Apr 24, 2013

California Schemin’: The Golden State’s Incestuous Relationship with Big Lotto

R.J. MoellerBy R.J. Moeller

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All the leaves are brown
And the sky is gray.
I’ve been for a walk
On a winter’s day.

I’d be safe and warm
if I was in L.A.
California dreamin'
On such a winter’s day.

—"California Dreamin'," The Mamas and the Papas (1965)

Having just recently passed the one-year mark as a resident of the state of California, almost nothing that happens in this state surprises me any longer. But I must admit that the first time I saw the following California Lottery Powerball commercial earlier this month, I almost choked on my ham sandwich.

Attached to this advertisement on YouTube is the following description:

Powerball comes to California on April 8th, 2013. With jackpots that start at 40 million dollars, it’s your chance to dream big, really big . . .

So, if you won Powerball what would you do? Post your #CAdream on Twitter and explore dreams here: dream.calottery.com

Here are some pertinent facts about The Golden State before I parse/eviscerate this asinine commercial:

The state of California is currently more than $20 billion in debt for making promises it could not keep and spending money it did not have. It has an unemployment rate of over 9 percent. It taxes its citizens at higher rates than any place outside of Western Europe. Major cities in California—my Los Angeles, for example—proudly tout their status as "sanctuary cities" and encourage more illegal immigrants to come and partake in state and federal entitlements. Speaking of entitlements, these collectively comprise the biggest expenditure of a state budget whose excesses are the primary cause of California’s impending fiscal calamity.

In 2012 California was also rated the worst state to do business in.

But who needs balanced budgets, small business growth, innovative entrepreneurial activity, or the rule of law when you have . . . the lottery! Huzzah!

"Believe in something bigger"

Did you happen to catch the disgusting tag-line at the end of the commercial above?

"Believe in something bigger"

If you need something to believe in, what's bigger than the size and scope of California’s debt and deficits? I mean, besides the amount of cultural and moral decay encouraged by something like a state-funded gambling Ponzi scheme that specifically markets its "games" to low-income citizens (who are the same folks receiving the lion's share of the entitlements causing the aforementioned debt and deficits)?

These haunting Powerball commercials—which are, aesthetically and stylistically speaking, fantastic—run nonstop on every channel here in Los Angeles. There is a massive ad campaign behind the state's efforts to get you to believe in something bigger than your own work ethic, the love of a tight-knit family, or, I don’t know, GOD!

Millions of tax dollars California can't afford to waste were, in my opinion, wasted on visually stunning commercials in hopes that they might encourage people to throw what portion of their money isn't being taxed into oblivion at unearned fantasies with astronomical odds.

And for those who do miraculously win a giant sum of money from the lottery, studies show that they are more likely to report unhappiness in their lives and suffer from things like depression. As Henry Ford once put it, "Money doesn't change a person; it simply unmasks them."

The false messianic promise that the ultimate handout from Uncle Sam—or Governor Moonbeam—will bring you peace and prosperity flies in the face of everything a parent, teacher, or coach would hope to instill in a young American. No one respects the friend or family member in their life who perpetually banks everything on pipe-dream schemes, only to return empty-handed and, yet again, in further need of assistance.

And speaking of the way mamas and papas rear their young, I thought it was regrettably appropriate that the good folks at the Lotto offices chose a song—"California Dreamin'"—that was written by a man (the late John Phillips) who, apart from being a drug addict, engaged in an incestuous relationship with his daughter (Mackenzie Phillips) for decades. And to have a chorus of young women sing the haunting rendition of the Phillips family tune was the imperfect final touch!

Too many good people in this state (and in states across the nation) sit back and smile when they see Powerball commercials run on their television screens. I'm guilty of it myself. For a few fleeting moments we let ourselves wonder what it would be like to pay off all our school debt or mortgage and purchase luxury items previously reserved for those dastardly 1-percenters California politicians like Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer heroically warn us about.

But the Lotto is the state's money, and the state's money is our money. It's an incestuous relationship of our own making, aimed at hurting that same low-income group progressives tell us are "the most vulnerable" among us.

Like all such unholy arrangements, the end results are long-term, far-reaching, and utterly disastrous.