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Nicothodes

My classmates terrify me

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In America, the middle class is whoever you are most like, obviously.

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Originally Posted By: VCH
Is my middle class the same as yours? I doubt it.

And yes, I'm reading the wiki for it. But the views are pretty varied.
Not surprising. I've heard "middle class" defined about a dozen different ways using different combinations of criteria, often including some form of homeownership and a (usually narrow) range of income.

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Who said anything about other countries? (Alorael, I guess, but that's not the point.) There is a serious qualitative difference between the struggles a poor person faces and the struggles a typical middle-class American faces.

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My point is that we are in the process of an accelerating erosion/eradication of a middle class in America. Many of us are still relatively comfortable, which is why we permit our government to let the criminals in Wall Street who gave us the financial crisis of 2008 off the hook without a single person going to jail (apart from the independent thief, Maddof.) Back in the savings & loan crisis of the late 80's in the U.S., thousands went to jail for their criminal behavior in a crisis that was a fraction the size of the one created recently.

 

We're now so corrupt, and government is so interchangeable with the monied powers, that the writing is clearly on the wall. Those who have will continue to consolidate wealth into their hands while running this country into the ground, along with the world's environment, until they are forced to stop. The middle class is disappearing. The powers have forgotten that in order to thrive in the long run, they have to do enough good for and sharing with society at large to maintain a middle class that can afford all their products and services. We appear to live in a generation that has become so short-sighted (thanks in no small part to the the corporation—shareholder obligation driving so much of what gets done as business), that they are biting off the hands that feed them, as if they truly believed there were no tomorrow. It's socially criminal, dangerously irresponsible, earth-scorching behavior. I don't know what they are thinking. The answer seems to be, they are not thinking to any forseeable future. They have gone mad with power and greed.

 

I recommend two excellent documentaries that well explain what is going on in our financial and business world: Inside Job and The Corporation. If these don't raise your hackles, then nothing will. We need to get ourselves educated about what's really going on, along with getting ourselves educated so we can get a job. We can then make choices to act according to our conscience.

 

The crazy thing is that we the people have the power to put a stop to so much of this nearly overnight...if enough of us chose to do the same thing. These powers only stay in power because we give them our money, we buy their services. We have a vote far more effective than putting more insiders into political office. We have the dollars that run their machine. The day 100 million Americans stop buying products from such and such coporation or doing business with such and such bank, is the day they will be forced to change their ways or go out of business.

 

But like I said earlier, I think more of us are going to have become more uncomfortable, before we are spurred into action. But, I think, such a time is coming, and sooner than we might think.

 

-S-

 

P.S. Slarty, this isn't meant to be only a concern for the middle class. The overall theme is one of haves vs. have nots and the unprecedented disparity of wealth that exists today. It is shameful how many we have languishing in true poverty today also, and their need is more immediate and dire, true. We may all be in that same boat together in the not too distant future, and then enough of us will care to do something about it.

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*nod*

I know you're not just talking about the middle class, but what you're saying about that class specifically really confuses me:

Originally Posted By: Synergy
The middle class is disappearing.
On what basis do you make this claim? Because it sure doesn't _look_ like it's disappearing, no matter what definition of it you use.

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Defining middle class is valid. I know people in the 98th percentile of family income who think that they are middle class. They don't live in a mansion, so they are middle class. It's laughable.

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Originally Posted By: CRISIS on INFINITE SLARTIES
*nod*
I know you're not just talking about the middle class, but what you're saying about that class specifically really confuses me:
Originally Posted By: Synergy
The middle class is disappearing.
On what basis do you make this claim? Because it sure doesn't _look_ like it's disappearing, no matter what definition of it you use.

The middle class is disappearing, because wealth is ever more concentrated with the wealthy. We just keep redefining middle class. Standard of living is dropping and that is easy to perceive. I pay more for medical costs, transportation and food. That is the basic stuff of life.

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If the same medical, transportation, and food options are still available to you, then your standard of living hasn't changed. If they cost more but are still within your reach, that's inflation, not a shift in what counts as a certain class.

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Originally Posted By: Soul of Wit
Defining middle class is valid. I know people in the 98th percentile of family income who think that they are middle class. They don't live in a mansion, so they are middle class. It's laughable.
You want laughable? Here it comes.

When I was an income tax preparer, I did a return for a man who made only $20,000, and he felt insulted when the tax preparation program asked him if he wanted information on applying for some kind of government aid. I also did a return for a couple who made a little less than $125,000, and they couldn't understand why the government didn't consider them destitute. They all believed themselves to be somewhere in the middle class.

Also, I have trouble believing you know someone whose income is in the 98th percentile, unless you can prove that their annual income is a multiple of $10 million US.

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The 98th percentile for household income in the US is about 300,000 dollars, not $10,000,000.

 

Incidentally, while the gap between the rich and the middle class (whatever it may be) is growing, that's not the same as the middle class slipping into desperate poverty. Income has been stagnating, but not quite disastrously.

 

—Alorael, who finds American middle-class fetishism odd. It's a consequence of a culture built on rejection of aristocracy, but it's become bizarre. Some people are poor, and some people are rich. In fact, being able to go from rags to riches is another closely-held American ideal, and you need both rags and the rich to do that!

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Originally Posted By: The Mystic
When I was an income tax preparer, I did a return for a man who made only $20,000, and he felt insulted when the tax preparation program asked him if he wanted information on applying for some kind of government aid. I also did a return for a couple who made a little less than $125,000, and they couldn't understand why the government didn't consider them destitute. They all believed themselves to be somewhere in the middle class.

While I find the people with a combined income of over $1e5 considering themselves 'destitute' rather strange, it doesn't seem unreasonable to me that all of these people considered themselves middle class. In particular, the salary ranges you give describe myself and my parents, respectively, and I consider it quite reasonable to say that both I and they are in the middle class. We have essentially identical standards of living, but my parents have much higher expenses deriving from things like sending my brother and I to college. As a young single person I have very few medical expenses, don't have to spend anything to raise children, and only need a small space to live in.

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I think what defines middle class is mindset, not wealth or a certain standard of life. The middle class mindset is that things are good and only going to get better. So stagnating wages or inflation or anything else that makes people nervous about the quality of life now or in the future is enough to qualify as a threat to the middle class.

 

Dikiyoba.

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I think it's actually more a function of family size than simply absolute income. I make a quantity of money (let's say x) that would probably be enough so support a medium-sized family comfortably, or a large family decently enough (I cam from a large family myself, so I do know what I'm talking about here :p). However, despite the additional taxes I pay for my lack of dependents, the amount of money I bring in is enough to support me at a quite high (IMO) standard of living, which is why I have no intention of ever getting married or raising children, as doing so would be deleterious to the lifestyle I am now enjoying.

 

This is also, incidentally, the same chain of logic that has put Japan in the sordid demographic state it is in today. But eh, so long as the US continues to let in immigrants, we'll be fine demographics-wise.

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Originally Posted By: Dantius
...which is why I have no intention of ever getting married or raising children, as doing so would be deleterious to the lifestyle I am now enjoying.


you need the possibility of somebody wishing to mate with you in order to choose not to mate.

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Originally Posted By: Impudent Strumpet!
you need the possibility of somebody wishing to mate with you in order to choose not to mate.


Harsh. I would expect that comment from Thuryl, not yo- actually, I should have expected that from you.

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Originally Posted By: Synergy
But like I said earlier, I think more of us are going to have become more uncomfortable, before we are spurred into action. But, I think, such a time is coming, and sooner than we might think.


I'm skeptical of the ability of the current form of capitalism to generate enough discontent to drive any sort of Marxist revolution that you seem to desire; the middle class revolts for an unequal, but more fair, social democracy, not a worker's state. That said, the state of capitalism in the First World today is so flexible that it is unlikely this would happen, as the system is often self correcting, within the bounds of a social democracy.

If you claim to profess Marxism, look for the revolution in technology, not your purported erosion of the middle class. Marx's theory of historical materialism shows that the transition in modes of production is what generated the next stage of society, far more sensibly than any sort of class consciousness leading to a revolution.

From hunter-gather family clans we developed agriculture as a new mode of production, and the social form of humanity altered, and economy as we know it started to take form. From this ancient slave society, we developed better technology to sustain more lives, and the slave society matured into a feudalistic one, but the same premise was there. Then, with the onset of the technological advancements of the Industrial Revolution, society radically altered itself to manufacturing, despite the efforts of the Luddites and traditionalists.

The next logical step in the chain has been prophesied to various extent at various points, and in many senses, has already happened. The mode of production is already shifting away from human-driven machines to machine-driven machines; robots produce cars today where once people worked in factories. In terms of producing actual goods, and even some services, humans may become completely obsolete. On the heels of that, society will again radically alter - not necessarily to a communist utopia, but certainly something like it. Something preferable to modern capitalism, at the very least.

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Originally Posted By: FnordCola
I don't know, that's a pretty appealing mustache.


I like to call it the Chaplin, myself.

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Who wouldn't want to be with King Radical?

 

Also: parents pay for postsecondary? If they're willing to cover that investment, are they also willing to cover others like buying a car or a house?

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Originally Posted By: Niemand
While I find the people with a combined income of over $1e5 considering themselves 'destitute' rather strange,

It depends upon how fast they spend their money. It doesn't matter how rich you are if you spend it faster or even as fast as you make it. Just look at all the sports stars that make multi-million dollar salaries and are broke after they stop playing.

Middle class is usually defined by income level adjusted by family size.

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Originally Posted By: Dintiradan
Who wouldn't want to be with King Radical?

Also: parents pay for postsecondary? If they're willing to cover that investment, are they also willing to cover others like buying a car or a house?


In all fairness, buying your kid a Porsche or a condo in Miami Beach and getting him an MD are two totally different things in just about every respect except cost.

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I think that's a good articulation of Marx's account of history, and of the way things have actually happened thus far, but I don't think that rules out major discontent. Marx points out that the old social order and forms of production often hang on quite tenaciously, and this leads to dramatic conflict and social upheaval.

 

Your own latter paragraphs give a good example of this in the increasing mechanization of labor. While this allows the economy as a whole to produce goods in greater quantity and for less money (i.e. increases in productivity) it also forces people out of jobs. Unlike someone quitting or losing their job because of incompetence, owners of now-automated plants aren't going to hire some other unemployed but qualified person. Those jobs are just gone. In a communist country, or a capitalist democracy with stronger social welfare programs (e.g. many in western Europe), the government would provide these people with a decent standard of living until they could find another job in their field, or acquire the training necessary to move into a more promising field. In the United States, this is at best inconsistently the case. Thus there are many individuals without much money or employment-related purpose and drive, ergo substantial social discontent.

 

What worries me more is how good the GOP, and especially the Tea Party movement of late, has been at courting such discontented people. Because, let's face facts, for all that there are Republican legislators who have genuine concern for the unemployed, the Republican party line on economics in recent years has been pretty much "to hell with the poor."

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Originally Posted By: FnordCola
What worries me more is how good the GOP, and especially the Tea Party movement of late, has been at courting such discontented people. Because, let's face facts, for all that there are Republican legislators who have genuine concern for the unemployed, the Republican party line on economics in recent years has been pretty much "to hell with the poor."

"You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you can't fool all the people all the time."
- Abraham Lincoln

But you just need to fool some of the people long enough to get elected.

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Originally Posted By: Randomizer

"You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you can't fool all the people all the time."
- Abraham Lincoln


"I'll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours."

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RE: Middle class.

 

I'll admit that I've been skimming (I'm not online often enough to keep up with every post, and these ones are long). I would just like to add that, in addition to family size, other expenditures play an important role. My family income puts us roughly in the top 10% (barely) of income. However, in addition to 5 kids, we live in that nice area north of Baltimore, MD, where everything is about 10x the price that it should be. Also, when we had to leave our old home, the housing market was just starting to crap out, so we ended up being sued for our second mortgage.

 

Thus, while our income would not likely put us as "middle class," our standard of living (ok, maybe not that either) and our mindset is middle class.

 

And if this doesn't really contribute to discussion other than as a personal example, consider my post-count bumped.

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Originally Posted By: Dantius
which is why I have no intention of ever getting married [...] as doing so would be deleterious to the lifestyle I am now enjoying.

Well, maybe, but not due to a tighter budget. Presumably your spouse would be working and earning about the same as you do.

Dikiyoba.

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Originally Posted By: Randomizer
Originally Posted By: Niemand
While I find the people with a combined income of over $1e5 considering themselves 'destitute' rather strange,

It depends upon how fast they spend their money. It doesn't matter how rich you are if you spend it faster or even as fast as you make it.
Which was precisely the case with the "destitute" couple with the six-figure salary. And actually, if you're spending as much or more than you make, you're broke, not rich; you just look better on the fast track to the poor house.

Living "high on the hog" may be fine for some, but they had better make sure there's no demand for bacon.
Quote:
Just look at all the sports stars that make multi-million dollar salaries and are broke after they stop playing.
So I noticed. They make millions for playing a sport and endorsing products, and then spend the money as though they have an infinite supply. Then when they're done playing for whatever reason, they don't have a penny in savings.

Another good example would be people who win lottery jackpots; within about five years, a good number of them are either back to where they were or worse off than before they won.

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Part of what I've heard about winning the lottery is that it is far more a curse than a blessing. Apparently winners seem to attract a lot of frivolous lawsuits, unsolicited requests for donations, bitterness of family/peers, unwanted attention from unscrupulous individuals, etc. Conversely, after the initial high, lottery winners tend to develop problems such as alcoholism over time. Of course, counterexamples exist, but that appears to be the trend.

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Originally Posted By: *i
Part of what I've heard about winning the lottery is that it is far more a curse than a blessing.


Hurley is a prime example.

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It seems like we've established that class boundaries are not simple. What class someone is part of is a complex question that depends on at least the following:

- Income level (including financial support)

- Use of money / lifestyle

- Standard of living

 

Other things may correlate strongly with class, but do not actually determine it:

- Job

- Education

- Housing

- Social circle

- Self-Identification

 

I would like to suggest a further defining characteristic, which is that class is less mutable than income or any of the other class-determiners.

 

That is to say, changes in income, use of money, or standard of living are not necessarily changes in class, particularly if they are temporary.

 

A good example, often mentioned here, is that college students who work part time jobs for low pay, and buy cheap food like ramen because that's all they can afford, do not magically become members of the working poor. Most college students are from "higher" backgrounds (working class, middle class, or upper class) and expect to go back into one of those once their career has begun.

 

Similarly, if someone goes unemployed for a year, gets sued, has an unexpected and huge medical expense, etc., it can lead to a complete shift in class, but it is more likely to lead to a lot of temporary adjustments.

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Originally Posted By: CRISIS on INFINITE SLARTIES
If the same medical, transportation, and food options are still available to you, then your standard of living hasn't changed. If they cost more but are still within your reach, that's inflation, not a shift in what counts as a certain class.

Comparing the increases in costs of medical care, transportation and food to inflation is ridiculous. They increase much faster than the inflation rate. We can throw higher education in there, too. I have medical insurance that I can't afford to use, so my standard of living has changed--for the worse.

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What? Inflation is defined as the rate at which the cost of goods and services increases. Not everything changes at the same rate, of course, but saying that most basic costs increase faster than inflation is nonsensical.

 

If the medical care you're accustomed to is no longer available, it's because the cost of care is increasing faster than the cost of other things or because your income hasn't kept pace with inflation.

 

—Alorael, who has been saying that for a while now. Wages haven't gone up much in dollars, and the value of dollars in stuff has gone down.

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I think that most of the problems mentioned in this thread won't get fixed until people in general get over their obsession with money, especially people with power. Unfortunately that will probably never happen.

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Originally Posted By: *i
Part of what I've heard about winning the lottery is that it is far more a curse than a blessing. Apparently winners seem to attract a lot of frivolous lawsuits, unsolicited requests for donations, bitterness of family/peers, unwanted attention from unscrupulous individuals, etc. Conversely, after the initial high, lottery winners tend to develop problems such as alcoholism over time. Of course, counterexamples exist, but that appears to be the trend.


Interesting fact: In Canada Lottery winnings aren't taxed, so we get the whole jackpot.

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Originally Posted By: VCH
Originally Posted By: *i
Part of what I've heard about winning the lottery is that it is far more a curse than a blessing. Apparently winners seem to attract a lot of frivolous lawsuits, unsolicited requests for donations, bitterness of family/peers, unwanted attention from unscrupulous individuals, etc. Conversely, after the initial high, lottery winners tend to develop problems such as alcoholism over time. Of course, counterexamples exist, but that appears to be the trend.


Interesting fact: In Canada Lottery winnings aren't taxed, so we get the whole jackpot.


Interesting fact: I'll be spending quite a bit of time helping the Canadian Lottery's economic stability.

Not actually, I don't like lotteries. The company doesn't pay out all that it takes in, so even if you play often enough and win just as often as the odds say you will, you won't break even. It's no wonder why people have historically argued against government-supported lotteries. Early US governments supposedly used them to raise funds.

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Ah yes, the lottery. Better known by its colloquial epithets, "the tax on the stupid" or "the tax on those who can't do math".

 

I prefer to gamble on games I know I can win and that have no chance involved, like chess. Of course, then it stops being gambling and becomes something more along the lines of hustling.

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Originally Posted By: *i
Part of what I've heard about winning the lottery is that it is far more a curse than a blessing. Apparently winners seem to attract a lot of frivolous lawsuits, unsolicited requests for donations, bitterness of family/peers, unwanted attention from unscrupulous individuals, etc.
And there are some who think they're "set for life" and mistakenly think they have limitless cash, and waste it all.

But yeah, winning the lottery can be a curse if you're not careful (and even if you are, in many cases). If I won a large amount of money, the first things I would get are a really good financial planner, closely followed by a really good lawyer. Then I'd spend maybe $1 million of my winnings frivolously, just to get the high out of my system. Then I'd go into hiding.

Originally Posted By: VCH
Interesting fact: In Canada Lottery winnings aren't taxed, so we get the whole jackpot.
Lucky you. If I won a jackpot, a little under 40% goes to taxes (4.35% for Michigan income tax, and 35% for federal income tax) before I see a penny of it. eek

Originally Posted By: Master1
Not actually, I don't like lotteries. The company doesn't pay out all that it takes in, so even if you play often enough and win just as often as the odds say you will, you won't break even. It's no wonder why people have historically argued against government-supported lotteries.
I'm anti-lottery myself; I don't gamble, either. However, I won't deter others from playing.

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Most states in the US ban gambling, often on the grounds that casinos cheat people and ruin lives, etc., etc. State lotteries are hypocritical, as they have much worse odds then any casino game.

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Originally Posted By: Excalibur
State lotteries are hypocritical, as they have much worse odds then any casino game.
That's putting it mildly. A financial book I owned said that if you went gambling at a casino and spent the same amount on every bet, you'd get back an average of 95%; if you did this with a lottery, you'd get back an average of 50%. And that's before any applicable taxes on your "winnings."

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Originally Posted By: The Mystic
Originally Posted By: Excalibur
State lotteries are hypocritical, as they have much worse odds then any casino game.
That's putting it mildly. A financial book I owned said that if you went gambling at a casino and spent the same amount on every bet, you'd get back an average of 95%; if you did this with a lottery, you'd get back an average of 50%. And that's before any applicable taxes on your "winnings."



Worse. MegaMillions and Powerball, the lotteries we have in Illinois, randomly draws either five balls from a pool of 56and one from a pool of 46, or five from a pool of 59 and one from a pool of 39, respectively. Of course, with the exception of the special ball, they can be drawn in any order.

Just working out some quick probabilities, that means that the odds of winning a MegaMillions are 1 in 46*56!/(51!*5!) or about 1 in 175 million, and the odds of winning a PowerBall are 1 in 39*59!/(54!*5!) or 1 in 195 million. Considering that the jackpots are 12m and 20m before tax, again respectively, and considering that you really only get about 60% of that money, that's an expect value of 4 or 6 cents per dollar you spend. When you compare that to, say, the spin of a American roulette wheel betting on a single number (1 in 38 chance with a payoff of 35x your initial bet), which has an expected value of 92 cents per dollar, the lottery begins to seem like a phenomenally bad investment.

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Originally Posted By: Master1
Early US governments supposedly used them to raise funds.

State governments still use them to raise funds. I know a lot of Oregon's lottery revenue goes to the state park service, for instance.

Dikiyoba doesn't find casinos or lotteries bad in themselves. Wasting 5 dollars on lottery tickets or losing 50 dollars in a casino every once in a while isn't a great use of money, but it's not a terrible thing either. It's the gambling addictions they cause that make them odious.

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Originally Posted By: Dikiyoba
Originally Posted By: Master1
Early US governments supposedly used them to raise funds.

State governments still use them to raise funds. I know a lot of Oregon's lottery revenue goes to the state park service, for instance.


Lottery money goes to a lot of good causes in the UK, so I don't mind wasting a couple of pounds every so often to it. If every penny of lottery money went to prize winners though, I'd probably think twice about playing.

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Originally Posted By: The Mystic
I'm anti-lottery myself; I don't gamble, either. However, I won't deter others from playing.


That's pretty much how I feel about the whole thing. As long as you don't develop a gambling addiction that affects those around you in society, you're welcome to gamblewaste your money as you see fit.

It's interesting to hear that lotteries are still going to state income. Are these taxes on private lotteries such as PB and MM or are they publicly run lotteries?

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Dikiyoba can't think of any private lotteries in the US (not that Dikiyoba know much about it). Dikiyoba thinks they're all state run.

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Originally Posted By: Dantius
(stuff about lottery odds)
That's one of the main reasons I don't play lotteries. With insanely low odds of winning, I don't consider it worthwhile to buy tickets, even occasionally. When combined with the fact that I've won a total of only $5 over ten years (total spent: about $500), that's all the deterrent I need.

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I play a $2.00 lottery, especially when the jackpot is high 40-50million. The entry price is low enough that it end up being a "why not" kind of purchase.

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Originally Posted By: VCH
I play a $2.00 lottery, especially when the jackpot is high 40-50million. The entry price is low enough that it end up being a "why not" kind of purchase.


$40-50m Canadian dollars is what, about $1.59 US? Then again, I guess with the ticket so low, the reasoning is probably along the lines of "Eh, why not, eh?".

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Originally Posted By: Dintiradan
Now, if you excuse me,
.


Man, Canadian humour sorta blows.

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