by Max Brantley
Michael Nelson, a Rhodes College professor and author of a book about the political dimension of the South's growing love of lotteries, blogs on the Chronicle of Higher Education about getting crosswise with wannabe Gov. Bill Halter over lottery issues.
He recounts the key points he made in a recent talk at the Clinton School and the typically over-the-top retort from Halter's bumptious lottery mouthpiece.
UPDATE: A Halter camp response.
FROM HIS ARTICLE
“One thing you need to realize, if you adopt a lottery,” I said as part of this summary, citing two of the least-disputed findings in the academic literature on the subject, “is that a steeply disproportionate share of lottery tickets are going to be bought by poor and working-class people and a steeply disproportionate share of the college scholarships are going to go to the sons and daughters of middle and upper-middle-class families. It’s kind of curious that it’s Democrats who promote lotteries, but it’s been one of the few winning issues they’ve had in the South.”
Little did I know the wrath I was arousing. All four Little Rock television stations were there (“That’s a first for us,” one of my hosts marveled; “even Madeleine Albright didn’t get all four”), along with some print reporters. The next day’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette featured a front-page story on my talk that included the following two paragraphs:
“Halter spokesman Bud Jackson said Arkansans ‘are smart enough to trust the facts over some kooky college professor trying to turn a quick buck with a book that is several chapters short of being an honest and complete representation of reality.’
“Arkansans ‘would also be thrilled to know that the kooky professor would prefer tax hikes for all people rather than a voluntary game that would benefit tens of thousands of Arkansans with new scholarships.’”
Well, you got me, Bill Halter. Just another kooky professor trying to get rich by running the well-known scam of university press publishing.
And, yes, if state-funded college scholarships are a good idea—and I think they are—then go out and do the hard work of persuading people to fund them with their taxes. Don’t use the power and moral authority of the state to sucker poor people into losing money in weak-odds lotteries so that kids whose families can afford to send them to college can do so at a discount.
BUD JACKSON RESPONDS
Over the top and bumptious, huh? Points for using the word "bumptious". Although it seems a little "over-the-top."
Most Arkansans agree that raising all of their taxes instead of establishing a voluntary lottery is just plain kooky. And I don't see the professor forgoing his profits or turning them over to a likeminded organization, which would better demonstrate that peddling a book for his own profit isn't one of his foremost motivations.
Had the professor truly wanted to do something to make a difference, then perhaps he should have brought his kooky tax-raising idea to Arkansas voters. I suspect he wouldn't have been able to get the signatures needed. But that's just me talking. Color me, bumptious.