JWR Jeff JacobyBen WattenbergRoger Simon
Mona CharenLinda Chavez

Paul Greenberg Larry ElderJonathan S. Tobin
Thomas SowellMUGGERWalter Williams
Don FederCal Thomas
Political Cartoons
Left, Right & Center

Jewish World Review Dec. 4, 1998/15 Kislev, 5759

Larry Elder

Larry Elder

Save the children:
tax the poor

WHO PAYS FOR THE RECENTLY announced record hike in the price of cigarettes? The poor, that's who.

Philip Morris just announced a 45-cent increase in the price of a pack of cigarettes. This follows the $200 billion settlement entered into by several state attorneys general to "recoup" the costs incurred by taxpayers due to cigarette smoking.

The problem is that taxpayers do not incur costs. In October 1997, the New England Journal of Medicine noted that, given the taxes cigarette smokers pay, as well as the, uh, "early departure" of a quarter of the smokers, taxpayers save money from Medicare and Medicaid. The Rand Corp. reached a similar conclusion.

According to Investors' Business Daily, nearly 40 percent of poor men smoke vs. approximately 15 percent of men who earn more than $50,000 a year. Poor women smoke at a 30 percent rate, while women earning $50,000 a year or more smoke at a 15 percent rate.

In California, Proposition 10, designed to create a fund for child development programs, adds 50 cents per package. And effective Jan. 1, California plans an additional 37 cents tax hike on cigarettes. That's 45 cents, plus 50 cents, plus 37 cents.

So, for a one-to-three-pack-a-day poor person earning $12,000 a year or less, the California tax hikes represent a significant bite out of the poor person's pocketbook.

Will the tax decrease smoking? Well, according to tobacco critics, the CEOs lied when they refused to call cigarettes addictive. Yet, according to the tax-hike proponents, increased prices cause a decrease in consumption. If true, just how addictive are cigarettes? After all, will a crack addict stop doing drugs if the dealer doubles, triples or quadruples the price of a rock?

In Canada, not only did cigarette tax hikes fail to decrease smoking, they created a huge black market. Canadian Health Minister Diane Marleau called for cigarette tax cuts to "end the smuggling trade and force children to rely on regular stores for their cigarettes."

According to Reason magazine, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien warned of the tax hike's danger to "the very fabric of Canadian society."

The Los Angeles Times reported a pre-Proposition 10 $50-million-a-year black market for cigarettes in California. Expect the black market to explode following the price and tax hikes.

Proposition 10's sponsor, Rob Reiner, makes films. Why not tax his industry, the movies? After all, one could argue that violent films cause more damage to the psyche of young people than do cigarettes. And, in two of Reiner's films, "Stand By Me" and "This Is Spinal Tap," characters smoked!

Far-fetched, this movie tax? Don't laugh. Recently, a Mexican congresswoman urged a tax on foreign films to create a fund for Mexican filmmakers. Why? American films dominate the Mexican market, and the congresswoman felt that a Latina could not identify with a Sharon Stone as opposed to someone of her own ethnicity. The logic tracks that of Proposition 10.

Tax voluntary behavior, create a fund for "good things," and punish those who engage in behavior you don't like.

Some industry observers rank Mexico as the 10th most important foreign market for American films. And since Mexican filmgoers are "addicted" to American films, well, then, by all means, let's put a stop to this!

According to this congresswoman (by the way, a former actress), movies behave differently from other import/export commodities, whether oranges or migrant labor. Movies create images, enhance self-esteem, are an important cultural treasure, blah, blah, blah.

One of the Mexican congresswoman's supporters is Salma Hayek, a Mexican actress who earns a living in America! Got that? This Mexican actress comes to America, where she earns a good living in films, but supports a measure to punish the profits of the very American films in which she appears. Why doesn't she stay home and try to make a go of it there? Said Hayek, "Most of us ... have dreams of going back and doing some quality stuff down there. It doesn't mean we'll quit our day jobs here." Oh.

According to "Uncle" Rob, Proposition 10 creates up to $700 million for child development programs, justifying the measure because kids are "impressionable." You know, the children, the children. But we can't have children suffering through all the negative influences of movies. After all, these "impressionable" kids will see violence, unprotected sex and, horrors, cigarette smoking! Tax these films; save our kids!

How about one tax if a supporting actor smokes. Another tax if the bad guy sneaks a puff. And house arrest for the director should the good guy whip out a pack.

Of course, there's still that nasty little problem about socking it to the poor. A couple of burgers and a movie remain the quintessential cheap date. So the "smoking-in-the-movies" tax figures to hurt the poor more than the rest. But relax -- it is, after all, for "the children."


11/30/98:Ken Starr and the vast left-wing conspiracy
11/19/98: Will the real hypocrite stand up!?
11/13/98: The Clinton 400
10/23/98: My evening with Chris Rock
10/15/98: Slavery is not funny
10/02/98: Clinton --- friend of the working woman
9/28/98: George Washington vs. the Grand Jury
9/18/98: It's the perjury, stupid
9/14/98: The "Larry List" of the most fascinating women in politics
9/07/98: Why blacks shouldn't support Clinton
8/27/98:The Brown bomber strikes Justice Thomas
8/21/98:So very clintonesque
8/17/98: Gary Coleman, hate criminal?
8/07/98: How much mea culpa?
7/24/98: ATM Al?
7/24/98: Advising the advisors
7/17/98: Camille Cosby's carelessness
7/9/98: Moses mugged
7/2/98: Al Campanis -- forever a racist?
6/25/98: And you thought "coke" was worse than smokes
6/19/98: Is Jasper ‘America'?
6/12/98: Guess who's not coming to dinner
6/5/98: What now, NOW?
5/29/98:What's next, ‘burger busters'?
5/21/98: 'Stuff' happens
5/18/98: This just in
5/11/98: Stepping up
4/30/98: Who's faking whom?
4/16/98:To spank or not to spank

©1998, Laurence A. Elder