The term is “fuck-you money,” and it means having enough money to do anything you want, anytime you want, and being able to say “fuck you” to anyone who tries to impede that.
There have been a lot of conversations about “fuck-you money” ever since it was revealed last week that the biggest lottery pot ever was up for grabs. People who’d never won a damn thing in their lives lined up at liquor stores around the country and dreamt about what they would do with the winnings. We’ve all got our gonzo, outlandish fantasies — like having a marching band follow you around playing “Rock and Roll Part 2” as you saunter down the street.
OK, maybe that’s just mine. But many of us have more humanitarian ideas as well, like donating large chunks of money to charity or setting up hundreds of microloans to people who need them the most. There were even a number of articles floating around the Internet about the actual practicalities of winning the lottery, like hiring financial planners and lawyers and not telling everyone that you’re now basically the most robbable person they know.
What wasn’t talked about was how screwed up and wrong the lottery system actually is. This morning, I came across an article on ThinkProgress.org called “Powerball’s $1.3 Billion Swindle of Americans” that breaks down how Powerball — and the lottery in general — is completely terrible.
For example, the idea that money from a lottery goes into helping our deeply underfunded public schools is a myth. The authors of the article, Judd Legum and Brice Covert, explain, “States increase per capita spending on education right after they enact a lottery, but they end up decreasing overall spending later on.”
This happens not only because it’s hard to predict how much lottery money a state will have, but also because politicians can easily appropriate the money to whatever other causes they see fit.
Beyond that, the lottery amounts to a tax on the poor. According to Legum and Covert, “Low-income people account for the majority of lottery sales, while sales are highest in the poorest areas. One study found that the poorest third of households buy more than half of the tickets sold in any given week.” This is particularly jarring when you realize, “In 2009, lotteries in 11 states brought in more revenue than the corporate income tax,” Legum and Covert wrote.
That’s insane right? It’s almost as insane as the fact that your chances of winning the Powerball jackpot are one in 292 million.
According to The Associated Press, you’re more likely to get struck by lightning, while drowning (1 in 183 million), than win the jackpot. Hell, you’re even more likely to be Stephen Curry’s teammate than winning, considering that you have a 1 in 6.8 million chance of being drafted into the NBA.
I must admit, my awkward, beer-bellied, 5-foot, 8-inch frame would look pretty good in the Warriors’ blue and yellow.
I’ve got an idea: You know how we could better fund things like schools? Make wealthy people actually pay their fucking taxes! Giving tax breaks to big corporations and millionaires is the opposite of having “fuck-you money.” It’s actually just the rich people saying “fuck you” — to you.
And if you’re not one of the 1 percent and you’re voting for low taxes for the rich because you’re convinced you might one day win the lottery, you’re better off practicing your jump shot.
Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at BrokeAssStuart.com. Broke-Ass City runs Thursdays in The San Francisco Examiner.