So I'm sitting on my front porch (enclosed and heated) this morning reading the newspapers and drinking coffee like I always do. Then Dianne comes in and drops the bomb. "We didn't win Powerball," she says.
"What?!" I reply with indignation. "You just waltz in here and tell me we just lost $550 million. How do you expect me to react to this? I had plans!"
She responds: "Yeah, well. Don't forget to let the dog out before you leave."
The very same newspaper I was reading at that moment, today's New York Times, reported that my chances of winning (and yours) were the same as selecting an American man at random and that man turning out to be Alan Alda. I wasn't sure what Alan Alda had to do with it. Did it have something to do with being free to be you and me? Oh, no, wait that was Marlo Thomas. For some reason, I always get Alan Alda and Marlo Thomas confused. If you're under 50, you have no idea what I'm talking about.
Anyway, back to my chances of meeting Alan Alda. They are slim. As slim as my chances of winning $550 million, but given the choice between meeting Alan Alda and taking home better than half a billion coconuts, I'll take the cash, thanks.
But I didn't get the cash and so I didn't get my condo on Central Park West, my farm in southwest Wisconsin, my villa in Italy, and my gently used Honda to replace our fifteen year old Honda Accord wagon with 152,000 miles on it. (When it comes to cars, I think small. But the Honda is a very reliable vehicle and it gets pretty darn good mileage. Also, I don't care how much money you have, you'd be crazy to buy a new car, what with the immediate depreciation as soon as you drive it off the lot.)
I used to be very snobbish about the lottery. I thought it was just throwing your money away and, in fact, there are some sad cases like the woman who spent $450 on tickets for the Powerball prize. But at two bucks, you're essentially buying a little dream and supporting a good cause. That cause is the government and all the services it provides. Since you have no chance of winning, you're essentially making a voluntary tax contribution.
People who would scream about a $100 tax increase will easily fork over two bucks a week for a year. Go figure.
I figure we may have something here. What if, for example, we all got "free" Powerball tickets for every two dollars of taxes we paid? So, let's say I pay $20,000 in taxes; that means I'd get 10,000 Powerball tickets!
I know. I know. MIT math professors will tell us that if everybody gets a lot more tickets it means everybody maintains the same low odds of winning. But these people are naysayers and buzz killers. They're the same kind of people who believe global warming is a problem just because of all that data that supports that conclusion.
Now, sophisticated analysts may point out that the odds wouldn't remain the same, but actually favor the already rich. Since the rich generally pay more taxes they'll get more tickets and more chances to win. There they go again, you might say.
But look on the bright side. This will give them an incentive to forget about all those loopholes and deductions and the Swiss bank accounts and the Cayman Islands, an so on. You could just hear Mitt Romney telling his lawyers and accountants, "Look fellas, I want you to find every way possible that I can pay more taxes. I just gotta have a chance to win the lottery!"
In this way, the budget deficit will be solved, and all with voluntary contributions to your government. The fiscal cliff will become just a long plain. And standing there on the horizon, just out of reach, will be Alan Alda.