The powerless and the Powerball


Is gambling worth the price?

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Jan 27, 2016

I’m not a gambler. I live by the virtues of earning what I have—not winning it through gambling. Some people call gambling a “stupid person tax” and I don’t disagree. However, unlike tax, gambling comes with a little bit of hope; hope that this game of chance can alter your life for the better. But studies have found it not to be true.

Winning the lottery does not enhance life overall, just in materialistic ways. There have been cases of lottery winners going bankrupt, of fraudulent tax returns, of robbery, and of family and acquaintance sticking out their hands for a piece of the fortune. As The Notorious B.I.G. said, “Mo’ money, mo’ problems.” And money coming into your possession so quickly will create more problems that you cannot prepare for.

Earlier this month, the Powerball broke the world record by reaching a jackpot of $1.6 billion. It caused a stir, and made some non-gamblers take a chance, entering the pot. It is almost inconceivable winning that amount of money. And while the winners won’t be billionaires after taxes, their winnings are still more than what most people would earn if they were to live 100 lives.

The winners turned out to be an average couple, John and Lisa Robinson from Munford, Tennessee. They claim that they won’t be making any extravagant purchases. They will use their winnings to pay off their mortgage and debts. They claim to be normal people and will be keeping their current jobs. However, they should know they are no longer such, and every action they make with their funds will be heavily criticized by their peers. To not hoard the money is a grand display of character. Remember, the lottery is a stupid person tax, and like all taxes the funds are expected to return to the public. They ask people to respect their privacy, but they lost that luxury when they went in public to announce their winnings.

See, winning the lottery is not a simple hand over of money in a suitcase. There is this whole process of proving that your ticket is not a fraud. Winning such a large sum of money forces you and your family into the public eye. You must first convince people that you have won it. And that was the case with the Robinsons, who were encouraged to go onto the Today Show and announce their luckiness—or unluckiness.

Winning the lottery—especially one so prominently publicized as the Powerball—is a life-changing event. With money there is great power, and now it’s up to the people who wield it to use it wisely. Should freeloaders trick the Robinsons, it wouldn’t be the first time. Should the Robinsons blow it all on extravagance, they won’t be the first. Should the Robinsons be corrupted by the mighty dollar, that is almost a guarantee. They want everyone to perceive them as normal, but there is nothing normal about winning a lottery of that magnitude.

Let taxes equal charities

Photo via Thinkstock

Is it really better to give?

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. March 3, 2015

It’s hard to get excited about taxes. Like having someone reach into your pocket and take whatever they want, tax season often leaves us all feeling a little violated. But for as long as civilized living has existed, taxes have been constant and increasing. It’s clear today that if we want to continue living the Canadian life, we’ll need to pay taxes, and a lot of them.

After you wash away the tears, let’s take a look at all the benefits, because it is all about the benefits. Public safety and services are two popular reasons to pay taxes, and they’re good ones. I’ll be glad to pay taxes if the firefighters put out my burning house or if a policeman arrests the dude who just robbed me. I frequent the library, so I’m happy about the books my tax dollars bought. I drive, so I’m glad there is money left to fill potholes and extend the highway. Let’s call taxes a security for our future, insurance for our way of living, and a charity for the people in our society.

As I progress through life, I have noticed that I’m paying more taxes. I remember there was a time when I received money from the government for simply being alive. Now, I’m required to pay it back—it’s bullshit. But I’m not going to stop working; I’m not going to stop making money. My attitude toward taxes is different. I want to make more money so I can pay more taxes. Rich people get praised all the time for donating to charity, but they get pitied for having to pay significant taxes. No! Don’t pity them. They are rich. If needing to pay taxes is a deterrent for wealth, there is something wrong with your mentality, and that needs to change.

Money creates power and power begets money. Taxes break this pattern. They put responsibility on the wealthy to help provide for their less fortunate peers as they cope with the hardships of life.

We are all in this together, although we might not all agree on where the money should go. Some say the money should be dedicated to slums, others say it should go into renovating a public art gallery. Some want it to build a new transit infrastructure; others want to upgrade the healthcare system. We might never agree, but the thing is, we should be optimistic that wherever our money goes it’s going to good efforts. The same way we have little control once we donate to a charity, is the same way we should approach taxes.