8 Days to Go: Republicans Champion Lottery Capitalism, Which We Can’t Afford

In this absolutely critical election year for our democracy, it is very important that voters understand that one of the key reasons they absolutely must vote Democratic is because the Republican Party is very bad for the economy. Their treatment of the economy is only positive for the very rich. While it’s fashionable to claim the GOP “favors the 1%,” the fact of the matter is, the current Republican Party really only cares about the richest 50,000 people, all told, and certainly not a full 3 million, as the use of the term, “the 1%” implies.

The number one problem with Republicans and the economy is, they don’t care about anything that benefits everyone. A truly healthy economy is one in which everyone is on equal footing, relatively speaking, and in which everyone has an equal opportunity to generate the wealth needed to live freely and comfortably, as well as an equal opportunity to create commerce on a level playing field. Unfortunately, the economy Republicans have created with during their reign of error can best be described as “lottery capitalism.”

Under the Republican version of a “strong economy,” everyone pays to be part of the system, with the reward only going to those who already have money.  Contrary to their rhetoric, under Republican “lottery capitalism,” hard work is not rewarded; in fact, GOP government try as hard as possible to make sure those who work hard are penalized for it. Those who are in charge get the most reward and work as little as possible. It’s why Lord Donny brags on the stock market so much. Investment in the stock market is not hard work; in fact, these days, the stock market is another example of lottery capitalism, where those who have money get to make more money and when they decide to take their profits and put them into their mattress, everyone else pays for it. 

Republicans are all about easy money, but only for those who already have more than enough to live well. They worship billionaires and look down upon working people. They like to use the phrase, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime, but the reality of their policies has little to do with teaching anyone to fish. In fact, they’re not keen on giving poor people anything. That’s why they tore apart the apparatus that gives cash assistance to people who are unable to work for a time, to the point that more than three-quarters of those living in poverty get zero cash assistance. In other words, the political party that calls us a “Christian Nation” doesn’t seem to regard Jesus Christ’s teachings on helping the poor are particularly important.  If you’re poor, the GOP says it’s because you’re lazy, or stupid or both. 

The problem with lottery capitalism is exactly what you see above. Success is based purely on luck. It’s the same thing that’s wrong with playing the lottery to win.  I get why some people bought 2-3 tickets for the Mega Millions, with a jackpot of $1.6 billion. That makes sense. But at a local store the day of the big drawing, one woman at the head of the line bought at least $200 worth of tickets, and that may not have been her first trip. What people have to remember is, n order for someone to win the huge $1.6 billion jackpot, at least $3.2 billion worth of losing tickets have to be purchased to finance that jackpot. many people compare it to other forms of gambling, but long odds on a horse race is 10-to-one, whereas the odds of winning the lottery are upwards of 200 million-to-one.

It should be obvious to everyone that the elements that make up a successful lottery simply don’t work when applied to a nation’s economic system. Put simply, while our economic system used to generate a constant flow of wealth that benefited everyone, Republicans have managed to rig the system in a way that only allows the already rich to make out well, while screwing those not fortunate enough to be born with lots of money.  These days, a terribly small number of people control most of the wealth in this country, which means a far smaller amount of wealth actually flows through the system these days. For most Americans, wealth has been stagnant since the 1970s, with small increases in wealth and income having been more than offset by an inflation rate that we have come to accept as “normal” or even “low,” despite the fact that it’s actually quite debilitating for many. If your boss offers you a three percent raise, but inflation is 2.5 percent, which is about where we are this year, there goes most of that raise. 

Since the dawn of the Republican era, everything about our economy has changed, but most of it has not been for the better. Except for a relatively short time during the Clinton years, the only “good times” we have seen have been courtesy of bubbles, and not based on real American wealth. Thanks to modern-day Republicans, increasing numbers of Americans are one pink slip away from total disaster at any given time. Virtually all employment is now at-will, which means, absent a contract, an employer can fire you for any reason, or no reason at all. The right to form a union has virtually been taken away by Republicans in many places, especially in “right to work” states. Whether you realize it or not, the old “American Dream” of working hard and becoming self-sufficient, or even very rich, has largely become a thing of the past, and today’s GOP is perfectly okay with that. Hell; that’s at the heart of lottery capitalism.

Based on the Republican-promoted lottery capitalist mentality, the American people have been trained to believe that responsibility is a one-way street. Consumers have to be responsible when we borrow money or use a credit card, but the lender has no responsibility in the transaction under lottery capitalism. This is why our system seems to collapse on a fairly regular basis. We’ve been trained by the GOP to rejoice during economic bubbles and to accept both the blame and the cost of everyone else’s screw-ups. After the last massive collapse in 2008, Republicans tried to blame Democrats and Obama, but really, it was all their idea. They are so enamored with the stock and commodities markets, they tried to create a new one, free of government oversight, and also free of logic. They created the mortgage aftermarket and they encouraged the selling of houses to people who could barely afford them because all they really care about is numbers. Home prices were going through the roof, and millions of families were paying nothing but interest on their mortgage, and facing a balloon payment or a tripling of the mortgage nut every month, but hey; the home ownership rate skyrocketed, so isn’t that all that mattered? The Republican Party’s experiment with creating easy wealth for the already wealthy cost the economy more than $19 trillion over the course of less than two years. And the sad thing is, they want to do it again. 

Regular people like us are told we “accepted the risk” when the economy collapses and under the lottery capitalist model, the so-called “captains of industry” get off scot-free. Think about it; with Republicans in charge in 2008, the bailouts offered by the government were essentially no strings attached.” It wasn’t until Obama and the Democrats took over that those who received bailout money were forced to return the money. And the attempt to right the ship to a degree, in the form of Dodd-Frank, which forced large financial institution to finance their own bailout next time and which required regular stress tests to prevent the next economic meltdown, is strongly opposed by Republicans, who really want to gut it. In lottery capitalism, the only people who win are people who don’t need the money. Isn’t that a great basis for an economy in a democratic system? 

Consider; suppose one of us buys a $2000 laptop, and our “at-will” employer lays us off a couple months later. If you choose to pay for your COBRA ahead of paying your credit card bill, that bank gets to charge you so much in interest, fees and penalties that your computer ends up costing you $4000. But when the bank did truly stupid shit that cost us half our 401(k), we are expected to assume the risk, and we don’t get to charge them for anything. That’s just how Republicans like the economy; good for the very lucky and the very rich, and you can pretty much kiss their blarney stones.

Republicans love it when a few people get really rich while screwing many others. Place your money into a bank right now, and a passbook account will pay you a whopping 0.3 percent, if you’re lucky and you agree to not touch your money for a few months. Let them keep your money for two years, and that baby might soar to a whopping 1.2 percent.  Meanwhile, for the privilege of allowing them to use our money rent-free, they’ll turn around and charge you 6 percent on a car loan, and upwards of 15 percent if you want a credit card. Oh, and they will charge you fees. Accidentally overdraft your account, it will cost you between $30-40 per item, and they will do their best to debit your account from largest to smallest item, and call that a “courtesy,” even tough they collect a lot more money that way. Use an ATM, and you’ll pay the ATM owner $1-$3, and you’ll pay your bank a buck or two as well. And don’t be late with a payment on that credit card. If you’re a day late, they’ll charge $25, and if you’re late twice within the course of a year, they’ll also double the interest rate, because you’re now considered a “high risk.” Yet, when they lose your money, they pay nothing extra, and taxpayers will bail them out.

Our Republican-driven lottery capitalist economy, and our all-but-blind obedience to such concepts as “credit scores” has made us debt junkies. It will take decades to recover and get us back to the version of capitalism that made us the envy of the world. But we can start the process in eight days, when we start voting out the Republican Party at every level. Let’s start doing this. Just remember; this election is just the beginning. Lottery capitalism is part of the Republicans’ DNA, while it’s not part of the Democratic philosophy at all, so let’s do this.

Also published on Medium.

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