Principled stands . . . updated

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My friends are sick of me talking and writing about the lottery. And when one of my fellow front-pagers recently won a thousand bucks on a $20 ticket, I confess to thinking, "awwww, maybe it's not so terrible." But the truth is, the lottery IS so terrible, as Steve Ford, the editorial page editor at the N&O wrote today.

To pirate a line from "All the King's Men," North Carolina's state lottery was conceived in sin and born of corruption. We may never learn all the gory details surrounding its passage, but to say that its supporters in the General Assembly finagled it through by hook and by crook pretty much conveys the spirit of the thing.

They had to go to such lengths because of strenuous opposition from those who saw the lottery, despite the bounty it stands to generate in support of educational programs, as a betrayal of the principles of fair taxation and fair dealing with the citizenry.

This editorial page was in that corner. While we have agreed with Governor Easley more often than not, and while we have admired his commitment to boosting education, we thought the lottery was not a good way to raise the necessary money.

Now, the lottery has been in operation for close to two years. There's one pesky challenge in the courts that claims its passage was illegitimate (this has to do with whether the lottery should be regarded as a tax and thus should have been put through some additional legislative hoops). But it's hard to envision a scenario under which the lottery would be dismantled and abandoned, even if that wouldn't be such a bad idea.

Wouldn't be such a bad idea?

Go read the editorial and you'll get the litany of reasons the North Carolina Education Lottery is terrible public policy. Or if you want the PG-13 version, you can read some of these posts. And when you're done, ask yourself this:

If an editorial writer, and supposedly the editorial board, believe the lottery is wrong, why not take a stand and call for its repeal?

The best spin that can be put on editorials like this is to call them "pragmatic." That's the kind of moral relativism, for example, that we increasingly see from the corporate media and corporate politicians alike. Stepping away from what's clearly right, they convince themselves that nothing can be done about trains that have already left the station, and so they climb on board, fully complicit in making sure that nothing will be done, abandoning the power of their convictions and their soap boxes again and again and again.

I don't expect a lot in the way of bold leadership from corporate politicians. We have so many Democrats behaving like so many Republicans that it's hard to know who's who, especially with our Senate insisting on tax cuts for the wealthiest and huge taxpayer incentives for big companies. Many are like herding animals, afraid to take stands that might separated them from the pack.

But, frankly, I once had higher hopes for the corporate media. What do they have to lose by taking a clear position on something they believe? Instead of accepting the inevitability of state-sponsored gambling, Mr. Ford could just have easily called for an end to the North Carolina Education Lottery.

That would have been a principled stand.

UPDATE: A regular reader reminded me by email that I neglected to mention those in North Carolina who are continuing to fight against the lottery, primarily through legal means. Indeed, it was the NC Institute for Constitutional Law (Bob Orr's previous employer) and the NC Justice Center who originally filed suit on the constitutionality of the lottery. That decision is still pending at the Court of Appeals. While I don't have much confidence that the Court will strike down the lottery, I appreciate their persistence and I should not have overlooked their contribution to the cause. No slight intended.


The Lottery is the Worse Possible Public Policy

The News and Observer has gone soft for some reason. I do not even subscribe now, just read a few items on line. The lottery and the phrase "public policy" should not even be uttered in the same sentence. Our state took a decline with the debacle of its passage.

Newspapers no longer bring the influence they once did. Unfortunately the television 24-hour pundits seem to influence much more. And since they get advertising $$ from the lottery, you will not hear them bashing it.

Seems to me most people have a kind of "moral relativism" these days - voters, media, politicians. They all say ... well that's how things are and we are not going to be able to change so we have to go with it and hope for the best. I am almost convinced that no one has the moral conviction to say what they mean and mean what they say. And those that do, are not able to master the campaign finance maze.

The gap between the haves and have nots is growing. We all need the courage to stand up for what is right and stand against what is wrong. I am troubled by where this state is headed when I can no longer tell where anyone stands.

Well said.

The rise of corporate media and the big bucks broadcasters make on lottery advertising are definitely part of the problem here. Newspapers don't tap into those big bucks, so it's surprising that they just "go along" even when they don't think it's right.

I agree completely about the N&O. There's not a lot to like about the paper any more, but I'd start subscribing again if the editorial pages had some backbone.


What does give me hope is that the politicans, traditional media are starting to figure out that more and more people are turning to forums like BlueNC for real information. I stumbled on the site looking around for political information straight from some voters. This site looks good, is easy to navigate and has interesting and enlightening information. You see where ABC paired with FaceBook for the debates. I think the traditional media is threatened to some degree by the growing numbers of people who prefer the easy, "from my couch" participation this type of forum offers. I think the reporters at the newspapers are threatened by the intelligence that flows from these sites. Somehow we need to breed some candidates from this world.

The Lottery makes my blood boil and I never tire of talking about it or reading thoughts on it.


Since I'm the fellow front pager who won $1000 on a $20 ticket (it was actually my son), I feel compelled to comment.

First I must say, that I agree - the NC education lottery, is in many ways, bad budget policy. The funds for education - all education, right down to the education that happens from birth through age 5 - should be guaranteed by the legislature and not left to chance.

NC should have followed the Georgia model of the lottery, which, among other things, has funded universal pre-kindergarten programs for all

In 1993, the Georgia Pre-K Program was established to provide Georgia’s 4-year-old children with high-quality preschool experiences. This program is funded by the Georgia Lottery for Education, and is expected to serve about 70,000 children in the 2004-2005 school year. The goal of every Georgia prekindergarten classroom is to provide 4-year-olds with the learning experiences they need in order to prepare for kindergarten. Children who are 4-years-old on September 1 of the current school year, whose parents are Georgia residents, are eligible to attend Georgia Pre-K Program during this school year. Public schools and private child development centers voluntarily participate in Georgia’s Pre-K program. The following resources provide further information on the Georgia Prekindergarten Program:

So our legislators have not set it up correctly, nor has it been given time to work the way it should. It should not be replacing funds that were already guaranteed to the schools and education, it should be for entirely new programs and initiatives. In Georgia, funds from the lottery have also guaranteed paid in-state tuition for all graduating seniors. That's a pretty good gamble.

But in NC, as Ford rightly points out, the lottery was born in scandal, and remains clouded by it.

But Ford's editorial is also clouded by Victorian mentality as well: he brings us rather racist statistics from Texas (should we be looking there for a model? What have they done well? Produced presidents? I digress. I should also point out that I share a name with a one time lottery commission director of Texas. We're not the same person. ) He has no local statistics, just anecdotal observations from random convenience stores in NC.

Instead, we are given this image:

Get the picture? Sadly, it's younger, poorer, less educated folks -- and minorities -- who gravitate toward the lottery ticket counter. Anybody with eyes in his head who occasionally ducks into a North Carolina convenience store or other lottery outlet can't help but notice the same pattern here.

And then of course, there's this.

But the thrill of gambling can become something people can't seem to live without. That's when harmless fun veers over the line into addiction.

Many opponents of the lottery use these arguments over and over again as to why we shouldn't have a lottery in NC.

I say, until they stop buying their vodka, gin, whiskey, rum, and scotch at Alcoholic Beverage Control stores, until they start writing editorials about folks spending milk money on the 30's of malt liquor at random convenience stores, and until they start pushing for forbidding the sale of the most dangerous drug on the market (tobacco), they've lost my ear.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi


You won $1000? Wow. I thought it was all a government hoax like putting a man on the moon and 9/11. I'm going to go buy a ticket right now.
Oh wait, it is a government hoax: We'll give out just enough money to people you barely know that you'll feel like you can win too. In the meantime, we'll rob you blind.

it really did happen.

I'm not lying. It was a nice thing to happen to my son for the holidays. I'm not going to let you or anyone else make me feel guilty for that. I got the pleasure of seeing his face when he found out he won, (he didn't expect to), and I got the pleasure of seeing him purchase something I wouldn't have been able to purchase for him for another year or two.

I'm kind of sorry I said anything here, now. People on BlueNC sure know how to piss on cornflakes.

Don't be so cynical.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

I really appreciate these

I really appreciate these points. I have a negative attitude toward the lottery, but can't bring myself to say that people ought not be permitted to spend their money in this fashion.

It's the same with term limits. I recognize the intelligence and sagacity of the arguments in favor of term limits, but I resent the idea that I should be told that for my own good, I may not vote for this or that particular jackass.

It's not unlike the resentment I feel every time we have an election. It irritates the hell out of me that stupid people can vote, but I do not believe that it would be moral to deprive stupid people of the right to vote. Stupid people have as much right to choose a representative as anyone else whether I like it or not. (All of this is beside the question of how one would determine who is "stupid.")

The statistics about who tends to buy lottery tickets are what they are, but they don't present a logical argument for why any individual should be denied the right to make this choice with his/her money.

And your last point about alcohol and tobacco is exactly on target. In defense of those who oppose the lottery, I would hazard a guess that many if not most of the same folks would indeed make the same arguments about alcohol and tobacco, but that they realize they've already lost those battles and are just hoping they'll prevail on this one. They won't. And I hate to say it, but they shouldn't.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing
-Edmund Burke

Re: tobacco, etc.

The old expression about "many wrongs" comes to mind.

Who said anything about prohibition

I have no problem with gambling as long as its not run by the state. My beef is when the government is the black-jack dealer . . . or the bartender. This is one area where I say "let the free markets roll and tax the hell of them."

I can understand that you might think I'm splitting hairs, but I don't see it that way. I guess my Libertarian streak is showing.

hair splitter here

I think the matter of whether the state is involved is the entire point. But it does get tricky, splitting these hairs. Take the mandatory wearing of seatbelts and motorcycle issues. Some will insist it is a matter of an individual's personal freedom; others will cite the high cost involved to everyone when there is a bloody accident on our highways.

I admit that I come down on the side of mandating these safety precautions because I am persuaded by the statistical evidence of cost to the state. One could argue that the harm to the state that results from people blowing their mortgage payment on the lottery should weigh as heavily, but my sense thus far is that the incidence of harm directly attributable to the lottery as opposed to the failure of motorists to wear seatbelts/helmets doesn't provide sufficient support for banning the lottery. I could be completely mistaken about this, but to date this is how it appears to me.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing
-Edmund Burke

And college

The Georgia State Lottery also pays the college tuition of any Georgia resident who attends a Georgia university and maintains at least a 3.0 GPA. I have a buddy who earned his Ph D and never payed a dime for it.

Carolina Politics Online

These sorts of stories make my point perfectly

If something is worth having as a common good - college degrees, for example - then it's worth paying for with good old fashioned taxes.

Your buddy got a PhD on the backs of mostly lower-income lottery players.

How cool is that?

As Are Other Low Income People

There are plenty of low income people who have been able to go to college because of that program and I'm sure some of them have gone as far as their Ph D. To my knowledge, no state has 100% government subsidized college education in this country, so I think that brings Georgia the closest. They deserve some credit for that, don't you think?

Carolina Politics Online

they did it democratically.

They voted for it.

And yeah - if they were dealing pot, they could generate a lot more money. And it would be less dangerous, except for all the traffic headed to Georgia. :)

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi


You make the point that the fact that people voted for something (democratically) somehow makes it right. People vote for stupid candidates and stupid policies all the time. If they didn't, there would be no need for a BlueNC in the first place.

I believe it's important to challenge policies that are destructive, no matter how they might have come into being. For example, our Congress should long ago have impeached George Bush, regardless of whether he was elected democratically or not.

If I were in Georgia, I'd have the same position on the lottery that I have here.


PS My lottery passion is not driven solely by its negative impacts per se. For me, it's more that it's a particularly egregious example of political cowardice in a state where the anti-tax, anti-government zealots have effectively set the public agenda.

I understand.

My main argument is not even with you - it's with the cowards who hide the sensible arguments against the lottery behind pseudo-morality and veiled racism instead of just coming out and saying the state needs more money - we need to raise taxes. That's what I saw in Ford's editorial that first started this discussion.

Remember, now, when someone buys a lottery ticket, they are not going to a state-owned store to purchase it. They are going to a privately owned business that has chosen to participate. So the state is not the "black jack dealer", as you stated in an earlier post. But when you go to buy a bottle of whiskey or scotch, you are purchasing it directly from a state agency. The state is the bartender.

::sigh::: My dear friend, we could go around and around with this for days. What we agree on is this:funding for necessities should not be left up to chance. And I am perfectly willing to leave it at that. :)

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

Me too.

All is well.

That it does.

and I while I think that this ought to be paid for by something guaranteed by the legislature - this is something that the people of Georgia voted for, and that the State of Georgia manages very well. The people of Georgia thought that they should have Universal Pre-K AND state funded Higher Education,and that this was the way to pay for it. They voted for it.

They had the right to vote for it - and vote for it they did. Maybe that's the problem. Did we ever vote for it here? I don't think we ever did. I think it got stuck onto a bill. That's part of the whole born in scandal thing.

I find it weird to agree with you, Carolina Politics.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

And I agree

all of those things are worth paying for with good old fashioned taxes, especially if they come from things like capital gains, people making more than $250K a year, etc.

But my point was this: so many opponents of the lottery use the morality card:

It isn't right to have a lottery because some people might become addicted.

Yet the state makes just as much money selling something that is even more addictive and certainly more dangerous every single day. More families have been ripped apart by alcohol than they have by lottery tickets. But unless you are a teetotaler, if you live in NC, you've bought alcohol from the state. You've supported the sale of an addictive drug by the state - directly from the state, no middle man.

So stop using those antiquated, bigoted arguments (yeah, bigoted) that push the wrong buttons, and just come out and say it (the way Anglico did). Taxes need to be higher (I'm all for that, actually, if the government will use it for the right things, and not paving over the rest of my state.)

And as for me buying a lottery ticket for my son for Christmas. I did it once. One time. It was a fluke. Stories like that never happen. But it did. And it was a happy thing for our family. So - I guess - suck on it.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

What jumped out at me when you said...

Yet the state makes just as much money selling something that is even more addictive and certainly more dangerous every single day.


State Lotteries succeed in making poor people poorer

The average Joe who occassionally does get rich in the lottery, in no way, makes up for the millions who, from hope, are bilked from their ability to live as normal life as possible. This applies particularly to those who are barely making it from paycheck to paycheck. They suffer, their children suffer, consequently we all suffer to some degree.

Marshall Adame
2014 U.S. Congress Candidate NC-03

Just how principled are we?

To my knowledge I never saw an argument here or anywhere else condemning how the S-CHIP program was to be funded. If the "end" justifies the "means" then the same logic ought to apply to the lottery.
We can't have it both ways. Well, we can...but it's indefensible.

Stan Bozarth

hiya Marshall

Up to my ears in stuff. How are you?

I wanna talk to you about that Feb. fundraiser. Got some ideas. :)

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi


you can have a lottery - to fund special projects.

S-CHIP, which is a federal program, and NC HealthChoice, which is North Carolina's version of it, should be funded by ending tax breaks on corporations - especially those whose employees, like Wal-Mart, qualify for the program.

The lottery should never be considered something to fund a necessity.
It should be for the extras. The 20 bucks I spent on the ticket for my son was not 20 bucks I needed to pay my rent or my utilities, it was disposable income. That's what lottery income should be for the state.

HealthChoice should be funded by not as much in corporate breaks to tire companies, internet giants, and big box retailers. HealthChoice should be seen as a top priority as our legislators in Washington (it already is by our legislators in Raleigh).

That seems pretty g.d. simple to me.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

Linda, I'm not arguing for or against the lottery

I'n simply saying S-CHIP was to be funded by a tobacco tax. Only about 20% of the people in this country would be paying the support a nationwide program. Back to my original question/assertion...

Stan Bozarth

Tax on people who can't do math

I think the lottery is pretty sick, personally. (That's sick in a bad way -- gotta specify these days.) Why take money from the least fortunate for the benefit of select corporations through a legislated government monopoly? Look at who benefits here:

Smells like corporatism to me!

Anglico, I know that Paul Stam and other Republicans have been agitating against the lottery as well. Could this be a rare, but good, opportunity to collaborate across parties and push back corporate and special interests in favor of better government?

William (B.J.) Lawson, M.D.
Congressional Candidate, North Carolina's 4th District

Could be.

That's certainly Bob Orr's position . . . the enemy of my enemy and all that.

But besides you and him, NC Republicans aren't allowed to engage with extremists like me. That's official Puppetshow policy, so don't expect to see the Art Pope crowd reaching across the aisle to work on anything that involves BlueNC.

As I've said on at least one occasion, you're too smart and probably too independent to be associated with the NC Greedy Old Party. Hook up with Mike Munger. You guys think alike on a lot of issues. And unlike most people I know with hard-core Libertarian streaks, you're not bat-shit crazy either. That's a big plus in my book.