Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Numbers Game

It really would be ironic if a fat government check one day ended my days of toiling at slave wages while cursing the big fat government. A couple of times a week, I plunk down some cash and play the 1-in-146,000,000 odds of the lottery.

It could be worse. When I plunked the cash down the other day and said, "I just came in to throw away some money," the clerk laughed and said, "It could be worse. There's a couple who come in here and spend $100 or more at a time." Now that is quiet desperation, my friend.

We play the same numbers, so we're trapped. A few years ago there was a news story about some poor shlep, in Wales or somewhere, who played the same numbers for years but they never came up until he gave up, and a couple of weeks later the numbers came up, so he blew his brains out. I'd like to think I wouldn't be that despairing, that I'd figure, well if I was supposed to have that money they'd have come up when I was playing 'em, and a lot of people deserve or need the money more than I do anyway. But just in case it would drive me insane, we play the numbers anyway.

I remember cop shows and crime movies about guys being arrested for running a numbers racket, and I wondered what that was. Now the government runs a numbers racket and nobody gets arrested. Funny world.

The government-run numbers racket uses the profits to provide property tax relief, so that's a good thing. Property tax relief is a funny thing. It's a tax they assess you on something so they don't assess a higher tax on "your" land. Why I say it's a funny thing is: You're paying two taxes, but they tell you they're doing you a favor with one tax because otherwise the other tax would be higher. Wouldn't you rather pay one really big tax than two slightly not-as-big taxes? It's a numbers racket of a different color.

Before I started writing this morning, I checked today's numbers. Sure enough, I wasted my money yesterday. Think of it as life insurance: I didn't want to risk ending up like the guy in Wales. And I'll get some property tax relief in return. Such a deal.

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