To say that Mississippi is a conservative state– by which I mean things do not change, or if they do, it’s at the flow rate of sorghum (misspelled at first; why doesn’t autocorrect recognize misspelled sorghum?) molasses– is a bit of an understatement. Recall that the state is dry by default. We live in a dry county. It is illegal to possess, produce, consume, or transport alcohol. You will see no Budweiser trucks on the highway in my little county. But I digress.
Yesterday, the state House of Representatives, in a do-over vote in a special legislative session, passed the lottery bill 58-54 with no debate. On Monday the House had voted 54-60 against. Governor Bryant twisted some arms and “Some people had a change of heart after getting calls from constituents.” Imagine that. Representatives doing what the people desire. Heh.
Mississippi already has riverboat gambling. What is “riverboat gambling?” you may ask. It is, according to the author of the entry on that infallible source, a “legal fiction.” Basically what you do is find yourself some water– e.g., the Mississippi River, a sound on the Gulf, heck, any old puddle will do– and dig yourself a moat leading up to something that vaguely resembles a boat, and then attach this vague boat to an enormous casino. Riverboat gambling proceeds go to education in Mississippi.
So we have riverboat gambling and you may wonder why folks wouldn’t vote for the lottery. For those representing areas with riverboat gambling the reason is obvious– competition. Those hard earned dollars that you take to Tunica or to Biloxi to donate to the state’s education fund, and which you spend in hotels and restaurants and so forth, you’ll now be able to waste right where you live!
Some voted against for reasons having to do with lottery proceeds allocation. The first $80M are allotted to infrastructure projects. Education gets what’s leftover. That’s not fair.
Here’s a newsflash: more $$ is not going to make Mississippi smarter. If that were the case, we should have gotten a lot smarter beginning twenty some odd years ago.
But those aren’t the main reason folks voted against.
That reason is “faith based.” That’s what the Speaker of the House said today on SuperTalk Radio, and it is also the reason people opposed gambling in the late ’80s and early ’90s. (It’s also the reason the county is dry.) If you are unfamiliar with Mississippi dialect, I’ll translate for you. Faith based means that the lottery disproportionately affects poor people. We have a lot of poor people here in Mississippi, and while they do go to the casinos, if we had the lottery, we’d just be making it easier for them to be disproportionately affected. And we should not do that.
I am my brother’s keeper.
#1 Gambling– including spending your hard earned money on lottery tickets– is stupid. I don’t mean the occasional outing to the casino at the coast or in Tunica because the rooms are cheap and it’s entertainment. I mean routinely throwing away your money for no good reason whatsoever.
#2 Poor = Stupid. And this is where the faith based argument begins to fail. You, poor people, are too stupid to know that you should not waste your money buying lottery tickets every week.
#3 Stupid = Weak Willed. You, poor stupid people, are too weak-willed to resist the temptation to gamble.
#4 Therefore I must not allow you to be tempted.
This is the faith based argument against the lottery. This was the faith based argument against riverboat gambling. And this remains the argument against alcohol.
(I would not be surprised to learn that there is a real faith based argument. But the real argument is not the argument these folks push.)
The lottery is a tax on stupidity. Maybe the all knowing They should take some of those education funds and teach the youngins some probability theory. What are the odds of winning the lottery, stupid?
To rattle on some more– the thing that most irks me is the ease with which some seek to take away others’ autonomy. Even for real poor, for real stupid people are autonomous human beings. If they want to buy lottery tickets, convince them the odds are not in favor of their winning. Enlighten them in the ways of vice and virtue. Bennett’s Book of Virtues comes to mind which is hilarious in a chat about gambling. There’s even a Children’s Book of Virtues. Y’all could take some of those education funds and see that every elementary library has a copy!