Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Bring Back Prohibition!
By Alan Caruba
That’s right. Bring back Prohibition. It was such a success, right? Oh sure, it led to the development of organized crime, everyone ignored it, and it took a Constitutional amendment to get rid of it, but it did save so many from the evils of demon rum—not!
Taxes on things people enjoy are generally called “sin” taxes. They are an easy way to raise revenue and politicians who break most of the Ten Commandments love to impose them.
I would love to see Congress try to pass a massive tax on chocolate. How long do you think it would take for a Chocolate Tea Party to get organized, on buses, and down to the Capitol steps wielding pitchforks?
But wait, eating chocolate in any shape, manner or form has health implications. At a time when we are all being hectored for being too fat, chocolate is a major contributor to that trend. It’s said to give the younger set zits and, of course, it runs up their dentist bills like crazy. Never mind that it tastes good! It’s bad for you and should be taxed and taxed and then taxed some more!
This is, of course, the “reasoning” behind the long campaign to stamp out smoking in America. It is, we’re told, “for your own good.” If we had to give up everything we enjoy for our own good, we’d—all together now—bring back Prohibition!
Before I continue, in the interest of full disclosure, I smoke cigars. I have smoked them since I was in my twenties and I am now in my seventies. My father, who passed away in his early nineties, smoked a pipe from his youth. Second-hand smoke had no apparent affect on my mother who passed away at age 98.
The “science” behind second-hand smoke is the typical bogus exaggeration that got DDT banned. Since 1972, malaria has claimed the lives of an estimated forty million people worldwide.
To punish smokers because there are some diseases associated with it is manifestly unfair when one considers that over-eating can be just as hazardous to one’s health and, of course, drinking too much is a major cause of death.
Just about anything one does to excess can be harmful. The real question is whether the government has any mandate to interfere with personal lifestyle decisions. The answer is, it doesn’t.
It is smokers who are routinely punished financially for the enjoyment of cigars, cigarettes or pipe tobacco. It used to cost me around $140 a month for two boxes of Casa Blanca’s, hand-rolled cigars from the Dominican Republic. It now costs over $200 a month. That’s obscene.
Only government could get away with forcing up the price in that matter. These days it is intended to close the gap in bloated state budgets. In New York State, the latest tax proposal on cigarettes would increase the cost to about $10 per pack!
The problem is that neither the federal, nor the state budgets ever seem to get smaller, leaner. The entire nation is on the brink of bankruptcy and, apparently, taxing smokers seems to be one of the preferred solutions.
With the exception of those states whose constitutions require balanced budgets, most of the fifty states are in such deep debt that the federal government must print money and send it to them in box cars to help pay for all the unfunded mandates that have been imposed on them, along with the cost of their contracts with civil service unions whose pensions and health care benefits dwarf those employed in the private sector.
There’s currently a House bill, H.R. 4439, the Tobacco Parity Act of 2010 that would raise taxes on pipe tobacco. It would raise it 775%!!!! The tax would increase from $2.83 per pound to $24.78 per pound! That, too, is obscene.
Prohibition demonstrated that, if you raise the price of a certain good or service beyond a certain point, people will find a way to procure it more cheaply. They will cross state lines, purchase over the Internet, or seek a black market outlet. One of the favorite ways of financing domestic terrorism that Islamists found has been trafficking in out-of-state cigarettes.
This is so manifestly nuts that it can only hasten the day when a Fair Tax, one based on purchases as opposed to income, must become the law of the land. Making life expensive for everyone who wants to smoke, drink or fill up their gas tank is surely going to reach a point of a massive blowback from taxpayers because it is manifestly unfair and unjust.
Here’s how irrational raising taxes on tobacco use is. The increased tax is supposed to reduce the number of smokers. Thus, we’re told, the raising of taxes is intended to reduce the number of people from whom the higher taxes can be squeezed. This is the same insane illogical thinking that justifies raising gasoline taxes in order, we’re told, to force people to use public transit.
It never happens. It is a fantasy. It is a modern form of the inquisition.
The only thing this deliberate injustice achieves is the destruction of any motivation to earn more or to invest one’s earnings. It exists to secure more revenue for government programs, giveaways, of which there is no end. It is a formula for the destruction of the nation.
© Alan Caruba, 2010