Friday, March 30, 2012

There’s no bread, but we have circuses

The corporate media is talking constantly about the lottery, and the potential 2/3 of a billion dollars prize tonight. To their credit they do point out the 176,000,000 to 1 odds and how absurd that is. All the while showing the people lined up for blocks certain they can beat the odds. The people they interview in these lines are all gambling to have the American dream: to pay the bills, send the kids to college, buy a house, help their friends or stray cats, or maybe get their teeth fixed. 

A lottery like this is harmless fun in itself, the tragedy isn’t just the occasional person that spends their life savings to buy tickets because they are sure of winning. It’s what our society has come to that these people are increasingly seen as normal hopeful people, and not as pathetic. Really they are the tragic victims of 30 years of Republican economic thinking. For the bottom 80% of Americans, the lottery is their one shot at economic freedom. 

When these lotteries started you heard lots of stories about someone who spent their life saving because they were sure they could win. You do increase your odds by buying more than one ticket, but not enough to matter. There were even companies formed to buy out all the tickets when the odds were only 50 million to one. It’s physically impossible to do this with the new higher odds. 

I’m surprised they don’t raise the odds so high that nobody would ever be likely to win, they’d still sell tickets. In fact the states play the lottery too, the state with the winner gets a nice windfall from the income tax on close to a billion dollars. The state might fill some potholes, but more likely give another tax break to individuals who by themselves make a billion dollars a year, or more, and typically pay no significant taxes. 

What to do with that much money if you win? I’ve been giving it some thought, people are always wanting investment advice. The thing is, there is no safe place to put money. Besides the fundamental instability of the crazy situation we find are selves in, there is a realistic level of paranoia to consider. If you have lots of money you aren’t suddenly allowed past the velvet rope by the one percent’s bouncer. 

Having a real money makes you a target for those who make their money by looting and pillaging, they don‘t just go after the middleclass. Even if you invest conservatively, you could wake up one morning and find your investment is now worthless, since most investments today are just paper. Buying hard assets is no guarantee of safety as their value is set by markets that are inflated and then collapse to far lower than is realistic. 

To be safe with your money, you really need to be in the “too big to fail” class, the people who just “create” money out of thin air, and they don’t let riff-raff like you and me in, no matter how much money we have for now. You weren’t a legacy admission to Yale? Forget about it. 

With a couple of hundred million, leaving the country is an option, but you are kidding yourself that you’re really safe. Safety is in numbers, but not the kind on your bank account. 


Anonymous said...

Another ball hit right out of the park!! I really enjoy your prose. Your creativity of thought about the present day situations really illuminate the concepts.
It is elevating me from wanting to make continual santorum splat references as comments. Darn, I was having fun with the santorum but now I spose I must act my age and say something more sensible.
I wasted $2 on the lottery and got 2 numbers-sucks to be me LOL!
Yea, it's a shame people pin their hopes on a lottery ticket!
I listen to the repub-splat-licken candidates on the tube and I just wonder how any one can vote for any of these turds.
If one of these stains gets elected nothin will improve and alot of things will degenerate at an greater rate! More people will line up with their pennies to buy a ticket! how sad:(
I haven't been away from your writings, just trying to improve what I have to say.

Dave said...

Your comment about safety in numbers tells the truth in many ways. We can gather in numbers as communities in which we help one another. Also groups can form over politics to try to make our governance more about helping us than robbing us.

Or, we could wind up gathering in numbers because only some of us know how to field-dress large and small game or grow edible previously wild plants or how to treat wounds in outdoor conditions.

One more thing to remember. If we wait for civilization to collapse before we gather in numbers, the numerals printed on money and the numbers they represent won't mean anything anymore.

Anonymous said...

Lotteries are the system's way of reinforcing itself. Keep people dreaming of the big one and they won't object to the real "big ones" who take all and pay back nothing. And the idea that states make ends meet by running these mad contests whose jackpots are made up of a few bucks from all the poor working stiffs trying to get lucky: well, it shows us that the ideology holding up this country is bankrupt.

Anonymous said...

Some time ago I inherited some large savings bonds from my aunt. Added to some bonds I earned as bonus rewards from working at Conrail these are the only investments that survived two market crashes with the principle intact and still earned income. Whenever the markets go south I see big money going to US Treasurys