Marybeth: Tragedy of lottery winner proves money didn’t matter in the end
My dad always says the state-sponsored lottery is a tax on the poor.
It’s true. The folks who can least afford to blow $20 or more every few days on lottery tickets are the ones hustling down to the convenience store to buy Mega Millions and Daily Doubles and every sort of get-rich-quick game they can find, in the hope of hitting that big payoff and living for the rest of their lives in the lap of luxury.
Sadly, the “lotto loser” stories are so common they’re a cliché. But this one is particularly painful…
Last fall, then-24-year-old Amanda Clayton won $1,000,000 in the Michigan lottery ($750,000 after taxes). Soon thereafter, it was discovered she was still collecting food stamps, having previously qualified for aid because of her low income. (Yes, I share your annoyance that we taxpayers helped her buy food, but that somehow she had enough money to buy lotto tickets.)
The video of Clayton’s inarticulate explanation of why she remained on public assistance illustrated to many of us how broken our system has become. Claiming she had lots of bills to pay, Clayton pointed to the fact that she owned two houses and therefore still needed the support. She was found guilty of fraud, required to repay $5,500 to the State, and was also put on probation.
(Subsequently, Michigan’s Gov. Rick Snyder signed a law requiring the lottery commission to report to the State’s social services department the names of people whose winnings would bar them from public assistance. One can only imagine how much money had already evaporated due to this little loophole.)
Now the sad story in today’s news: Clayton was found dead over the weekend in the home of a friend of an apparent prescription drug overdose. One of her two young children was in the room with her – the body was discovered when the friend who owned the home came to the aid of the crying child.
Not only did Clayton’s windfall not save her from the hardships of poverty, or offer her a way out of her circumstances, but it appears to have literally caused her demise. The marginally educated, single mother spent her winnings on a home, cars for herself and her father, and other luxuries, but it appears on nothing to change the trajectory of her life.
Proving once again that it’s not the money – or the lack of it – but our choices that define us.
God bless her children.