The winners and the losers: Police officer's gift, Powerball, Beehive State government

Published: Saturday, Dec. 1 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

This photo shows New York City Police Officer Larry DePrimo presenting a barefoot homeless man with boots.

Associated Press

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Winner: Two things about New York Police officer Larry DePrimo's decision to put socks and shoes on a homeless man make it the feel-good story of the Christmas season. One is DePrimo's decision in the first place. He paid $75 out of his own pocket for the items and he physically put them on the man with no thought that anyone else would ever see or know what he had done. The other is public reaction, which shows that charity and decency remain cherished values in society. A tourist took a photo of the officer putting the shoes on the man. That photo had been seen by 1.9 million viewers by the middle of this week. DePrimo shook off the adulation, saying his parents brought him up to do such things. Actually, that brings the total to three reasons this is a great story.

Loser: Most of the nation will fixate on the folks who won this week's Powerball lottery, becoming instant multi-millionaires. Few people will focus on the losers, which include everyone else in the country whether they bought a ticket or not. As NBC.com pointed out this week, about 72 cents of every dollar spent on a state lottery goes to something other than education or similar government programs that are supposed to benefit. Much of it goes to administrative costs, including to a foreign conglomerate that operates lotteries worldwide. In addition, there is irony to the lottery frenzy. Americans just cast votes indicating they feel the wealthiest people ought to pay more in taxes. The lottery, however, entices a disproportionate percentage of the poor to willingly pay a tax, most of which doesn't go to the government. And they do this in exchange for an infinitesimal chance to become rich.

Winner: Utah has the fourth best-run state government in the nation, according to Wall Street 24/7. The Web site released results of a study this week, showing the Beehive State not too far behind the leader, North Dakota, a state that has benefited mightily from oil production made profitable by higher energy costs. Utah's growth, however, is not based on boom-or-bust industries. Its sound fiscal management has helped the state weather difficult times and overcome hefty budget deficits without tax increases. The state's annual growth in GDP ranks eighth. Clearly, there is room for improvement but, fiscally speaking, the state is much more than a day's drive from California, and that's good news.

Winner: We agree that Utah's school students could benefit from more physical education during the day, so a state lawmaker's proposal to get teachers to include more jumping and moving into the daily curriculum makes sense. At the same time, however, many schools have had to reduce or eliminate structured P.E. classes for budgetary reasons, and because state lawmakers have emphasized academic subjects. The plan is to incorporate exercise sessions of various sorts into the daily routine. It would be nice to see the balance shift back a bit in that direction.

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