Like nearly everyone else in the country, I did not win the $1.5 billion Powerball jackpot on Wednesday.
This has caused me to alter my plans a bit. As a result, I am now writing this column instead of relaxing on the beach of my private island somewhere in the south Pacific sipping umbrella drinks.
I am still worried about the stock market and its effect on my shrinking 401(k) instead of passing out cash to my children, grandchildren and other people and organizations I care about.
Oh well. As Kurt Vonnegut said, “So it goes.”
I’m starting to believe that if I were meant to be rich, I would be by now. But you never know. Col. Harland Sanders was 65 when he began his Kentucky Fried Chicken empire, so maybe I’ve still got a chance.
Perhaps it’s a good thing I didn’t win. If I ever hit a big jackpot, I’ll probably hear from all kinds of folks claiming to be my second cousin and expecting me to give them money because they’re family.
But I guess that’s what the private island is for, right?
On the evening of Jan. 12, the day before the $1.5 billion Powerball drawing, President Obama delivered his final State of the Union address. During that speech he announced plans to launch “another moonshot” to cure cancer. His point was that if this country could go from having no space program to having men walking on the moon in a decade, surely with the same kind of effort we should be able to find a cure for cancer.
The president also announced that he was appointing Vice President Joe Biden, whose son Beau died from cancer last year, to lead the effort.
The following morning, I heard on the news that recently Biden successfully lobbied for an increase in funding for cancer research. But when I heard the amount, I was a bit stunned. The increase in funding for cancer research amounted to less than half of the $1.5 billion Powerball jackpot.
Between Jan. 6 and Jan. 13 the Powerball jackpot tripled, from $500 million to $1.5 billion. That means enough tickets were sold in one week to grow the jackpot by $1 billion.
What, I thought, if everyone in America who bought Powerball tickets between Jan. 6 and Jan. 13 sent the same amount of money they spent on those tickets to Vice President Biden for the purposes of finding a cure for cancer?
For me that would amount to $16. If I can afford to spend $16 in hopes of beating odds of 1 in 292 million, surely I can donate another $16 to cancer research without busting my budget.
Even though the odds of winning Powerball are infinitesimal, there is always a chance. On Jan. 13, three people beat those odds, so I’ll keep playing, responsibly of course.
But I have a suggestion for Vice President Biden that might give his “moonshot” a real boost. Not everyone who bought Powerball tickets would be willing to donate the same amount of money toward cancer research, thinking, “What’s in it for me?”
But what if there were a national lottery similar to Powerball except that two-thirds of the jackpot amount would go to finding cures for cancer and other diseases, while the holder of the winning ticket would receive one-third.
Using the Jan. 13 drawing as an example, medical research would receive $1 billion, while the three winners would split $500 million. That’s still a pretty good payday.
Personally, I’d gladly forgo my personal island if it meant finding a cure for cancer and all the other diseases that cause so much pain and suffering for so many families around the world. I’d probably just get drunk and sunburned anyway.
So feel free to use my idea, Mr. Vice President. And good luck.