The Lottery Solution

This past weekend, I was in a 7-11 partaking in a Slurpee when I saw a scraggly dude buying a lottery ticket. Now, in terms of return on investment, a Slurpee is a way better choice than a lottery ticket. When you spend a dollar on a Slurpee, you’re guaranteed to win a delicious, refreshing beverage. With a lottery ticket, you literally get nothing except a scrap of paper almost every time.

I have this perception that poor people buy a lot of cigarettes and lottery tickets, perpetuating their poverty. I can’t speak to the cigarettes, but when I got home with my Slurpee, I Googled “poor people” and “lottery tickets.” I found this article and this information:

“A study by the Commission on Thrift reported that households with an income below $13,000 spend 9 percent of their money on lotteries. By comparison, households making $130,000 spend 0.3 percent of income on lotteries.”

9 percent versus 0.3%? That’s a huge difference. (9% of $13,000 is $1,170 and 0.3% of $130,000 is $390, in case you’re curious.) It’s absolutely idiotic and irresponsible for you to be spending $1,170 lottery tickets if you’re only making $13,000 a year.

Some states are testing out lottery programs where your money goes into a savings account and you have an entry entered in a lottery/raffle once a a year for a decent payout. It’s a good idea, a good start.

But many states don’t like those lotteries, because states make a ton of money off of poor people buying lottery tickets. It’s a magical source of income. But with all the bad stuff that comes out of impoverished people, I bet states end up spending way more on those people in other ways.

So here’s my lottery solution: If you haven’t been a student the past 5 years, you’re over 21, and your income has been less than $13,000 for the last 5 years, you are eligible to be a part of this solution. All you have to do is give up your right to gamble or play the lottery for the rest of your life, and your state will pay you $50,000 cash.

Now, I know there are tons of loopholes here. You could give the money to a friend and they could buy lottery tickets. You could go abroad and gamble. You could go spend the money on drugs or 20 plasma TVs.

But let’s say those things could be worked around. Maybe it’s not even cash. Maybe it’s a college scholarship fund for your kids. I yield to you in the comments for some creativity here.

The point is, by offering a huge, irresistible payday, you could cure millions of poor people of a self-destructive disease for life. This could have an incredibly positive effect on society.

Now, I don’t think the middle and upper classes owe anything to the poor. (There’s a BUT to that. It’ll come later.)

The one big exception to that statement are poor kids. Poor kids have it the worst. They have an uphill battle to climb. Some will make it up that hill, while many will stay poor. I think it’s worth the time and resources of non-poor people to help impoverished kids get out of the sinkhole that is poverty through organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters and Angel Baked Cookies.

I think that allocating similar resources (like programs that help recently released criminals find a stable place in society) can have a positive effect on society. But I think that allocating funds to  to impoverished adults–whether its welfare or a dollar to the panhandler on the corner–is a mistake that doesn’t help anyone. It doesn’t help the poor escape the cyclical nature of poverty. And the negative habits of the poor–crime in particular–have a hugely negative impact on all of society.

Thus, even though I don’t feel that I owe it to the poor to help them, I feel like I have a vested interest in decreasing the number of truly impoverished people in America (and the world). There must be some ways to incentivize poor people to help break some of their self-destructive habits. I wrote about one solution a while ago. And maybe today’s solution would have a positive impact as well.

What do you think?