Monday, April 06, 2009

Tobacco Tax Increase will help poor children get healthcare: April Fools!

[Full disclosure: I don’t smoke cigarettes; never have and don’t intend to start. But someone in my family does smoke a few a day.]

But that’s not why I don’t take joy of the fact that the cost of smoking just took a big jump last week. Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time, isn’t that what they say? (Whoops, sorry, unfortunate turn 'a phrase there. Smoking is STILL legal, at least right now.)

The reason I’m not overjoyed that those (“dirty, stinking, nasty, redneck, etc.") smokers are finally “getting it stuck to ‘em” is because those new taxes 1) are NOT going to ease my personal, non-smoking tax burden (or yours), and 2) in fact, will most likely increase my tax burden (and yours) in years to come.

So why shouldn’t I be happy about somebody else being taxed for their “sins”? Oh -- because poor kids are going to get healthcare coverage? Yeah, sure -- April Fools! (The irony of the tax's implementation date wasn’t lost on me.)

Taken to its logical end—when there are no more smokers (when they become voluntarily or involuntarily extinct) – who will be around to pay the taxes for the uninsured children's healthcare?

First of all, smokers HAVE been paying taxes over & above what we non-smokers have been paying for years, via the taxes paid on their habits that pre-dated these new taxes. Did my non-smoking taxes (or yours) ever come down because they paid? Did my non-smoking share of healthcare costs (or yours) go down because of the revenue smokers paid into the system but who died as of the results of their habits before the system incurred any costs for their care? (Shouldn’t that have been a “rebate” to us non-smokers, or at least stay in the kitty to cover the cost of another, longer-living smoker’s long, tortuous, painful and costly death?)

Next, my bet is the big new Federal Tobacco Tax (and various other state add-on Cig Taxes) won’t accomplish what advocates say (i.e. healthcare coverage for uninsured children). Then what noble goal will the taxes serve? Answer: to buy votes and curry slavish affection of an ignorant electorate who actually believe they’re “getting something” (i.e. healthcare coverage for uninsured children).

Much like the much-ballyhooed “Tobacco Settlement” of the 1990s, my bet is the monies raised from these new tobacco taxes won’t actually be going toward mitigating tobacco-related healthcare costs currently shouldered by smokers and non-smokers, as it is argued. More likely: new revenues will go to replace declining general revenues in government budgets.
Yet if, by some miracle, the new taxes DO go toward helping the poor little children – the taxes will inaugurate new outlays on YET ANOTHER new category of recipients forever depending on the government (as if there weren’t enough already).

The NEXT reason I’m not celebrating my non-smoking “found money” in my pocket is because I realize that the biggest hypocrite in the entire mix are those who advocated, proposed and voted for the tax. Think otherwise? Then explain the logic of counting on a revenue stream generated by a tax source that everybody agrees, hopes, and wants to shrink – smokers!

Taken to its logical end—when there are no more smokers (when they become voluntarily or involuntarily extinct) – who will be around to pay the taxes for the uninsured children (for certainly we’ll not run out of them, will we)?

Adding injury to this insult is the fact that government at all levels – along with non-governmental and healthcare agencies -- actively spends tax money at the same time trying to DISCOURAGE the very activity that it depends upon to raise money to fund the new benefits in the first place.

Talk about strange bedfellows.