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Obtaining “in demand job skills” or an education is something that is practically impossible for poor people to do.

    No, it’s not. Public school + financial aid for community college. I did the public school + financial aid for a private college (big mistake, I should have gone state) route.

    It is significantly more difficult for people who are born poor to obtain these things than it is for people who are not born poor, and it needs to be easier. Centrally, kids need to be taught their options in public school — far too many don’t even know about financial aid at all. But it is not “practically impossible”. 

    This attitude is one legitimate reason why liberals in this country are so often called elitist. People do not like being told they are utterly helpless, the poor pitiable dears, let us rescue you. Especially when people around them are rescuing themselves every day. It’s happening less than it used to because the economy sucks, but it is not “practically impossible”. 

  • hidden_urchin

    Being born into the middle or upper class makes it a hell of a lot easier to obtain a halfway decent education from the start.  However, your first statement kind of ignores the fact that it is possible for people to be born with money and then lose it.  So it’s more “the best chance a person has of not being poor is not being born poor and not suffering any catastrophe that results in the loss of wealth or earning potential” 

    For instance, I went to school with some kids whose family was extremely wealthy.   Then, in one horrible year, they lost it all.  The family went from having enough money that the kids could have gone to any college they wanted to, no problem, to the kids having to get minimum wage jobs to help their mother pay the bills.   

    Born wealthy.  Live poor.

  • The_L1985

     Oh, it’s possible, all right.  They’ll just be suck paying student loans for an insanely long time.

  • AnonymousSam

    Pell grants could help, though not everyone is eligible for them. I was, and I still wonder if I could have graduated for ~free if I’d just taken one class every semester. (I wound up being pressured to graduate faster, because degree = fabulous job = lazy shiftless child can start paying to live with family, amirite?)

  • WalterC

    If you’re talking about a standard 120-credit hour degree program in US colleges, that plan is probably impossible. The government requires universities to adopt rules called “Satisfactory Academic Progress”, which sets standards on the quality and length of academic work. Basically, the university calculates how long it takes an “average student” to complete a degree program. The government will provide financial aid for a multiple of that period of time (usually 1.5x the average time). If the university determines that you can’t finish the degree program in that period, they have to yank your aid.

    For example, if the standard time for the degree program is 4 years, they’ll let you keep drawing aid for six years or 12 semesters (1.5x the standard time). There usually isn’t too much wiggle room to take a glacial approach to things.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

     Exactly the point I was making, ignored in all the cries of “financial aid.”

  • Madhabmatics

     Poor people are well known for being psychics that can predict the ever-shifting job-market. God knows that when I started college I knew that a recession was going to hit the year before I graduated.

  • Lori

     

    Wrong. Try again.  The best chance a poor person has at not being poor
    is by obtaining “in demand job skills” or a decent education that allows
    them to get something better than a minimum wage job.  

    Eh, this isn’t exactly a guaranteed thing either, because both halves of it are tricky. Which job skills are “in demand”? Or more to the point, which job skills will be in demand x months/years in the future when the skill-seeker finishes his/her training? How long will those skills remain in demand?

    Assuming you get the answers to those questions correct how will you get those job skills? Going to school is expensive and risky. Most training pitched to poor people is offered by for-profits schools that are little more than scams.

    I’m not arguing in favor of hopelessness, but when we’re having a broad discussion (as opposed to a conversation about the situation of some specific person) we have to look at the overall numbers and be realistic about where we are. The majority of people who are poor* now are not going to get significantly less poor in the future and many people who are doing OK right now are going to end up poor. Because we’ve all but killed upward mobility in this country and we’re letting the rich finish off the middle class.

    *Not broke, poor. They aren’t the same thing.

  • smrnda

    Good point. Also, what happens when all the new jobs being created are for retail, food service and low-paying temporary positions? What if most jobs being created aren’t even for skilled work? This is why I agree that the ‘job skills solution’ isn’t a realistic solution.

    Thanks for pointing out the value in discussing what is generally true rather than what occasionally happens.

  • smrnda

     Sorry, it’s very difficult to communicate every single thing you think about the lottery and poverty in a sound-byte, and it’s an issue where people are likely to get testy and will latch onto any word and phrase that can be used to argue that the person posting it is a jackass with unexamined privilege. I’d like to think that in my post I gave enough examples of examined privilege, but it looks like it’s impossible to make any comments about poverty which people won’t leap to criticize you for unless you write a  chapter. Though at the same time, I can commend the ‘you just don’t get it’ attitude. I used to be that way to, until I realized that in 100 words or less you can’t really get a point across on any serious topic, so I usually prefer no to lash into people. Given this experience, I’ll write more next time.

    A bit about myself, I am currently working but did spend 3 years on disability, so I have also been poor and on government aid. So, I have already been the a person who had an in demand education and skills who suddenly, through no fault of their own, becomes poor.  As a ward of the state, I’m sure plenty of people would have wanted my consumer choices monitored and that I should have been prohibited from making (in their opinion) ‘wasteful’ choices.  I’m still disabled but am working at a job that I can actually do at present, though I’m unable to do quite a few things that cause difficulty. Because I can’t drive I have to make sure to live where there is adequate mass transit, for example. My experience on disability wasn’t terrible, but it’s obviously a time I remember that was beyond my control when I ended up poor for a few years. I mean, I can understand being easily upset with people who say ‘if you have privileges you’re pretty much locked into a lifetime in security but I am aware that, most of the time, having privileges is better than not. So yes, I’m well aware that there exists downward mobility, and that starting out with privilege is no guarantee that you’ll end up with the same amount.

    Also, education is expensive, so you can acquire debt getting credentials that don’t end up paying off, so yes, eduction itself isn’t always some magic form of privilege that ensures a lifetime of easy money. It’s become a risky investment, mostly through because the cost of higher education has increased above other costs. In my case, I ended up disabled about 2 years after college, but since I wasn’t dealing with any outstanding debt it wasn’t as big of an issue as it could have been.

    I’d agree in demand job skills are no guarantee of great wages. Members of the ruling class gutted wages for people on the bottom, and then they moved up and up to when things that used to be considered careers (like engineers) are becoming no different than your average McJob. The holders of capital are shifting the risk away from themselves and onto the people who actually work – they get greater security in exchange for workers having less security. I run into lots of people with educations who end up poor because even fields that require lots of skills are still volatile to economic down-turns, outsourcing, or simply increasing the workload of a few workers to avoid having to hire more or replace ones lost through attrition. One area I’ve seen this happen in is education – as teachers are laid off we end up with people with educational credentials who will likely end up underemployed.

    Though something I think should be pointed out is that if the solution to poverty is getting educations and in demand job skills and better jobs, it isn’t like there won’t be people working cash registers, working in slaughterhouses or stocking shelves. It’s great if we can get people educations, but the we’re still stuck with a lot of jobs that still need to be done that will be paying poverty wages. I’m not saying educations aren’t a great things and I don’t believe that educations are only valuable because of scarcity but any attempt at a solution to poverty has to address the issue that people doing necessary and useful work are not making enough. It would be great if some people with low-paying retail jobs got better skills, but we’d still need some people working in retail, and then those people would still be poor because we haven’t and can’t eliminate the need for jobs like retail or food service which typically pay poor wages. And as I mentioned in the above paragraph,  the market forces which keep the pay of cashiers low do the same thing to all workers, even skilled ones. Where you can find work isn’t always where you have been trained – you can have a time period when demand for engineers decreases but demand for retail and food service workers increases, so you’d get people who trained to be engineers working retail and food service. So it’s important to make sure that all jobs pay a living wage. It’s also important that people who cannot work get their needs met, since I don’t believe ‘not able to work’ should be held against anyone.

    My take on the lottery and other such things is that I’m around people who talk about the (allegedly) ‘stupid and irresponsible’ way poor people live all the time, and I get sick of the ‘poor people all make bad choices’ trope. As long as people are facing more hardship than I am I’m not going to fault them for buying lottery tickets, alcohol, or eating fast food if they feel like it, or having computers or cell phones. I don’t like it when if a poor person buys a candy bar they get criticized for being ‘wasteful’. I try to contrast my own perspective, that poverty is caused by problems with the system that need to be fixed to the whole ‘pull yourself up by the bootstraps of the boots you can’t afford’ school of thought. Everybody isn’t stuck, but I prefer to err on the side of blaming the system rather than individuals for their own circumstances.

    And on privilege. It’s true that not every privileged person will end up becoming incredibly wealthy and that all poor people will stay poor. I’m obviously not saying this is always always the case, only that it is the case often enough that people are obviously not poor because of bad choices or lack of work. I know people who were relatively secure who ended up in bankruptcy because of medical expenses, even people who thought they had decent insurance. I do encounter some people have moved upwards and some who have moved downward, but overall the system seems to be geared that falling behind, or not getting ahead, is much more the norm.

    If I had said “MANY poor people cannot get ahead by their own efforts” is that alright? OR should I have added a caveat that ‘privilege is no guarantee of future security?”

  • Consumer Unit 5012

       It’s damned hard to get out of poverty but it’s not impossible.  Just
    because someone is poor right now it does not mean that person will
    always be poor.

    No, it’s not, but that’s the way to bet.
    Socioeconomic class mobility is harder in the USA than in a lot of Europe.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    As a person with an education and in demand job skills and an understanding of probability, the lottery has never appealed to me.

    As a person with an education, in-demand job skills, a strong background in math (including probability) as well as a career involving money, the lottery appeals quite a bit to me, mostly because I’d rather not work for a living. That’s got nothing to do with education or skills.

    The appeal of the lottery isn’t a rational appeal, but then selling cars with bikini-clad models isn’t a rational mode of advertising either, now is it? 

    Because of this, I try not to feel superior to people who buy lottery tickets. 

    Really? Because the paragraph preceding this statement reads as all kinds of superior to poor people, whether or not they’re buying lottery tickets.  Poverty (in America, at least) is a complex issue that goes beyond working hard or getting an education or having the right job skills. 

    In fact, statements like “this is their only chance of making it out poverty” is a good example of how complex the issue is: in a 2010 study, more than 50% of “big prize”  lottery winners ($50,000 and up) actually declared bankruptcy within five years of winning. 

  • spinetingler

    “As a person with an education, in-demand job skills, a strong background
    in math (including probability) as well as a career involving money,
    the lottery appeals quite a bit to me, mostly because I’d rather not work for a living. That’s got nothing to do with education or skills.

    Except for the career involving money, I’m with ya.

    Whenever the Powerball gets over 200, I’m buying a dollar ticket, just so I can fantasize for a week about a new car, paying off my house, telling my boss to suck it,  and taking my kids to Disney World.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

     My coworkers and I pool money to buy tickets every time it goes over 100, for the same reason. 

    And unfortunately, you can’t buy $1 Powerball anymore, they bumped it up.  Mega Millions is still a dollar.

  • Wednesday

    I wish there were some non-problematic, practical way to limit lottery ticket sales to something like an average of a few a week per person. Not because People Are Dumb And Need Protecting, but because the lotteries are predatory and gambling is addictive, and putting caps on ticket purchases would limit the harm done without hindering people who buy a few dollars’ worth of tickets for entertainment/hope/dreams every so often.

    I know it wouldn’t work, because (A) tracking individuals’ purchases is hella problematic, and (B) it would just create a black market for tickets and people with gambling addictions would just be preyed on twice, first by the state and next by the ticket resellers.

    So instead all I can hope for is to limit the number of types of games.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     For my own part, as long as I’m wishing, I wish for everyone to have the ability to do the things they choose to do, and refrain from the things they choose to refrain from.

    But in the meantime, I live in a world where not everyone has that freedom, for a wide range of reasons, many of which we don’t yet know how to address.

    And as long as that remains true, sometimes the question we’re forced to address is what constraints on our freedom gets the best results for everyone involved.

  • FullMetalMarmotte

    Speaking about the concept that being a welfare recipient, you aren’t allowed any kind of “luxury”. There is a discussion in Switzerland that people on welfare shouldn’t be allowed to have a car… yeah because your life sucks, we should make sure that it’s even worse and punish you for your bad luck… war on the poor indeed.

  • ohiolibrarian

     And how do they address the reality that one reason many people can’t get an adequate job is lack of reliable transportation?

    They don’t?

    Not surprised. They never do.

  • WalterC

     Is Switzerland’s public transportation system as degraded as the ones in so many parts of the US? Not that the proposal would be fair regardless, but in the US there are plenty of places where if you don’t have access to a car (either yours or someone who can give you a ride) you pretty much shouldn’t live there.

    Banning someone who lives there from having a car is essentially the same as prohibiting them from having a steady job (many retail and fast food job applications used to ask you flat-out how you plan on getting to work, and if it sounded implausible or unreliable they may not hire you). Having access to a car in this case isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity in the most absolute sense.

  • smrnda

    And without a car, your choices of employment are limited. I get sick of people complaining about the ‘luxuries’ poor people have. Why complain that poor people have cell phones, or internet? How else will they find a job?

  • stardreamer42

     It’s worse than that. Remember that magazine column a few months back where some well-off white dude was richsplaining how poor people should go about finding jobs — assuming that they had access to the same kinds of resources that he does?

  • http://twitter.com/Jenk3 Jen K

    One of the more realistic touches in The Sims is that you need to use a paper or a computer to find a job.  The paper is free, but the computer gives you more (and often better) employment options.  

  • AnonaMiss

    I’d be all for truth in advertising laws on expected payouts, but the idea of barring someone from spending that we (correctly in this case) deem irresponsible based on their income squicks me, both because of its present paternalism and its potential to set a dangerous precedent.

  • Jessica_R

    Yeah, until I see bills baring rich people from buying clothes they’ll never take the tags off of let alone wear, going to the Bahamas twice in one month, limiting the number of special features they can put on their Porches I am never going to be comfortable with any of the anti-lotto arguments. They basically boil down to “I know what’s best for you” and nothing good ever came from allowing that attitude to run unchecked. Poor people have the right to spend their money unwisely too, and picking up on the OP it’s grating that so much of the GOP is spent in fearful terror that somewhere a poor person may be enjoying themselves. 

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Poor people have the right to spend their money unwisely too

    Yes. And who’s to say it’s unwisely? (And who’s to say it’s poor people.) Just because I don’t find gambling fun, that doesn’t mean it is objectively not fun. Actually some of those little scratch games are kinda fun — and for a dollar, that is going to education, and that has even a tiny chance of winning you more dollars? Sure, I can see why people think it’s fun, and I am not going to pretend there’s something wrong with them just because their idea of fun is different from mine.

    These people would have a conniption if they knew how I spent my wedding money. A Nintendo 3DS XL — pink — is on its way to me right now. I’m sure this will infuriate people who wanted me to buy $250 worth of beans and vegetables instead.

  • Jessica_R

    I’m poor too and I buy lottery tickets every now and then. Why shouldn’t I? For the price of a bottle of Coke Zero I can pretend I could afford an apartment in Paris and a fledgling movie production company. And I retract that “unwisely” out of my earlier statement. That’s a value judgement, and again and if we aren’t turning the stink eye to the wealthy pouring the money down on another nose job or fifth divorce it’s bad faith to use that language with the poor. I’m all for arguing we need more taxes on the wealthy, and of course it’s a cold day in Hell before *that* argument will get any traction. 

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Poor people are not ignoramuses with an inability to learn, and I am very tired of both political parties treating us like we are.  As if poor people don’t know the odds, and think that buying a lottery ticket is going to make them rich immediately. You’re ignoring the possibility (fact, as far as everyone I’ve known who plays the lottery is concerned) that they like playing the games, find them fun, and like that their dollars are going somewhere they can do some good, instead of the pockets of casino owners. 

    Furthermore, I want to see some statistics about who actually buys lottery tickets. This reeks of the same paternalism that pretends poor people eat fast food all the time. Guess what, we don’t. The middle class eats the most fast food, and I expect the same is true of who buys lottery tickets.

    Also, and more importantly in our country today: I want weight loss companies to be subject to truth-in-advertising laws. “This is not going to work, will probably make you fatter, and will definitely make you unhealthier and more self-hating.”

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    Poor people are not ignoramuses with an inability to learn, and I am very tired of both political parties treating us like we are.  As if poor people don’t know the odds, and think that buying a lottery ticket is going to make them rich immediately

    I don’t think poor people are stupid, or unable to learn. Mostly, I think people living in poverty are exhausted much of the time, and that the systems of poverty force people into short-term-only thinking. I think the mental fatigue of living hand-to-mouth makes the short-term, instant gratification of lottery tickets (and fast food) very appealing,  while obscuring the mid- and long-term costs. 

     You’re ignoring the possibility (fact, as far as everyone I’ve known who plays the lottery is concerned) that they like playing the games, find them fun…

    Yes, it’s true that most people who play the lottery do so for fun, and only a small number suffer from addiction, just as is true for alcohol use, and if current wisdom is to be believed, marijuana use. 

    Unfortunately, enjoyment doesn’t negate the issues of mid- and long-term consequences being overshadowed by instant-gratification. 

    …and like that their dollars are going somewhere they can do some good, instead of the pockets of casino owners.

    A lot of their dollars are going to private corporations who administer the lottery via state contracts. Yes, these companies loudly trumpet the money that goes to the states’ general funds to provide other supports, but the “casino owners” still get their pockets filled quite nicely. 

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    A lot of their dollars are going to private corporations who administer the lottery via state contracts.

    Now that is a serious problem and needs to be changed. And, of course, has nothing to do with how much money the people who play the lottery has.

    I’m still trying to find statistics on who plays the lottery more. I still suspect it’s not those poor stupid poor people who must be saved from themselves. We really do seem to be in a new Victorian era.

  • Carstonio

     My state used to have privately operated slot machines, and the revenues enabled the slot owners to buy local politicians. A few years ago, they made a short-lived comeback due to a loophole in the law for non-profits, which enabled owners to designate certain machines for local charities. In practice, these drained huge amounts money out of the area while the charities received almost nothing, and the loophole was closed quickly.

    Although I don’t enjoy gambling, I don’t begrudge people who find enjoyment in it. I also wouldn’t object to state-run gambling that was operated fairly and ethically. My issue is with the politicians who see state-run gambling as an allegedly painless alternative to raising taxes, and with the predatory nature of the specific games being offered. While one can argue that wealthy people have less risk of going hungry or homeless, there are scams that target them, and a scam is a scam no matter who the victims are.

  • EllieMurasaki

    My state used to have privately operated slot machines, and the revenues enabled the slot owners to buy local politicians. A few years ago, they made a short-lived comeback due to a loophole in the law for non-profits, which enabled owners to designate certain machines for local charities. In practice, these drained huge amounts money out of the area while the charities received almost nothing, and the loophole was closed quickly.
    Citation? By email if you like, mine’s mercuryblue144 at gmail. There was a protest outside Legislative Hall the other week, local nonprofits wanting an exception in the law letting them have slot machines, and I’d like to write a letter to the editor explaining that this state is not a special snowflake and here’s what happened when this other state tried this exception. (I had no opinion on the matter till just now. Yay having facts to base an opinion on!)

  • Daughter

    like that their dollars are going somewhere they can do some good, instead of the pockets of casino owners.

    And going into the pocket of [some] casino owners does some good, too. In my state, the casino owners are all area tribes; it’s been a boon to lift many tribal people out of poverty. And moreover, 5% of all casino profits have to be donated to charity. I’ve worked for  charities that have received grants from tribal casino profits.

  • stardreamer42

     I did once know a couple in financial straits whose future planning was based around winning the Reader’s Digest sweepstakes. As in “after we win“, not “if”. But it should also be noted that both of them came from privileged middle-class backgrounds — not poor ones. I would venture to guess that most people who are genuinely poor know very well that the lottery isn’t a magic fix-all, and that they buy tickets for the same reason we occasionally do — because it’s a relatively cheap price for getting to indulge in a little pleasant daydreaming.

    My response to anyone who criticizes me for buying a lottery ticket is, “It’s $2. If I didn’t spend it on this, I’d spend it on a candy bar — and this is better for me.”

  • Eminnith

    Republicans love to complain about some liberal “nanny state” idea and then they turn around and write laws about what poor people can’t do with their money and what women can’t do with their bodies and other things that are “for your own good”. What the fuck is up with that?

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    Lori: I guess what I’m saying is that I wish we could talk about lotteries with out doing the whole “they’re so dumb” dance.

    Agreed. This is another way we know that state lotteries are a scam: the way much of the public dismisses a lottery’s “customers” as “anyone who’d fall for it is stupid enough to deserve to fall for it.”

    Even if it were true that the poor were, as a class, ignorant/bad-at-math/stupid — which I am not conceding for an instant — I oppose the hateful notion that the ignorant should be thrown to the wolves, that being materially harmed is somehow a just punishment for being bad at math.

  • Albanaeon

    I don’t like the “poor cannot do math” either. Quite frankly most can do the math, but well, its a couple bucks, a bit of hope, and the chance to daydream. Having been there, I can appreciate that.

    I agree that it shouldn’t be a replacement for tax revenue (ie civilization…) but this is yet another way to punish the poor for being poor.

  • EllieMurasaki

    It might not even BE ‘bad at math’ or ‘ignorant’. Or even ‘a few dollars of hope’. A few dollars of entertainment, of having ticket in hand while watching the lottery balls spin on TV. I wouldn’t find it entertaining, but I don’t find sports entertaining either, and lookit the Super Bowl ratings.

    Yeah, somebody who buys a lottery ticket expecting to win is either ignorant or bad at math, but outside Jeff Foxworthy jokes, does anybody actually expect to win? Does anybody actually plan their life (beyond the standard-issue ‘if I win the lottery I will X’ fantasies) around winning $Y from Powerball next week? Equating group A with group B and arguing against group A on that basis without ever acknowledging that group A has people in it and group B does not, that’s really stupid too.

  • Leum

    And
    without a car, your choices of employment are limited. I get sick of
    people complaining about the ‘luxuries’ poor people have. Why complain
    that poor people have cell phones, or internet? How else will they find a
    job?

    Doubtless they think poor people should look up jobs in the classified ads in the newspapers, and then call their prospective employer from a a pay phone. Also, they should get to work riding a horse and buggy.

  • The_L1985

     Does anyone even advertise jobs in the newspaper anymore?

  • AnonymousSam

    Yes, at least in my local newspaper. Unfortunately, all eight jobs listed would require a medical degree and several require at least a decade of experience. <.<

  • Daughter

    The only jobs I’ve ever seen in the newspaper are those with  very high turnover: sales jobs; night shift at residential and nursing homes; and fly-by-night “work from home” opportunities.

  • Lori

    Not many. In fact there are places that don’t advertise their jobs at all any more. I think it’s Price Waterhouse that recently announced that they will be filling future vacancies entirely via employee referrals.

    Do not even get me started on companies cutting their recruitment expenses by shifting the burden to their existing workforce and on how much it sucks to be locked out of jobs for which you are fully qualified because you don’t know George in accounting and the way this kind of policy further screws the long-term unemployed since contact networks tend to degrade as you spend more time out of work.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    And people used to look at me funny when I said society was being restructured along feudal lines.

  • Madhabmatics

     Lots of scammers still do. :(

  • smrnda

     What pay phone? I haven’t seen a pay phone for a long time.

  • AnonymousSam

    Heh, just need to live in the right area. There was an incident when I was in Michigan where my car broke down and I wound up walking around for hours, trying to find a phone I could use to call for help. I thought they had gone by the wayside until I moved to Washington, and then suddenly there are pay phones outside of several businesses throughout the city. The local food store has two on the outside and two more inside!

    A prank the kids pull today is sitting in the fast food joint across the parking lot and using their cell phones to call the pay phone as people walk past it. Answer it and they’ll shriek “NEO, TAKE THE BLUE PILL!” and hang up.

  • Vermic

    I guess I don’t know what to think about this.

    If the bulk of people who play the lottery are, by and large, aware that the odds are stacked against them, and they don’t mind because for them it’s not really about the odds, it’s about the enjoyment/hope — then to what degree is it really a scam?  In what sense are the players getting preyed upon?

    Similarly, does it matter that the advertising is fraudulent if people don’t care about the odds anyway?

    If the lottery had fair odds, would it still be a predatory scam targeting the poor?  If so, why?

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    If the bulk of people who play the lottery are, by and large, aware that the odds are stacked against them, and they don’t mind because for them it’s not really about the odds, it’s about the enjoyment/hope — then to what degree is it really a scam?

    If you played a game with 1,000 : 1 odds once a week, every week, for thirteen years, the odds of you wining at least once in those 780 games is better than 50/50. Not great, but it’s possible to win if you put down a dollar a week and are willing to play for over a decade. If the odds are 100,000 to one, you would have to play every day for a hundred-and-eighty-five years to get to a 50/50 chance of winning once. If it’s about hope, then these games are selling false hope

    Similarly, does it matter that the advertising is fraudulent if people don’t care about the odds anyway?

    “don’t understand” != “don’t care”.People play because they think there’s a possibility that they might win; they keep playing because they think by playing more, they make a meaningful improvement in the odds over time of winning. And when your odds are a thousand to one, that’s not a terrible proposition. When your odds are a hundred thousand to one, it is. That’s the “people are stupid/bad at math” part of the argument: “If I keep playing, I’m bound to win sooner or later, right?” 

    The odds of winning the Powerball jackpot by buying one ticket ever are mathematically almost identical (within 1/10 of 1%) to the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot by spending $100 every drawing, twice a week, for ten years. 

    It’s false hope, but the only way to truely understand that requires knowing combinatorics and binomial distributions and statistics.  

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    So what’s your analysis of why people buy cigarettes, booze, and candy? Are those things selling false nutrition, which one has to know about physiology and thermodynamics to “truly understand”?

    It seems more useful to acknowledge that people do things for all kinds of reasons, some of which are vastly impractical, even if they know enough to know that doing those things is impractical.

    Sometimes knowledge isn’t enough.
    Sometimes knowledge is barely even relevant.

  • The_L1985

     “If the lottery had fair odds, would it still be a predatory scam targeting the poor?  If so, why?”

    Not so much.  Granted, the poor would still be more likely than the rich to go spending money on lotto tickets, but if the prize amounts for various lotteries matched up better with the actual odds of winning, then it at least wouldn’t be a scam anymore.

  • Turcano

    As I live in a state whose economy is based almost exclusively on gambling, I can tell you that a lottery can’t ever have fair odds, if only because someone has to pay for overhead.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I think the fifty-fifty fundraiser/lottery thing is perfectly ethical. Dollar per ticket or six tickets for five dollars, half the money goes to the host organization, half to whoever’s ticket is pulled. Assuming twenty tickets at $1, that’s winnings of $10, odds of winning 1 in 20. Is it a scam by Fred’s definition? Or does the fact that the fifty-fifty drawing is always in my experience done by an organization that the ticket buyers already support (actually in my experience it’s always done by a square dance club, and the ticket buyers are all either people who’ve paid that club dues or people who’ve paid that club admission for the dance) render it not-scam?

  • AnonymousSam

    This entire idea is based around the entitlement debate which suggests that poor people go on welfare or utilize bankruptcy so they can suck off the government teat and never have to lift a finger to do anything for themselves. “Look at those mooches!” says the politician. “They’re using their ill-gotten gains to play the lottery, so they have a chance of going from being taken care of by the state to being richer than any of us, and we’re the ones paying for that opportunity!”

    Okay. I’m sick of this idea and it’s everywhere. Here’s the latest variant of it which wound up on my news page on Facebook: https://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash3/538500_466662706702744_1564402484_n.jpg

    I’m poor. Among my possessions, I have, or recently had, an $80 leather jacket, a $100 MP3 player, two computers totalling $1600, several video game consoles totalling about $800, a huge library of books (PRICELESS) and a 42″ LCD screen TV ($300).

    I’m also not on welfare. I couldn’t afford to live on welfare. All of these possessions were either Christmas presents from people far more well off than myself, or date back to before I became financially destitute. Should I be selling off my few possessions to pay the bills? How long do you think that kind of income lasts, versus how long will I miss having no source of entertainment whatsoever? Oh, right. The whole point is that people in poverty should be miserable. My bad.

    The whole “I work to take care of lazy nobodies who use MY money to buy their kids expensive presents” argument is complete bullshit. Some people would have you believe that the average house can claim as much as $60,000 per year in welfare alone — bullshit. The actual amount a single person can expect to receive is $200 in food stamps and $300 in financial assistance. (Source: http://www.welfareinfo.org/payments/ )

    Okay, read that with me. $200 in foot stamps, $300 in cash. Per month. Per. Month. Now let me ask, when’s the last time you heard of someone making $6000 a year and laughing all the way to the bank? Does anyone really think someone getting that much money is on the easy living street, buying Christmas presents for their kids six months in advance while they order some white truffles for their burgers that same evening?

  • Madhabmatics

     I’ve seen people on the news complain about people poor people having refrigerators – you know, appliances that come with places you rent 99% of the time. Those poor people have a refrigerator, so they must secretly be rich

    It never occurs to people that “Poor dude has an ipod” may have gotten that iPod back before he was laid off from his job

    rrraaaagh

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    It never occurs to people that “Poor dude has an ipod” may have gotten that iPod back before he was laid off from his job

    Or it could have been a present, or bought with money that was earmarked as a present, or maybe, though he’s poor, he managed to scrimp enough to buy an iPod because he really wanted an iPod and it gives him enough pleasure to be worth the scrimping. Living with *no luxuries whatsoever* is not something I’ve ever known anyone to do, no matter how poor they are. Because we do not live on bread alone. Despite what economists say, it is actually very “rational” to purchase things that give you pleasure, as pleasure is a necessity.

    My working-class, once poor paternal grandmother, a single mother with little money, used to give my mother money (when my parents were poor) and tell her to spend it just on herself, and not on a necessity like practical clothes, either. My grandmother had been through all kinds of hell, she had raised two boys alone and put them through college, and she knew more about life and what was necessary to life than those middle and upper-class people who like to lecture poor people about being “rational” ever will. 

  • The_L1985

     Even if you can’t afford much else, DVD players are becoming cheap and plentiful, just about everybody has a TV nowadays (rabbit-ears mean free local channels!), and you can check out all the books, CDs, and DVDs you want at a library as long as you have an address and about $5 to sign up for a library card (prices vary in different areas, but the ones I’ve been a member of always cost $5, free for a kids-only card).

  • spinetingler

     Free here in Charleston!

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     

    rabbit-ears mean free local channels!

    For some. I’ve never lived anywhere where a pair of rabbit ears could get a tv signal reliably.

    And I’ve lived in a house where you could see the TV transmitter from the front porch.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     But! But! But! They don’t expect the poor to live totally without pleasures! They’re perfectly happy to let the poor splurge on a very small goose at christmas, a pair of nylons, even two lightbulbs. They can even have a secondhand victrola if they save up for it! It’s just that they MUST MUST MUST look adequately dickensian, so that those who look upon them know they are beholding proper poverty.

  • AnonymousSam

    Or if you manage to hammer it into their head that these were obtained before becoming poor, then they snidely reply, “Did you ever stop to think that it’s making poor decisions like that which made you poor in the first place?”

    I can think of approximately seventeen-thousand reasons why this logic is incorrect, but that’s about the time that I have to walk away before I break my vow to remain a pacifist.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Y’know what I think about the “Your poor decisions made you poor”?

    I was poor from 2001 to 2006. And I have no doubt that it was the decisions I made that led to me being poor for that period.

    And then in 2007, I stopped being poor. There was obviously a lot of luck involved. But insofar as  I had an effect on my own fortunes, it was the result of my decisions.

    The same decisions. The exact same decisions that I made back in 2001 led to me being very poor for six years, and then led to me not being poor.

  • AnonymousSam

    Kind of like how someone I know got a job by sitting around and waiting for it to fall into their lap. A friend of the family showed up at the door and asked if they wanted a job. Just like that, started at $12/hour and upgraded to $15/hour about a year later, and being groomed to take over the business when he retires.

  • Alicia

    Aha, and there are certain people who will hear that story and lead them to the conclusion that everyone who is poor can easily become unpoor through no extraordinary personal effort or luck. 

  • AnonymousSam

    “Sure, let’s move forward starting on that assumption. Since nothing a poor person does will lead to upward mobility, you won’t object to giving them a hand through your taxes, correct? Because if a person can just as easily move upward out of the blue, then surely the inverse is also correct, and as we’ve established, all your skills and years of job experience don’t actually amount to anything… let’s just say it would behoove you to create a safety net that’ll save your ass if you should happen to fall into the fire.”

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    You’d think, but my god, talk about crabs in a bucket symdrome. (-_-)

  • AnonymousSam

    The funny thing is, I’ve been accused of that for interjecting my John Donne inspired beliefs into a conversation.

    “You just don’t want people to succeed, so you want to pull them down into failure with yourself!”

  • EllieMurasaki

    That’s something different, though, unless I’m misunderstanding. I understand ‘crabs in a bucket’, except I usually hear ‘cooking pot’, to be people keeping other people in the same situation trapped when any of them tries to escape. What Sam’s talking about is people in a different situation, a better situation, making sure the people in the worse situation stay down.

    Something Brad Hicks on Livejournal said once: the way to get out of poverty is to never look back. Never offer a helping hand to people who are still stuck. Save all my resources for me me me me. I don’t know how true that is overall. For some it certainly is, and that worries me.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Class mobility shouldn’t be and mostly isn’t a thing, Sam, didn’t you get the memo?

  • AnonymousSam

    But nrmble grble BOOTSHTRAPSH!

  • LL

    Yes, playing the lottery is dumb. I think most people who play it know the odds are against them. And they do it anyway, the same way people do other dumb stuff they know is dumb. Because they get something out of it. And for a couple bucks a week, so what? People waste more money than that on way dumber stuff. This “lottery is a poor people tax” BS sounds very paternalistic to me. I’m guessing most of the people who buy lottery tickets (or who spend the most on them) aren’t “poor,” they’re solidly middle class. They’re people with a job who pool money with other employees so they can buy 200 tickets at once and better their odds from “snowball’s chance in hell” to “snowball’s chance in a 300-degree oven.”

    Of all the ways in which we screw the poor in this country, the lottery seems like one of the most benign. At least participation is voluntary. 

  • rupaul

    I might have missed someone else making this point in the comments, but here goes: as far as NC is concerned,  the highest lottery sales are in the poorest counties in the state. So, it’s unlikely that the middle class is buying more, contrary to one poster.

  • LL

    Highest lottery sales in numbers of tickets or in terms of dollar sales? And how do you know which customers are poor? Also, what constitutes a “poor” county?

  • Lori

    And are we talking per capita sales or absolute numbers? In some places poor areas tend to be a lot more densely populated (for example, apartments instead of single family homes).

  • LL
  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     I remember about ten years ago hearing a radio ad for the Ohio Lottery that tried to portray it as a way to “invest for your children’s future.” For reals.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

     That’s likely because the lottery funds scholarships. 

  • LL

    Well, OK, maybe those links aren’t working really good. The stories are: 

    Texas Tribune.org “Mapping Texas Lottery Sales”  Sept. 10, 2010
    and 
    Statesman.com  “Texas Lottery relies increasingly on the poor and less educated, studies show” 
    Sept. 7, 2010

    I do know the Texas Lottery started arranging bigger payouts because they were alarmed that lottery ticket sales started dropping off. And there’s some issue about scratch-off tickets, not sure what that’s about. 

  • spinetingler

    FYI, if you really want to gamble with a chance of winning, play roulette. Going black or red gets you almost 50-50 (that one extra green shifts it just slightly in the house favor). That’s about the best odds you’ll ever find.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    If you take an odds bet in craps, the payout is mathematically the same as the odds. That’s not the same as the near-50-50 odds of a red/black bet in roulette, but it does mean that statistically, you’ll break even long-term.

  • The_L1985

     If you know what you’re doing, you have odds of 40:50 in blackjack, too.  Slightly worse odds, better payoff if you win.

  • Lori

    Actually, if you want to bet with a decent chance of winning play craps. The House odds are less than 1% where for roulette they’re over 5%. People get scared off of craps because it’s complicated to explain and they get confused. (My ex is the only person whose explination ever made sense to me.) The thing is, craps is one of those games where you don’t strictly have to understand it to play with decent odds. There are 3 or 4 bets that are pretty much always a good idea. If you start with a decent enough bankroll to get you through any bad streaks and you don’t get crazy with your bets you can have fun at a craps table for a long time without losing much money and you even have a realistic chance of making  some.

    Pai gow poker is another game I know pretty well which has better odds than roulette. I think House odds are like 2-3% on that. It’s way less complicated than craps, but there are also no bets you can make on autopilot, so you actually have to grasp the rules before you start.

    I think even non-card counting blackjack actually has significantly better odds than roulette if you can manage to remember the basics of when to stand and split and such. I never did well with blackjack and so stopped playing. The only time I ever made enough money in Vegas to pay for the trip it was playing pai gow poker. I knew enough to play smart and hit a streak. That was the first time I really got how people get addicting to gambling. Winning is hella fun. For people who are wired to also get a charge of a sort from losing it must be really difficult to walk away.

  • rupaul

    LL and Lori: If I remember correctly, it was total lottery sales per county (not per capita), though I could be wrong about that.
    The poor counties in question are rural counties. There is urban poverty here, of course, but the middle class in NC is nearly all urban; the cities here are compact. The poor counties that had the high sales have almost no middle class. The counties in the Raleigh-Durham and Greensboro areas had very low lottery sales (can’t remember about Charlotte.) I remember seeing a map in the Raleigh paper but it isn’t easy to find in their archive (which are pay links, unfortunately.)How do I know they are poor? Believe me, they are poor. The counties I remember from the map were rural counties in the northeast of the state, along I85 and I95.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    The thing that bugs me about the lottery — and about the recent increase in legalized gambling — is the lack of pageantry and spectacle.   When I was a kid, they would break in to prime time network TV for the drawing of the daily numbers. It’d be performed on a big fancy stage by a man in a tuxedo and a woman in a ball gown, and there’d be drum rolls and presentation. I’m not even sure if they air it at all on a regular basis these days, and even when they do, it’s practically a news segment.

    Same with the casinos. I’ve been to Vegas. Vegas is a place worth going to. It’s bright lights and glam and glitz that dazzles and disorients — it’s basically what going to a cathedral was like if you were a sixteenth century peasant. But the casinos in my own state? Little places sort of apologetically tucked out of the way and isolated (I mean, it’s next door to a mall, but it’s basically a featureless concrete box from the outside), designed to get people to put money into slot machines with maximum efficiency.

  • David Starner

     Living in Vegas, I wish they would cut down on local gambling. Because you know what the casinos in Vegas are like? They’re “little places sort of apologetically tucked out of the way and isolated”. Half the strip malls in the Vegas area have Dotties, a bunch of slot machines for locals. Even places like K-Mart and 7-11 have slot machines. The view from the inside is quite a bit different from the outside. I’m just happy that I can’t gamble; I can spend my food budget on books, but not on slot machines.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I remember driving through northern Nevada and being a little O_O at the gambling-thingies-everywhere phenomenon.

  • The_L1985

     The Las Vegas airport terminal has a room full of slot machines.  It’s like they were running out of places to cram the things.

  • Lori

    The think the purpose of the slots at the Vegas airport is pretty clearly to squeeze out every last tourist nickel. Flight delayed? Cool, you can gamble some more.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     The one time I’ve been to Las Vegas, the departing airport was the only place I did any gambling.  I won 13$.  :D

  • EllieMurasaki

    I’m not even sure if they air it at all on a regular basis these days
    Before Jeopardy. At least around here. But we get that station from Philadelphia, so it’s not our lottery…

  • rupaul

    OK, it turns out the map I remembered was per capita lottery sales, which makes sense I guess. I was wrong about some urban areas, though Raleigh and Charlotte are low (but so are most western counties.) I was right about where the highest sales were. Anyway, here’s the map link: http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2012/03/29/lottery-story/

  • Will Hennessy

    I’m too lazy to read all the comments, and it’s probably already been said, but even so it’s worth repeating that these are the same people touting “small government” who are trying to legislate these things, giving their governments more power.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    EH, I buy lottery tickets. It’s ~$10 a week and I can afford the hit.

    I have no other vices, except for a rather unfortunate tendency to Slack at work ;)


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