Prop. 29 cig haters interrupt John Denver
By John Seiler
Usually when I work, I listen to classical music. But sometimes I put on the rock I grew up with, usually the Stones, Hendrix, Cream, The Who, Dylan, the MC5, etc. A good way to do that is on YouTube, where you can click on a video stream of up to 100 videos of the artist and let it ride.
Today is a a shockingly beautiful day in Huntington Beach, the kind the government uses to entrap us into staying here and paying record high taxes. So I put on a stream of Dr. Mellow, John Denver, a Country Boy taking a Jet Plane on a Rocky Mountain High.
Then my reverie was rudely interrupted by an ad by the Proposition 29 tax-increase obsessives. A screen shot is above. The whole video is below. It’s called “Standing Up to Big Tobacco.” Prop. 29 is a buck-a-pack increase on cigarettes to fund cancer and other research and will be decided by voters in the June 6 election.
The ad features several people who got cancer from cigarettes, or who remember relatives of friends who died from puffing the coffin nails. They attack the greedy tobacco companies for tricking people into inhaling tobacco smoke, tar and nicotine.
But wait a minute! It’s been 48 years since the Surgeon General’s 1964 report on the hazards of tobacco. Since then, we’ve all been indoctrinated in how harmful smoking is.
I remember back in 1967 I wrote a little anti-tobacco play for my 7th-grade English class at Franklin Junior High School. It was my first editorial.
At this point, everybody, including the people featured in the Prop. 29 ad, knows that smoking has health consequences. The tobacco companies also have been turned into boogeymen. Their ads are severely limited. The government robs them every which way it can.
And the government, mendacious as usual, won’t tell you that there actually are some benefits to smoking. I also know people who self-medicate using cigarettes to calm themselves down. Why should they be denied their medical tobacco, or forced to pay sky-high prices for it? It’s their choice. They have free will. Let them choose it.
Kids and tobacco
What about kids smoking? That’s a parental problem. Does government have to take over absolutely every function formerly performed by Mom and Pop? And if you’ve ever seen the slop they feed kids in the government schools, you know there’s no real concern for the youngsters’ health.
Because poor people smoke more than rich folks, all cigarette taxes are highly regressive. So Prop. 29 would be an assault on the poor.
Then there’s the black market problem. I wrote about this a lot in the latet 1990s when Canada’s taxes zoomed up to $7 a pack, sparking a huge black market. The tax take from tobacco actually dropped. The Canucks got wise and cut the cig taxes.
When I was checking out at Vons yesterday, I noticed Marlboros and other top brands were on sale for $6.99 a pack. With sales tax, that’s about $7.55. Throw on a new Prop. 29 tax, and it’s $8.55. There’s been inflation since the late 1990s, so the situation might not be as bad as that in the Great White North 15 years ago. And cigs commonly are cheaper at a tobacconist’s shop.
But the Prop. 29 tax still would put California close to major black-market territory. And Californians are a lot more anarchic than the placid Canadians.
I’m not sure if I’m going to stop listening to YouTube videos. Finding out where the tax obsessives put their ads is part of what I do. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.
The video also talks about reducing tobacco use. But Californians already smoke less then people in any other state but Utah. The rate was just 11.9 percent in 2010, and dropping, close to half the national rate of 21 percent. About the only way you could reduce it faster would be to shoot smokers.
Oh, and what about that cancer research the tax would fund? For one thing, California already is so heavily taxed that this would be another blow to the state economy. When I wrote about this before, a Prop. 29 backer assured readers that this tax is different, because it only would hit evil smokers and tobacco companies, while directing the boodle directly to the cancer-fighting boffins.
But all government money is fungible. This also is another exercise in “ballot-box budgeting,” in which wealth special interests grab ahold of a chunk of the state budget for their own purposes. It’s another blow against fiscal responsibility and accountabilty in a state that has had neither in decades.
And as much as I despise our state legislators, they’re actually are the ones who have to balance state budget interests. The initiative process should be changed to ban all mandatory spending, and to repeal all previous mandatory spending.
The state’s taxpayers, including smokers, already are tapped out. Grabbing $1 billion from smokers and the tobacco companies means that those people and companies will have less money to spend on other things, such as food and clothing for their children. More of them will slide into poverty, sign up for state programs, and get some of the taxpayers’ money, worsening the state budget deficit.
By the way, governments and research groups already have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on cancer research, yet there’s still no cure. It’s the nature of bureaucracies not to perform their ostensible functions, but to perpetuate themselves. The Proposition 71 stem-cell research money supposedly included safeguards that it would be spent properly, but it’s all been wasted at a cost of $6 billion in bond payments.
An increased black market will bring greater crime, including murders around cigarette gangs. Just think, with smokes going for $8.55 a pack, a carton is worth $85.50. Ten cartons are $855.00. That’s a lot of money for a commodity that’s light and you can scoop up in your arms.
I remember when the cig tax was increased a quarter back in 1988, when stoned voters passed Proposition 88. A liquor store near where I lived was knocked off that very night a couple hours after the store closed. The owner had to put up an iron gate. “Did they also take the expensive booze?” I asked him the next day when I stopped in for a six-pack. “No,” he replied. “Just the cigarettes.” Even then, a fifth of Jack Daniels wasn’t worth as much as a carton of smokes, and was heavier and more breakable.
The Prop. 29 ad already is hurting the state. I’m ticked off now and Dr. Mellow doesn’t do. How about the MC5? Yeah. Here’s “Motor City is Burning” by the 5. (It’s about the 1967 Detroit riot.)
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