we are celebrating the twentieth anniversary of our state-sponsored lottery.
I use “we” loosely because your humble hacker and plodder blogger isn’t celebrating, but most everyone else is. My residence was in
South Carolina in 1993 but as a native Georgian, I was
aware of the lottery proposal and subsequent approval back then and watched
from across the Savannah River as the strong
opposition of Georgia Baptists was insufficient to kill it. It passed amid all
manner of dire predictions by opponents. It has been wildly successful.
I have never purchased a lottery ticket, not a single one, but I have been in line in convenience stores behind literally hundreds who have and do buy them.
Which gets me to the matter of the lottery being a boon to Georgia Baptists and Georgia Baptist churches.
Although the HOPE scholarship was originally means tested, after the first few years when lottery sales were far beyond expectations and money was abundant, the original family income cap of $66,000 was raised to $100,000 and then eliminated altogether. There is no means test today for the HOPE Scholarship.
With no means test, those affluent families who planned to pay for a college education for their kids suddenly had a sum of money, quite a considerable sum of money, available for other uses. Studies showed an increase in luxury car sales in affluent
counties after HOPE’s income cap was removed. Families took the money planned
for college tuition and bought expensive vehicles with it. In Athens, my home
and home of the state’s largest university, the University of Georgia, there
was an explosion in the building of student-oriented condominiums and
conversion of apartments to condos, as parents invested in real estate for
their children to live in while in college (and, when the real estate meltdown
came in 2008, many of these lost
considerable sums as inflated condo prices crashed and buyers could not be found).
What a great country! The state sponsors a gambling enterprise, something they monopolize by making such criminal for all others, which is funded proportionately greater by poor citizens who spend more of their income on lottery tickets than their wealthier fellow citizens. The more affluent Georgians then take the free tuition and buy new cars and houses with the enormous pool of money set aside for their kid’s education that is now available for discretionary spending.
Some of that pool of money, into the billions of dollars over twenty years, has and will go to Georgia Baptist churches in the form of donations. Astute readers will notice that I offer no concrete proof of this. It has not been specifically targeted for study but I think it to be a safe conclusion.
Here’s something I am not reading or hearing these days: any call by Georgia Baptists to do away with the lottery or even to make the adjustments to it to remove or ameliorate it as a state-sponsored wealth transfer program whereby our poorer citizens pay for the college education of our more wealthy citizens.
Happy 20th birthday, Georgia Lottery. You have ingrained yourself into the fabric of our culture and, since middle class and upper class Georgians are accustomed to the financial benefit, you will live to be 100 and more.
You will not hear Georgia Baptist pastors fighting this segment of the culture wars. We benefit too much from it.