Tax some more, then ask what for
April 08, 2009
It seems counterintuitive, faulty and misguided to argue against the recent hikes in cigarette taxes. Smokes are bad. Smelly. Nasty. Deadly. Addictive.
People who say they enjoy smoking (I was one of them) aren't being entirely true. You enjoy it because you need to smoke in order to feel good. You kid yourself that smoking brings you pleasure, but really you're pleased only because you're getting another fix of the drug you're addicted to. And like the good little addict that you are you don't think too much about it because: A) It's not heroin; B) Cigarettes are legal; C) People you know—good, smart, conscientious people—smoke too.
Eventually you come to know that smokes will kill you. But by the time you really believe it to be true you've been puffing away for years and begin to feel the effects. You really hate being chained to the pack, but go to great lengths to make sure you always have one—and another one for backup in case of a blizzard or blackout or invasion.
Everywhere you go you have to figure out how you'll get out for a fix, whether or not you have enough smokes, where you'll be able to go to puff down and what you'll say to all your nonsmoking friends and family members when you excuse yourself from all the food and conversation to suck 4,000 deadly chemicals into your lungs because you need to in order to feel "better."
Yes, smoking's great. Big fun. Real enjoyable.
I'm glad I'm unchained these days, but I'm less than excited about the whopping increase in the cigarette tax that went into effect on April Fool's Day. I'm hoping that was not on purpose.
See, as much as I think smoking's not good I think picking a certain 'distasteful' and/or 'unpopular' personal lifestyle choice to impose a 'sin tax' upon is a dangerous, dangerous thing. Foolish, even.
The president's 61.6 cent hike on each pack of smokes imposed Wednesday brings the per-pack rate Michigan smokers pay up to $3.01. Imagine that! Sheer taxes, state and federal.
The state tax (which brings in about $420 million annually) supposedly helps fund K-12 education. Obama's hike is going to to finance the expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, which is supposed to provide federally funded health care for an additional four million children. Education and health care are great things. But I'm not so sure it's great to fund such programs on the backs of those who participate in something that's widely touted as horrible, unhealthy and even dumb. How does that make sense at all?
Beyond that, the excessive 'sin tax' is yet another example of the government arbitrarily deciding how to lay their hands on more of our money for ever burgeoning programs that don't necessarily smack of success.
And even if they were the most successful programs in the entire universe (this is a big stretch, all we have to do is look at the deteriorating situation with public education), the imposition of the excessive cigarette tax begs the question "what's next?" The argument about alcohol is an old one, but we've all heard about recent attempts by some of our elected officials to impose a 'fast food tax' to supposedly get the restaurant chains to improve their menus. This was actually proposed recently by a Michigan legislator, and was heavily debated in New York and for all I know could already be in effect in California (just kidding).
Using this type of logic, as an ex-smoking vegetarian I say impose an excise tax on factory farmed beef. Factory farms are an environmental hazard with questionable ethics, inhumane policies and health practices. They displace the family farms.
It is a fact that when mass produced beef is not processed properly it sickens—and can even kill—lots of people from kids on up to senior citizens.
Further, imposition of this tax on factory farmed beef sends a message that these things are not good and though people know this they still like steaks and burgers and want to eat them anyway. The tax may discourage some beef consumption, but we know that people will still eat beef, and those who so choose will just have to pay extra for their "freedom" to do so...
After all, we all know that "freedom isn't free." Actually, it's getting more and more expensive by the moment...unless of course you're with AIG...
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