Somewhere out there this morning a person’s life has been profoundly changed overnight. There is a single owner of a winning ticket worth $1.6 billion. It’s not me. I wasn’t in the running only because I forgot to stop and buy a Mega-Millions ticket yesterday. The odds were never in my favor. The odds are not in the winner’s favor, either. Windfalls destroy lives far more often than they improve them. I hope this winner beats those odds. I’ll be rooting for them, whoever they are.
I have thought often of what I would do with a massive lottery win. How I would invest it wisely, start a foundation that would address economic and environmental injustice, create trusts for myself and those I love. How I would travel more and worry less and maybe even buy myself a mountaintop retreat. But the odds are that it wouldn’t make me any happier than I am now. That’s not to say I wouldn’t take the money.
Windfalls destroy lives. This can be seen no more clearly than the windfall most apparent to us all right now, the $413 million sequestered into Donald J. Trump’s tiny hands from those of his father, a fortune used to finance the illusion of acumen and grandeur. A fortune with consequences for us all. Usually it’s the winner who pays the price for unearned gain. In this case, we all pay. By virtue of the illusion financed by those ill-gotten gains, Trump has squirreled himself into our coffers, has squandered our national good will, plundered our clean air, clean water and public lands, and worst of all, soiled our civil discourse.
My only hope is that one day, we’ll be able to look back on this moment in history and laugh. That there still will be an America, a place where an average Jane or Joe can go from just getting by to billionaire overnight. But only if they’re unlucky enough to do so.