Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The lottery, the economy, and politics...

I'd like to propose the theory that the reason why people continue to support politicians, positions, and economic policy that either is not in their best interest or that actively harms them.

People are succumbing to a lottery mentality.

I think most people take it for granted that they will never win the lottery. At least not the big, life-changing multi-million dollar jackpot. Sure, you may pick up $2.00 here and there (after spending 50), but for the most part, as with all gambling, you expect to lose because the odds are against you. And, in the case of the lottery, they're astronomically against you.

And yet, millions of people still fork over money to the state every week which could be going to servicing their debt, putting food (or better food) on the table, saved for a family treat or vacation, etc.

Why is that?

Because they just might win.

I think this carries over into politics a lot more than we think in America. Which is why you have millions od middle class people actively supporting policies which blatantly favor large corporations and the upper class often at their expense.

Make no mistake, I think there are other factors. Frankly, most of us have far better things to do with our lives than pay attention to all of the goings on in Washington and our state capitals. Also, I'm sure the lack of aggressive journalists in America help this, as more often than not, policies are reduced to conflicting talking points that obfuscate the matter more than clarify it.

And, of course, there's the standard human distorted perspective, whereby when I (the collective I) take government money, it's because I'm a hard working, salt o' the earth, middle class American who is just down on his luck, while when my neighbor takes the money, he's a lazy jerk living off of the system.

But I think in spite of all of that, most of us have have been consistently fed the image of the American dream whereby one can rise above their circumstances and become enormously wealthy, despite the unlikelihood of that happening for 99.99999% of us.

So we continue to demand that government not tax the rich at levels that were perfectly acceptable 10 years ago and are far more reasonable than the rates America held for most of the late 20th century, and instead demand cuts in services which are aimed at the middle and lower classes.

We're willing to sacrifice infrastructure, parks, education, health care, our promised retirement benefits, our safety net benefits, and police and fire services to save the upper class a few hundred thousand more dollars a year on their tax bill, because while we're not rich now and won't enjoy the benefit, one day we just might be and would hate to pay for it ourselves.

And that is the lottery mentality.

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