Today’s New York Times finds the grey lady engaged in her usual gnashing of teeth and rending of garments over The Deficit, in this case, that of the State of New York which it describes as "alarming."
The sum occasioning the state of near panic? $9.2 billion.
Oddly, in the previous week, the Times business section reported on the bonus pool to be distributed among Goldman-Sachs employees.
The sum in question: $14 billion.
It does not take a genius to recognize that the problem and the solution are in very close proximity to one another-separated, as it were, by only a few pages of newsprint.
All it takes is moving a manmade mountain of cash to fill a giant hole we have dug for ourselves.
A generation ago, we would have made this transfer via taxation-from those few who are stuffed with cash to the many who need it.
But three full decades of market fundamentalist brainwashing has removed this obvious-not to mention unimpeachably fair and just- solutions from the table.
The answer? Liberation Lotto: A lottery with a twist to be explained below.
But before doing so, it is worth noting that state lotteries, since their massive expansion in the early 1980s now fund many programs and they do so by transferring wealth from the most impoverished communities-those who are most susceptible to the disease of addictive gambling.
Since we have a lottery system up and running, we should put it, and its popularity to use. And here’s how it should work.
First, rather than being required to purchase tickets, tickets would be issued free to those eligible to participate.
And-here’s the second twist-rather than targeting the poor, the ticket holders in this lottery would be the most asset-laden citizens of a state-those with a net worth of $100 million and above.
Finally, rather than the hand of the state depositing money in the pocket of a bus driver, unemployed day laborer or secretary, it will do the exact opposite, which is to say that it will extract funds from those who now have wealth beyond their dreams of avarice.
Our lucky winner will required to avail him or herself of the opportunity to deposit into the general revenues of their state 75% of all their assets above $20 million, or face stiff criminal punishment.
Imagine the nightly news lottery segment. Our lovely host removes, say, the numbers 7, 7, and 3 from the hopper. Then she consults her list and, flashing a winning smile, announces that "Mortimer Zuckerman of 451 Park Ave., New York City is tonight’s lucky winner of Liberation Lotto!"
The host’s side kick then intones, sotto voce: "According to recent tax documents, Mr. Zuckerman’s net worth will require he make a donation of $675,845, 321 to the general fund of the State of New York or be subject to wage garnishment, expropriation of assets and/or imprisonment."
A week later, David Viniar of Goldman Sachs will see his number come up. A week after that, maybe it would be John Paulson, or David Shaw, or Mayor Bloomberg.
The suspense would be enormous. Ratings would go through the roof.
In a few short weeks, the budget deficit would be eliminated.
And after that, each week would target another billionaire’s asset portfolio channelling it into one or another underfunded state program-state parks threatened with closing, rolling back the firing of thousands of public school teachers, public transportation systems, food assistance or public housing.
All of these would be flush with cash by the year’s end. Those making the contributions would barely notice-though it might put a small crimp in the luxury yacht, high end real estate and private jet sales.
Liberation Lotto: an idea whose time has come!
JOHN HALLE is Director of Studies in Music Theory and Practice at Bard College. He can be reached at: email@example.com