Thursday, April 02, 2009

Second Hand Tater Tots

Not that it will do any good, but let’s try to go over this
cigarette tax thing again, shall we?

Now that the latest round of taxes has taken effect, folks
who purchase coffin nails in Arkansas will be paying a
total of $2.16 per pack, in taxes, to satisfy their cravings.
That’s $1.15 for the state and $1.01 for the feds. In taxes
alone, that’s about $1.81 per pack more than the first
cigarettes I remember purchasing from a machine, and I am
under 90 years old. (Of course I am. Smokers don’t live
that long.) After the taxes, if anybody wants to make
any money off manufacturing & distributing them, you have to tack on some more
charges. When all is said and done, here in Arkansas, the average price of a pack of premium smokes is now about a hundred bucks per pack. OK. That’s not accurate. Truth is, I lost count.

The point is that both the state & federal governments just keep piling on with the taxes on smokes.

I’m not here to argue the merits of smoking. Frankly, I don’t think there are any. I’m not even here to argue on behalf of the “poor” people who are, studies show, the ones most likely to smoke, and therefore most likely to be victimized by the burdensome taxes. I just don’t understand how it is constitutional for a government to pick an item, any item, and disproportionately tax that item.

Seems like they tried that with tea once, a long time ago.

Sure, the anti-smoking zealots will scream that the poison smokers exhale invades their personal space. I don’t disagree with that. I think, for that reason alone, smoking should be illegal in public places. I think it is OK for owners of businesses to ban smoking in their facilities, if they choose to do so. OK to say you can’t smoke with a kid in your car. OK to say you can’t smoke in the workplace. But all of those things have been done, and still, they keep heaping it on the smokers. How? Why? Every time some yuppie drives by in an SUV, I can feel myself choking on the carbon monoxide fumes, but I don’t see them piling taxes like that on V8 engines. Don’t see them raking it in on those dangerous, noise-polluting crotch rockets.

Some will say that the government is being a good big brother by making it so expensive for people to smoke that they’ll just up & quit – and that would be the best thing for them to do. That will happen. It is happening, among those who feel a genuine financial pinch from the new cost of cigarettes. But, even though the numbers are proportionally lower,

there are still people who can afford to smoke. So they do. What shall we do to stop them from puffing away in the privacy of their own Escalades?

Once the lower incomers have quit, there goes a huge chunk of all that beneficial tax money. After budgets have been set based on that money, where do they go to make up the difference? Maybe, if the state would levy another $100 per pack tax, they could keep the coffers filled up just off the rich smokers. Probably not. But what’s to stop them from trying?

So they try it. And the specially funded projects go broke because, ultimately, everybody quits smoking cigarettes. Big Brother has forced the populace away from an unhealthy habit, without ever even making it illegal! They’re going to have to find some other vice to tax now. What shall it be?

Fat, I think. That seems to be the next big bogey man on the horizon. When cheeseburgers cost twenty bucks because there’s $17 in taxes, how long will it take for the industries associated with that nasty habit to go belly-up? But we can’t let those special hospitals go down the tubes, so we seek out another victim.

I’m going with tater tots. Those things are just disasters looking for a place to happen. I mean, not only are they catastrophic to the well-being of the person who consumes them, they have a tendency to generate violent gaseous expulsions that invade the breathing space of innocent bystanders – causing babies to be born naked and old ladies to faint onto their bingo cards. Let’s say five bucks a tot, for starters.

And on it goes, until, eventually we get back to taxing tea, and eating salad. Nothing but salad. And we’ll all live healthily ever after.

Please. Spare me. The government doesn’t give a flying flip whether or not their taxes contribute to the physical well-being of the soon-to-be ex-smokers. They’re piling on the taxes on tobacco products because they need the extra money and they have found a villain, and they can get away with it. Smoke = bad. If smokers don’t like it, all they have to do is quit. Who’s going to raise much of a stink about that?

Once the monster has been let into the room, who is going to be the one to put it out?

Here’s the question. Sorry about all that leading up to it. “If smoking is such a terrible thing, why don’t they just outlaw cigarettes?”

Re-read for the answer.

© 2009, Rick Baber


Greg Camp said...

As much as I appreciate the satirical wit, I have to disagree with the argument in this essay. If we follow the Libertarian philosophy consistently, we must not tax cigarettes, but at the same time, each individual must be responsible for the costs that smoking incurs. I'll agree to remove the high sales tax from cigarettes if smokers will agree not to make me pay for their health expenses.

My other point of disagreement is that there is a safe dose of tater tots, while cigarettes are unsafe at any amount (Libertarians and Nader in the same comment, eh?). I can walk some extra steps and burn off the tater tots. Now I don't want to ban cigarettes, especially since prohibition is often worse than the substance, but we have to recognize that they are a costly danger.

Rick Baber said...

Well said, young Mr. Camp.
Will you also agree to remove the portion of taxes I pay that end up on battlefields in the Middle East, if I promise to defend my own house from terrorism? Will you free me from my tax burden to pay for highways if I walk everywhere I go? My school taxes if I bear no more chillerins?
Thing is, we don't get to pick and choose WHAT we pay taxes for - except regarding the purchase of products. And yet, those people who elect to pay the taxes to purchase those products don't have any MORE access to the services they provide than those who don't.

seedsnbuds said...

hey did everybody go to sleep? i'm fixing to smoke a big ol' doobie then eat a bunch of tatertots.

Josh D. Teff said...

Cigarettes shouldnt be illegal for the same reason(s) that Marijuana should be! The "free" market must be sustained!!!!

Anonymous said...

See what happens when you get a bunch of dumbass liberals running the government?

otisj said...

I dont smoke. Havent smoked in 15 years, and dont like to be around people who are smoking but I agree with you on the tax thing. It cant be legal, but who is gonna stop them from doing it?

br549 said...

i hear they are considering a tax on fartage.

Anonymous said...

"Cigarettes shouldnt be illegal for the same reason(s) that Marijuana should be! The "free" market must be sustained!!!!"

That makes no sense whatsoever. If the "free market" were to decide, then marijuana would be legal and the government could solve a huge chunk of its revenue problems by taxing doobie.

Anonymous said...

Great Baber.
Now your defending cigarettes.
Is there nothing you won't say or do?

Rick Baber said...

Anon number....three....
See? This is why I was reluctant to write the thing to begin with, and spent all that time trying to explain that, although I do smoke, I was NOT defending cigarettes. What I'm trying to do is defend Americans from indiscriminate TAXES. But anti-smoking nazis are so blinded by their hatred for smokes (and/or smokers) that there is no way the point can sink in. Try to imagine the tax was on something else completely....say, sushi (I have a feeling that one will register with you).

Good luck with that.

otisj said...

Still nuttin new?
Whats up?