Jack Simpson: We still have a chance to 'win big' in the land of opportunity

Jack Simpson

Jack Simpson

Americans are lucky people. In spite of our problems, we still are optimistic and believe that although we may be poor, there still is a chance that we could become rich tomorrow. We still live in the land of opportunity.

Oh, we know the elite and the politicians are loading the dice against us, but we still feel there will be opportunities for us to climb out of poverty. Have we become a winner-take-all economy?

Some of us don't want to be savers and we are impatient for the future. We are impulsive and seek instant gratification. These folks turn to the lottery as a way to be able to tell their boss to take this job and shove it.

Actually, studies have shown that poor people would be better served if instead of gambling on the lottery, they would place this money into savings accounts or mutual funds. Of the $58 billion wagered last year, those who study lotteries tell us the states kept $18 billion in profits. Right now there is need to bolster revenues from the lottery.

When is the last time you won more than a free ticket or a couple of dollars on a scratch card? The HOPE scholarship fund is hurting for money and in the opinion of many players, payoffs are limited for scratchers. Should you have the time, sit outside a local convenience store at lunch and watch the number of scratch-off players come out, scratch their tickets and then toss the losing numbers in the trash can.

In spite of knowing the chances of winning big are extremely limited, people still have hopes of hitting it "big," making enough to secure their future. Did you see the big lines to buy tickets at the recent Mega lottery?

Losers know now that some state lotteries are nothing more than regressive taxation. It is a way to tax poor people with big dreams in their eyes. The lottery is taking money from the paycheck that poor people should be using for their household expenses.

Players justify their gambling by reminding us they are entitled to some entertainment and buying lottery tickets qualifies. After all, players can't win a million dollars if they don't play. So, it is a matter of choice those of us living in a free country may make. Spend $20 a week on lottery tickets or put the money into stock shares. A big win will be life-changing but the chance of being hit by lightning may be greater than the chance of winning.

In the meantime, players keep on being entertained with their dreams about how they are going to spend all that big money when they hit it big. After all, somebody has to win. Next time it might be you, but don't count on it. Even if you win, you'll have problems with spending and investing.

Bad investment or not, hundreds line up to buy one or more chances on the $540 million-plus Mega Millions, a third of which Uncle Sam will take in taxes. We can dream, can't we? The morning after the drawing most tossed their tickets in the trash can, another dream gone bad.

Winners may postpone claiming their prize until they have their financial ducks in a row. Suddenly they will find they have more relatives and friends than they ever knew they had.

Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.