Innovative ways to stimulate the economy: Hold a national lottery

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Here's how the stimulus money flows -- a flood reaches federal agencies, which in turn send a river of money to state and local government entities, which transfer a creek of cash to project contractors, who pay out a dribble of this largess to its workers. If the goal is to stimulate the economy by getting those bucks circulating, why not bypass the bureaucracy and give the loot to those who spend it most freely, the American public?

Here's an out-of-the-box idea for how to distribute the cash quickly, and in a way sure to please the majority of taxpayers. Hold a daily lottery, in which every U.S. citizen is automatically entered.

Televise it on national TV during prime time. Imagine this -- each evening, Bob Barker invites a blindfolded celebrity to spin an enormous basket full of ping-pong balls, each representing a citizen of the U.S. The celeb reaches deep into the basket and pulls out ten winning balls. Vanna White then hands each of those winners $1 million of stimulus money. To make the program even more impactful, the government could throw in a free Chevy and a dozen shares of AIG.

At $10 million a day, the government could hold this lottery every day for 100 years and still only give away half of the total sum of the most recent stimulus package. ($10 million/day x 365 days = $3.65 billion x 100 years = $365 billion.)

If entertainment value is a desirable goal, the giveaway could even be turned into a competition. Each night, 20 contestants could be selected to compete for ten $1 million prizes. These competitions could be as staid as Jeopardy or as ridiculous as Hole in the Wall. As down home as cornhole, or uptown as Name That Aria. There could be turkey shoots and Hacky Sack competitions, bass tournaments and spelling bees, knit-offs and Guitar Hero bouts. And every night ends with 10 new millionaires.

A recent study found that almost a third of lottery winners end up in bankruptcy, so the chances that this money will be infused into the economy quickly is very high. And every citizen gets an equal chance to strike it rich. Isn't that the American way?

Do you think this would stimulate the economy? Tells us why, or share your stimulus ideas. And see more of our Innovative Ways to Stimulate the Economy.

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