I make it a point not to discuss current events, especially those that are politically charged, on this site. There are plenty of other places on the internet for that sort of thing, and I don’t want to offend any of my conservative or liberal friends. But tonight I was struck with an idea that is so simple it is brilliant, and, for the good of our nation, I feel compelled to share.
One of the big debates going on has been on how to reduce the deficit. Most of the debate has centered on spending cuts. Meanwhile, liberals have argued that by increasing taxes on the wealthiest, we can provide a much-needed boost to revenues, while conservatives fear that such an increase will take money out of the economy that otherwise would be reinvested in it. I have a solution that would increase revenues without raising anybody’s taxes. The fact that, as far as I am aware, nobody else has come up with this idea, should finally erase any doubt that I truly am a genius.
This isn’t the first time we have faced the need to raise revenues without raising taxes. In the past, most states instituted lotteries as a fun and effective method of raising revenues. There are now so many lotteries that I can’t keep them all straight in my head. I’d suggest that anybody who questions their popularity go to the State Line CITGO Station and try to buy a gallon of milk. Odds are you will find yourself in line behind at least half a dozen enthusiastic players, buying tickets or scratching cards or both or asking which of the six dozen games pays out tonight (I, personally, don’t play the games, but judging from the length of time I wait in line and observing the interaction between the players and the dispensers of tickets, it’s clear that nobody really understands how these things work). The amount of money and the wads of twenty-dollar bills you see exchanging hands will surprise and impress you.
So, since the lottery is a very effective way of raising revenues, here is my solution to our economic crisis:
Stop paying the lottery “winners”, but don’t tell anyone.
This will add millions to our revenues. Why, just checking the Wisconsin lottery web site tonight, I see that the Powerball jackpot is $105 million, the MEGA millions is $30 million, and mega bucks is $10.9 million. That is almost $150 million in Wisconsin alone! Think of all the teachers we could pay with that! Multiply that by 50 states and your head begins to spin.
How this would work is simple – a computer program would make sure to pick winning numbers that don’t match any of the cards sold. The “winning” numbers would be broadcast, and all the eager players would check their tickets, and, just like today, find no matches. And, just like today, their disappointment would gradually fade as the desperation of being poor and out of work increases and they’d be back in line at the CITGO in no time, buying more tickets, and spoiling yet another gallon of 2% as both the milk and I age behind them.
The real beauty of this idea is in the odds. If I am reading the web site correctly, the odds of winning the whole Power Ball jackpot is 1 in 195, 249,056 – that is one in 195 million, 249 thousand, and fifty-six. No one could be surprised at not winning with those odds! If they persist and ask who won, the official answer given could be “Some guy from upstate”, or “Somebody at a convenience store in Jackson”, as every state has at least one small town named Jackson, each with at least one convenience store. To further lend credibility to the contests, the system could be set up so that occasional five and ten-dollar winners are allowed, but only to those players who have made a purchase more than $20 worth of tickets.
The simple beauty of this solution is that conservatives should be happy, since rich people don’t play the lottery, and the poor people who do play it are losing money anyway, and the liberals, well, they’re never happy anyways, so who cares. And to those who cry that this is bigger government, we could consider privatizing the lottery by allowing corporations to run it. However, this will get us right back to the current debate: Who do we trust more, government or private corporations? Or, to be more specific, which institution is more capable of being sufficiently corrupt and dishonest to pull off such a scheme?
Even a genius like me is unable to answer that one.