"You gotta be in it to win it!" goes the TV commercial urging people to run out and buy lottery tickets. Another one gushes: "All You Need is a Dollar and a Dream!"
And needy people listen to this stuff. According to one study, the indigent spend a whopping nine percent of their incomes on lottery tickets -- in effect, making this form of gambling a perfect addition to Herman Cain's 9-9-9 regressive tax plan to soak the poor.
So it was a real bummer to read that three millionaire asset managers, hailing from one of the most exclusive and expensive enclaves in the country, have won the $254 million Powerball jackpot in Connecticut. They spent one lousy dollar - or a portion of their income the size of a subatomic particle -- on one measly ticket. There hasn't been this much outrage since millionaire Jim Sensenbrenner, congressman and heir to the Kimberly-Clark fortune, won the lottery for a third straight time.
Well, harrumph! According to a Connecticut state lottery official, rich people can dream too, dammit! Rich people are everyday people, just like us. And of course, we are much consoled that the lawyer for the trio says they plan to give a "substantial" portion of their after-tax, hundred million dollar-plus haul to charity. Presumably to a charity designed by the rich, for the rich -- to avoid further taxes. I know, I know -- I am probably being totally unfair. I promise to issue a retraction once they donate the whole shebang to Doctors Without Borders or the Red Cross, or the free clinic movement, or food banks, or any worthy cause that doesn't take a substantial cut for its CEO.
One thing that really struck me about the coverage of this moment of oligarchic irony: the nouveau-nouveau riche asset managers just don't look all that happy in the photos. Maybe they feel bad about winning and snatching the food out of the mouth of the unemployed single mom in front of them in line that day, who'd just spent her last dollar on a ticket. (doubtful) Or, they are miffed that the government is taking a whole half of their haul in taxes (they're used to the effective 15-18% rate reserved for the .01%). Or, they are simply annoyed that they had to take time from their busy day of making money to pose in the traditional lottery photo-op.
|Ho Hum.... Another Day, Another Quarter-Billion (AP Photo)|
Update: A fourth reason for their apparent discomfort: an acquaintance is telling the press that the bankers may not have actually bought the ticket after all, that they are just "fronting for the real winner."
Money does not buy happiness, people. (Actually, that's a lie. It really really really helps when you don't have much of it.) But the uber-wealthy of the Forbes 400 are not joyful humans, for the most part. (I have absolutely no proof to back me up on this, but writing it makes me feel better.) They worry too much about how they can keep what they have, and fret about how they can get more. The poster-child for unhappy billionaires has to be Walmart heiress Alice Walton:
Like the Greenwich Powerball Trio, this 62-year-old was also a wealth manager before her own $20 billion jackpot from Daddy Sam made her America's 10th richest person. She now spends her time spending her billions on art and charity to avoid taxes, as well as on lawyers to avoid prosecution. In April 1989, while speeding in her Porsche, she struck and killed a friend of hers. She was never charged, nor did she offer any compensation to the victim's family. Nine years later, she was arrested after hitting a gas meter. Her words to the arresting officer will go down in the annals of plutocratic chutzpah: "I'm Alice Walton, bitch!"
She pled guilty, though, and paid a paltry $925 fine: a speck of molecular dust in the infinity of the universe. Her most recent arrest came this past October. (mug shot above.) This time, she sent her regrets. Mea minima culpa.
More from the Gallery of Peevish Plutocrats: