By Mark David Blum, Esq.
Last week, Congress passed a Child Health Care Act that would provide federal subsidizing for the States to provide low cost or no cost health coverage for indigent and the working poor. Funding for this measure was set at $35 billion and the source for those funds was to be a 61 cents per pack tax increase in cigarettes and up to $10 per cigar. Once again, it is upon the backs of a small minority that the majority is heaping their greed. Medical coverage for the poor and underemployed is the responsibility of the entire nation; not just the few Camel and Marlboro smokers. Funding this well intentioned project by ‘sin taxes’ is a failure in theory and will have a disasterous blowback.
First of all, a 40 percent increase in the cost of a pack of cigarettes creates a phenomena called “economic prohibition”. The concept being that the cost of the “sin” will motive society to stop engaging therein. If that is the plan, then the funding program is going to be a failure. If, as it is hoped, people will stop smoking, then Congress is going to have to pick someone else’s pocket for funding. What next? A Fat Tax? Great Britain recognized the strain on its health care system and implemented a "fat tax" on salty, sugary and fatty foods. Figuring that the annual cost each fat person puts on society is approximately $3,200.00, Britain went after the real problem – greedy fat people.
Consider the impact fat people have upon our medical system. Heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and nursing care. What about early demise? I hear fat people don’t live very long relative to their skinny counterparts. Fat people require development of special equipment for hospitals and rescue crews. The pressure fat people put upon our medical system is unbelievable and unbearable.
Second, the flip side of economic prohibition will be the rise in crime. Affluent members of society will barely flinch at the massive increase in the cost of smoking. It will be the poor, the working poor, and the underemployed who will suffer the most. The relative percentage of income being spent will be substantial. It will not take long for an underground market to develop where lower cost cigarettes will be available. I am willing to venture a guess that we will see a rise in crime related to cigarettes; such as robberies of stores, hijackings of trucks, and illegal importation. A market demand will always be satisfied and the vacuum about to be created is going to invite crime and misery into our society. Canada already tried that experiment with horrifying results and a subsequent abandonment of the program.
We are beating each other over the heads with taxes, insurance, and ostracism as we struggle through the confusion. If I smoke, my medical insurance premium is higher assuming I can get any insurance at all. Life insurance premiums are obnoxious in comparison to a non-smoker. The combined taxes on my drug equal to more than half the cost of the product. Yet, only regular sales tax applies to a bag of Doritos.
Third and perhaps most offensive of all is that the tax money is not going to doctors, hospitals, medicine, or treatment. It is money going directly into the pockets of insurance companies. Our government is transferring money from the middle class and poor into the hands of Big Insurance and Big Pharma. Obviously a presidential election year is coming up and the same 61 cents per pack is going from my pocket to the government’s pocket to the insurance industry’s pocket where in the end, it will land in a presidential candidate’s coffers. Hence, at its core, this tax is a way for Democrats and Nanny-Staters to help fund their oppression of society.
Protection of our weakest is a responsibility of all of us. Before you increase taxes to anyone in this nation, Mr. President, first you should consider spending cuts. If you stop the war in Iraq for one hour, you could fund the entire $35 billion without increasing taxes one cent.
Mr. President, your veto on this Bill will expose the greater hypocrisy in society. Fat people and smokers make the perfect example of how we have gone berserk in our thinking. We banish smokers, we tax them as hard as we can, they are looked down upon, frowned, ignored, disregarded, and considered “dirty” amongst the general population. At the same time, America is SUPERSIZING up for the new millennium. Airline seats are growing larger. So too are movie theater seats, household and office furniture, and automobiles. More food, fry it well, slather it with something, and don’t forget dessert.
But the reason we Americans have congregated and organized our society is so that we can provide for each other’s health, education, and welfare. I am all for free choice in how one lives their lives. Lifestyle choices do not have to always be healthy and good. There is a lot to be said for those who choose to thin the herd early on. We should, however, make available 100% education and 100% health care for every citizen.
Mr. President, I beseech you. Please veto the Child Health Care Act as soon as it hits your desk. It is a bad solution, poorly thought out, with substantial risk of a potentially violent backsplash.