February 02, 2009

Match This for Stupidity: Taxing a House of Cards

... by Walter Brasch

My wife is a smoker. Except for one year when she quit, she's been a smoker since she was about 18. But she's cut back, from as many as three packs a day to just three cigarettes. And, she now smokes outside the house.

At various times, she was asked to show an ID. When in her 20s she saw it as an annoyance. By her 30s and 40s, it was a compliment. Now it's just downright annoying.

The law restricts persons under 18 years of age from buying or smoking cigarettes. My wife understands why she must be "carded."

Yesterday she was carded when she wanted to buy two lighters. The sweet lady at the grocery checkout counter said that the chain store is carding everyone who buys lighters. Something about a juvenile who used a lighter and accidentally set his house on fire.

The law doesn't say a person must be at least 18 to buy a cigarette lighter. But, the reasoning is that people buy cigarette lighters to—well—light cigarettes. Therefore, cigarette lighters—which can be used for many things other than to light up—also must be controlled. So, every adult, from the 20s to the gray-haired elderly, will also be "carded" when they buy lighters.

If this restrictive and selective enforcement continues, we might soon see stores carding people who buy cups, because they could be used to hold beer. Anyone who buys watermelons would be carded since plugged, spiked, and corked watermelons are a delightful summer treat. Jello, once promoted by all-American "dad" Bill Cosby, would be suspect, since there aren't many college parties without Jello shots.

Unlike the sale of cigarettes and liquor, there is no age restriction on most foods. So, various health-nut organizations and not-so-bright legislators have decided to tax foods they don't think are acceptable. Several legislators have tried, but so far have failed, to enact legislation that would tax high-calorie foods. New York Gov. David Patterson wants to levy a 15 percent tax on any juice or drink except diet sodas, bottled water, coffee, tea, and milk.

Eventually, we'll see a special "obesity tax" placed against anything sold at a fast food restaurant.

When you break through the smoke and mirrors, governments really don't care about anyone's health. They do care about ways to generate revenue. Gov. Patterson readily acknowledges that the "obesity tax" in New York would generate about $400 million additional revenue. New York also leads the nation in cigarette taxes. A smoker in New York City pays about $9 per pack, which includes a 39 cents federal tax, a $2.75 state tax, a $1.50 city tax, plus an 8 percent sales tax on top of everything else. Chicago is second, with taxes totaling $3.66 a pack. States and the federal government collect about $26 billion a year in cigarette taxes, according to a New York Times report in August 2008.

Liquor taxes aren't meant to make anyone healthy, except the state economy. In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a five cent a drink tax that, had the legislature not tabled the suggestion, would have raised $600 million a year. Overall, the federal government collected more than $9 billion in taxes, while states collected an additional $6 billion, according to a comprehensive analysis published in June 2007 by the National Center for Policy Analysis.

With budgets being pumped up by numerous "sin taxes," it won't be long until someone figures out they need not only to card buyers of cigarette lighters, cups, watermelons, and Jello, but that there also needs to be special excise taxes upon these products as well.

[The assistance of Rosemary R. Brasch is appreciated. Walter Brasch's latest book is Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush, available at amazon.com, bn.com, and most bookstores. You may contact Dr. Brasch at brasch@bloomu.edu, or through his website, www.walterbrasch.com]

Posted by Walter Brasch at February 2, 2009 12:06 AM | Guest Writings | Technorati links |

Carville:Stimulus: Limbaugh demands stimulus gets ideological share - by share in presidential vote

He writes, "Fifty-three percent of American voters voted for Barack Obama; 46% voted for John McCain, and 1% voted for wackos. Give that 1% to President Obama. Let's say the vote was 54% to 46%.

"As a way to bring the country together and at the same time determine the most effective way to deal with recessions, under the Obama-Limbaugh Stimulus Plan of 2009: 54% of the $900 billion -- $486 billion -- will be spent on infrastructure and pork as defined by Mr. Obama and the Democrats; 46% -- $414 billion -- will be directed toward tax cuts, as determined by me."

And he is serious. However much one may disagree with the current "daddy" of all Republicans (Beg to differ? See Rep. Phil Gingrey, who apologized last week for doubting Rush), you have to admire El Rushbo's principled stance and his well-known consistent ideology.

Why surely it seems like just yesterday that Al Gore won the national popular vote in 2000 (and arguably won the popular vote in Florida too).

Limbaugh must have called for the incoming Bush administration to allocate ideas based on the proportion of election returns. I'm sure President Bush and the Republicans in Congress graciously accepted their 49.5 percent share of everything. (Note: We would be much better off right now had this actually happened.)

Posted by: ccoaler at February 2, 2009 12:43 AM

This is some commentary on the papal decision to lift a ban on WIlliamson.

So Martin Luther was right 1519 when he criticized that the pope is errorless. He risked to be banned from the church.
Such a ban was now lifted by pope Benedikt XVI and thus the pope confirmed the thesis of the reformer Luther indirectly. Id est the papal decision to get an aggressive holocaust denier back into the cradle of the church. That can be seen at best as an extreme maildecision.
It is shaking that Benedikt the 16th, whose pointed positioning and profiled personality I admired in many columns as a protestant, is so far from truth. He rehabilitates four archconservative bishps, among them Richard Williamson who is currently coordinating a priest school in Argentine. This convinced antisemite, whom the neonazis celebrate as a hero, just currently denied in a TV-interview that there were gas chambers and that the nazis killed 6 million jews. Incomprehensible that the will for the unity of the church should be so big that such contradiction is accepted, meaning criminal and human dignity denying utters. This scandal enacted a wave of worldwide disgust, Jewish organization stopped their cooperation with the Vatican and catholics don't understand their pope anymore. That's exactly the pope who earned so many hearts of the believers and who was able to get so many young people cheering about belief. This is all a gamble now because he doesn't admit that he errored. To the idea to leave Mr. Williamson where the Pampas is was a new reason added recently: exactly his recent apology tops what he said before. He is sorry for his remarks "not thought thru" and due to which the pope had to take such a care. He announced this to the Vatican. Instead he didn't take back one syllable of his inexcusable Ausschwitz lies. There's no reconciliation without forgiveness. Real forgiveness is only possible if people ask to be excused and cheating apologyformulas are insufficient.
"Who denies the holocaust, denies the Christian faith itself" the Vatican declared yesterday. Actions have to follow these words. And that has to happen soon.

Posted by: ccoaler at February 2, 2009 12:45 AM