How Big a Chump Are You?

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We received one of those “Winning America” emails today. These people, whoever they are, pretend to be a conservative website, but really it’s just a bunch of ads and get-rich-quick schemes.

Today it was a sure-fire “simple trick” to win the Powerball, guaranteed to work, everybody who tries it is going to win at least $50,000, and so on.

There’s something sleazy about that whole lottery business. Once, at a family dinner some years ago, a friend of my mother’s, a successful businesswoman, came in all breathless because her newest “system” to win the lottery had only missed by one number. She went on and on about it. She already had a rather nice life, but she still wanted a lot of something for nothing. Blinded by avarice.

The numbers racket used to be the province of organized crime, especially in the cities. Then government turned it into all kinds of lotteries and now we find it everywhere.

This is a tax on credulity and childish greed. I met a young woman once whose life plan, as she confided it to me, was to “win the lottery and then go out West to buy a horse farm!” She already had two out-of-wedlock children and was working on another. No sweat–the lottery would save her. The lottery would provide.

So just send in for your can’t-miss advice on how to win the Powerball, and look forward to a lifetime of unearned opulence. I mean, really, is this for jidrools or what? “Ooh-ooh, I could win a hundred million dollars!” Like they would even know what to do with it, other than piss it away in less time than they ever dreamed possible.

It’s so unworthy of a mature and decent mind.

9 comments on “How Big a Chump Are You?

  1. What I find astonishing is just how many people actually believe they will be provided with the ‘easy path’ – and they’re possibly, by their mere existence, entitled.

    1. I was a reporter when the first New Jersey Lottery was launched. Soon I had a story about two teachers, man and wife, who spend $20,000 on lottery tickets and didn’t win anything. Their whole life savings up in smoke.

      They were granted a meeting with the state lottery commissioner, who tried to explain to them that the chance of winning was only one in several tens of millions: so their 20,0000 tickets was statistically insignificant. But they didn’t understand. I guess they weren’t math teachers.

    2. Most of us probably know someone who’s been suckered in with lotteries. I once knew a woman who consistently dumped out her purse hoping to find enough change for another scratch-off ticket/ She eventually moved to Las Vegas, Go figure.

  2. The lottery is one of my favorite examples of how senseless our world has become. I once had a job that dealt with credit-card systems, etc. and frequently had service calls in convenience stores. Many times, I observed someone in a frenzy buying a bunch of scratch tickets, going out to their car to see if they’d won anything and then rushing back to the checkout line to buy more tickets. If they did happen to win $25 or so, that would go directly into buying more tickets. It was very reminiscent of a late-stage alcoholic trying desperately to get just one more beer after they had run out of money.

    It’s a false hope. A tiny handful of people actually win huge jackpots and most of them end off as poor as ever within 2-3 years. Very few people know how to manage money and it’s very easy to fool oneself into spending unwisely. It’s the rule, not the exception. So a lottery winner is likely to end up with an expensive car that they can’t afford to maintain, license and insure and a mortgage on a home they can’t afford to maintain, insure or pay taxes on.

    It would probably happen to me as well, although I think I would at least have the sense to buy a 3 BR house where property taxes are low and try to keep my costs in line. A Toyota gets you there every bit as well as a Mercedes and costs a lot less to operate. It’s easy to imagine that I’d do it right, but I’m not immune to screwing up and I probably would, sooner or later.

  3. My talented artistic uncle Eric died in a one-room apartment in a row house in Kensington. He was on Social Security and was sickly. The high temps of an intense Philadelphia heat wave did him in. Helping Mom clean up that crammed and dirty room was an eye-opener. Uncle Eric lived in the dream that any day now his ship would come in. He entered contests incessantly often buying products and magazines just to get the chance for a win. Years ago, he played the horses winning some money but losing most of what he had. When the PA lottery became available, he was thrilled – now he can gamble legally! And he continued on buying tickets and losing, trying to make a buck or two with sign painting only to lose it in the lottery. He was homeless at times failing to pay rent on time. And he drank. During the clean-up of his one room, I kept noticing all the lottery tickets and the get-rich scheme papers laying all over tabletops etc. Just broke my heart for my uncle and the life he lived.

    1. My poor sister was kept hopping, protecting my mother–otherwise a most intelligent woman–from going overboard with lotteries,contests, and trips to Atlantic City. Happily, Alice was successful in her labors.

    2. There is a movie entitled Nebraska, about an elderly man that gets a misleading ad in the mail and thinks he has won a huge sum of money. No one can convince him otherwise. It’s a very dark, serious movie about a man whom feels marginalized and wants one last chance to impress his peers.

  4. I’ve read the big jackpot winners often have their lives ruined by their winnings, not made better. Researching jackpot winners would make a good doctrinal thesis topic.
    At least Poker requires a little bit of skill, as do most card games.

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