Bill punishes poor for getting lucky in lottery

We know that when we reported last week on a bill in the state House that would require the state lottery to disclose to local departments of Social Services the names of the winners of substantial cash prizes that there was a round of applause by those who believe welfare recipients are lazy and undeserving of this nation’s benevolence.

We will hold ours.

The legislation, we believe, will accomplish nothing positive — and, fortunately, shouldn’t really have a significant deleterious effect either.

The House easily approved a bill requiring that lottery officials disclose the names and jackpot amounts of those people winning at least $2,250 to the Division of Social Services, which would then crosscheck the information against food stamp applicants and recipients. The winnings would be factored in when deciding a person’s eligibility to obtain food stamps.

Robeson County’s four representatives, all Democrats, split their votes, with Charles Graham and Garland Pierce voting against and Ken Goodman and Ken Waddell in favor.

Said Pierce: “This is just another attempt by the party in power to once again double down on our poor folks. We give tax breaks to those who make $50,000 a year and then attack our poor folks who might get lucky and win a little in the lottery. This bill doesn’t do anything. It’s just a way to intimidate people.”

Let’s toss some facts out now: It is true that about a third of Robeson County residents receive food stamps, which is a result of a bad mix of too many people without an education or job skills and too few jobs that pay a livable wage. It is also true that the average per-person benefit is about $40 a month, and that most folks who receive benefits have jobs and are among the “working poor.” Food stamps are also critical to our local economy, generating hundreds of millions of dollars a year that keep people employed.

So food stamps are a good and necessary thing, benefiting the most fragile among us — and the children. We would guess that as many as half this county’s population is a missed paycheck or two from needing government assistance.

So be slow to judge.

Now let’s talk about the state lottery, which is a regressive tax that sends money from poor counties to rich counties to meet education needs. It is cynical, preying upon the poor who see little help in a financially secure future that does not include some lucky numbers.

It is an unnecessary and bad thing.

We understand that denying benefits to people who have hit the jackpot will play well with the working public, but we doubt it will be a big money-saver.

Fundamentally, people who receive government assistance would be wise not to play the lottery, because somewhere north of 99 percent of those who have the bad habit of buying scratch cards will spend more money than they win, so it’s a sorry investment. But our state government has offered the lotto, knowing full well that the less educated and the poorest among us would be among the more frequent players.

And now some House representatives want to punish them for doing exactly that.

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