PIERRE - Two interesting pieces of South Dakota economic news broke in the past few days. The first is that South Dakota now ranks 12th in per capita income as a result of income growth well above the national average. The other interesting tidbit of information is that lottery tickets are selling at faster pace this year than last.

These things are not unrelated, but you have to look beyond the surface to see why.

First consider the income growth, which is, generally speaking, a good thing. It is up more than 67% since 2000. Mind you though, that we are talking about income per capita, which is an average number. So if your income hasn’t gone up by two-thirds over the past dozen years or so, it is because somebody else’s has gone up by more than that and made up the difference. In other words, a few people at the top making a lot more, compensate for the vast majority making only a little bit more. How much has your income gone up since 2000?

Next think about who plays the lottery. The lottery has long been denigrated as a poor tax with a happy face. By and large, low income and working class households tend to be the ones who spend a significant portion of their take home pay on the hope of coming into some easy money. The proceeds go to support education, but the result is a shift of the burden of paying for schools toward lower income households.

Taken together, a picture begins to develop. Lower income households have seen their incomes increase a little over the past few years and where is that money going? Among other things, it is increasingly being gambled away on state sanctioned scratch-offs.

And what of those who are making so much more than they did in 2000 that they have raised the average increase to such a high percentage?

Well, suffice it to say that the next time we hear our state’s elected officials say that they can’t afford to pay for education or some other public priority, know that they aren’t serious. What they really mean is that they just don’t want to ask those who have already benefitted the most to cough up a little more. Instead they would rather have those who are desperate to participate in the American Dream foot more of the bill by scratching their paychecks away.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John Gossom and do not reflect Results Radio, Townsquare Media, its sponsors or subsidiaries.

More From KXRB