Harold and Patricia Tucker recently passed their 50th anniversary. There was no celebration.
Married a month after their high school graduation, Patricia worked as a secretary in a local law firm to help Harold attend law school. Harold went on to climb the corporate ladder, becoming the chief counsel of a major insurance company by age 44. Unable to get pregnant, they adopted two children: John and Elizabeth.
Disaster stuck when Harold was 58. After experiencing memory problems, speaking difficulties, and bouts of physical pain, doctors suggested a series of tests, culminating in a biopsy of the brain. He was diagnosed with Pick’s disease.
There is no known cure for Pick’s disease, which attacks the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. The symptoms include dementia, memory loss, and loss of motor control, typically leading to death within eight to ten years. Patients often spend their final days in an assisted living facility.
Pick’s disease intensified Harold’s constant pain. Relief only came from heavy drug usage and semi-consciousness.
The Dilemma of a Fatal Disease
Terminal conditions are devastating. Life turns upside down – even the values held for a lifetime can be questioned. Psychologists claim that no one copes with impending death in the same manner, although many go through a variation of Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
As Harold’s symptoms increased, he was forced to resign from his job, relying on Patricia for his day-to-day care. Every movement sent spasms of pain through his body, necessitating a daily regiment of opioid pills and patches. The side effects of the medication were almost as bad as the pain itself, with bouts of severe constipation, stomach aches, and drowsiness. The need for Patricia to handle his most intimate hygiene needs confirmed his helplessness.
Rather than spend his last days in pain, using up the savings intended for his wife and family, Harold determined that his life would end on his terms – not at the whim of some disease.
What actions would you take if diagnosed with a fatal, debilitating disease such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Alzheimer’s disease? Many believe that they would prefer to die on their terms, rather than endure the ravages of disease. Others accept continued life, despite the emotional and financial costs for their survivors.
Few realize that they do not have a choice if the situation arises, especially if they live in 45 of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia, where assisted suicide is illegal. In the five remaining right-to-die states – California, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington – the right to control the circumstances of your death is strictly controlled.
Public lotteries have a long history. From Caesar Augustus (where tickets had prizes of slaves, real estate, and ships) to European governments during the Middle Ages (which relied heavily on lotteries for revenue), state-run lotteries have continually proven lucrative, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Not surprisingly, the United States of America also has a long history of lotteries. Considered “voluntary taxes,” early lotteries were used to fund new colleges such as Harvard, Dartmouth, Yale, and Brown. In 1745, the General Court of Massachusetts passed an act allowing a lottery to pay off costs defending the colony’s frontier and seacoasts. By 1831, eight states held 420 lotteries.
Today, lotteries are the most popular form of gambling in the United States, with two times as many annual participants as those who visit a casino. A Gallup Research Poll indicates that nearly 50% of Americans buy state lottery tickets each year. The majority of participants have a technical, college or post-graduate degree, earning more than $36,000 a year.
The popularity of gambling has also been global, with numerous governments taking a cut. One of the longest-running lotteries was the Irish Sweepstakes from 1930 to 1987, the revenues of which benefited Ireland’s public hospitals. A state-run lottery managed by the country’s postal system replaced the Sweepstakes, providing more than £30 million for government-sponsored projects each week. According to the United Kingdom’s official National Lottery website, more than £1,901 million ($2.37 billion in U.S. dollars) has funded 500,000 projects since its origination in 1994.
According to the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries (NAASPL), more than $110 billion of lottery tickets were sold in the United States in 2015. Roughly $33 billion of that was redirected to state and local governments. According to figures compiled by the U.S. Treasury Department, that represents approximately one-tenth of the Federal Government’s annual revenues from corporate taxes ($344 billion) and slightly more than 2% of the $1.5 trillion received from individual income taxes.
With huge participation rates and billions in revenue, redirecting lottery funds can make a significant impact. As the national debt continues to rise, many have called for a national lottery, with proceeds spent paying down debt.
Is it time to offer a national lottery in the United States to retire the National Debt?
The Growing National Debt
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the total U.S. national debt will be $20 trillion by the end of 2016, a 347% increase since 2000. Many economists consider only the debt held by the public in their calculations, discounting the effect of intra-government holdings (an estimated $5.5 trillion at the end of the year). The majority of the intra-governmental holdings are in the Medicare and Social Security Trust Funds, as well as the Federal Financing Bank securities.