What the Powerball Breakout Can Tell Us About the US Economy


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The economy of the 2020s is hard to read. Like, are we in a recession? Technically, no, but “technically” carries a lot of weight there. Economists look to several indicators – GDP growth, employment, bond yields, wages, etc. – to determine the answer.

Of course, there are other less scientific but more fun ways to gauge economic health. Famously, there’s the Lipstick Index, which suggests increased lipstick sales in lean times because it’s an inexpensive indulgence that makes people happy. Alan Greenspan presented the men’s underwear index, showing that sales of boxers and briefs fell from 2007 to 2009, during the Great Recession, before picking up as the economy recovered.

Another indicator, deeply unscientific: the Powerball.

See it here: The Powerball lottery jackpot is set to hit $1.9 billion ahead of tonight’s draw, the biggest lotto prize ever.

Your odds of winning are tiny – around 1 in 292 million. You are more likely to be eaten by a shark. Or be struck twice by lightning. Then again, the odds that you exist on planet Earth are 400 quadrillion to one, so you’re already winning in the grand scheme of, like, the cosmos.

Conventional wisdom said that people would shell out lottery tickets even in lean times, willing to risk a few dollars in hopes of winning big.

But during the Great Recession, state lotteries reported huge declines as desperation set in for millions. In 2010, sales were picking up, even though people were still reeling from the recession.

In this context, we can see this week’s Powerball record as a sign that people are looking for comfort in a bit of financial escapism. The jaw-dropping jackpot tends to attract people who don’t normally buy lotto tickets.

Blowing money on a bet you’re virtually guaranteed to lose isn’t a rational decision, but it’s a fantasy people can always afford. And with the costs of daily necessities rising, what’s a few bucks for a Powerball? Again, this may not be rational, but it is undeniably human.

History suggests that there is a point of financial frustration and fear at which even a $2 bet seems unwise. We are clearly not there yet.

Manhattan prosecutors have seized nearly $3.4 billion in bitcoin from a real estate developer accused of stealing funds from the Silk Road dark web market more than a decade ago, according to Bloomberg News.

Investigators say the case marks the second-largest crypto seizure for the Justice Department.

It’s been just 10 days since Elon Musk took the reins of Twitter, firing its C-suite, disbanding its board, laying off thousands of staff and vowing to undermine the platform’s user verification process. .

The mood on Twitter is chaotic.

Over the weekend, a group of celebrities and others with verified profiles sought to poke holes in Musk’s mass verification plan, which would allow any user to pay $8 a month for it. blue check mark icon which was historically reserved for people who ‘have been approved by the platform. It drew mockery from comedians who changed their names and profile pictures to copy Musk’s, highlighting the flaw in a system that doesn’t really, uh, Check who controls the account.

Sarah Silverman and Kathy Griffin have both had their accounts temporarily locked or suspended as a result.

Musk, who previously said he would not change Twitter’s content moderation policies until a council is in place, posted an executive order on his account, saying, “Any handful of Twitter engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying “parody” will be permanently suspended.” He later tweeted that the suspension would no longer come with a warning.

As Richard Lawler of The Verge said:

“This is an abrupt update from the person who just days ago tweeted ‘Comedy is now legal on Twitter’ after taking over the company. Comedy is legal – so much that she follows the rules, which are what Elon says they are and can change at any time.

As Musk figures out exactly what he wants to do with his $44 billion toy, many people are looking for less chaotic substitutes.

One is called Mastodon, a lesser-known network that’s been around since 2016 and is similar to Twitter.

But, as my colleague Rachel Metz writes, there may not be a clear alternative to Twitter. “Mastodon is kind of a social media escape hatch in case Twitter gets unbearable,” says Rachel. But if he can replicate the magic of Twitter when Twitter was good, it’s with the social media gods.

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