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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 27, 2007 6:59 PM. The previous post in this blog was Party at Szczepanowski's. The next post in this blog is Calling Sebastian. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Joe Camel, constitutional scholar

The mindscrew from the tobacco companies just won't quit. They've got a lot of money to spend on obfuscating what's really at stake with the pending Ballot Measure 50 here in Oregon, and the latest diversion arrived in the mail today:

Wow, how subtle. Measure 50 -- which would increase cigarette taxes and dedicate the new revenue to state-financed health care programs -- is a threat to the Constititution. And look at that graphic! Not just the Constitution -- but the Bill of Rights!

What hogwash. Measure 50 has nothing to do with the Bil of Rights, and the tobacco companies who created this flyer know that darn well.

But do they want the voters to focus on what's really at stake? A couple of weeks back we blogged about the first flyer they sent out -- in which there was only one reference to "tobacco," buried way down where you had to look hard to find it. In this new beauty, it's the same deal. You have to hunt it down, but "tobacco" is in there exactly once.

Oh, and get this -- a vote for the cigarette tax is a vote for a sales tax!

I'm not sure Measure 50 is a great idea, but when I see the Merchants of Cancer working from their usual lying script, it makes my blood boil. Yes, let's put a tobacco tax in the Oregon Constitution. If it turns out to be a bad idea, we can take another vote and pull it back out. Just like we're now doing with Measures 37 and 49.

If you think Philip Morris could give a darn about your rights, here, have a "light" cig.

Comments (21)

I'm no fan of what I see as a regressive tax on poor schmucks --like I used to be--buying a pack at a time at Plaid Pantry. But...these tobacco guys are really scum.

I hope to hell they lose this one.

I'm still torn on the tax-in-the-Constitution issue, but as a smoker I don't really have a problem if I'm paying more for a pack of cigarettes to pay for health care. I'll deal.

It won't necessarily lead to a sales tax. It is a sales tax. Just like the tax on alcohol, gasoline, and hotel rooms. It's just not a general sales tax. Specifically, it's a sales tax on a product with inelastic demand. A "sin" tax.

Again, why is it that tobacco smokers are selected out to carry the entire tax burden on indigent health care for children? Isn't health care for indigent children everybody's problem? Why isn't everybody paying for indigent health care for children? Quick answer: Everybody wants something for nothing, so they try to make someone else pay for it. Tobacco smokers are now a mariginalized minority, which makes them an easy target. It's the arrogance of the majority.

Welcome to democracy.

I assume everyone saw the news today that caffiene has been linked to liver cancer. As has alcohol. We already have second-hand alcohol deaths...they're called "drunk driver mortalities".

I think we need a heavy tax on cellphone use. A tax on commercial coffee products. Increase the tax on all alcoholic beverages - make it a dedicated fund for state police. A steep auto registration fee based upon the value of the vehicle. Oh, and while they're still a minority, a tax on all condominiums above the third floor.

Again, why is it that tobacco smokers are selected out to carry the entire tax burden on indigent health care for children?

Uh oh, somebody better call the waaaaaaaaaambulance.

I'll be quite open and honest about why I'll vote for this bill: I don't like smoking, I don't like smokers, and I'm sick and tired of having to move my family from an outside seat at a restaurant when some smokers light up nearby, and I'm sick of cleaning up cigarette butts in front of my house, and...need I go on? The fact that the money will go to a good cause is just icing on the cake, as far as I'm concerned.

I dont like the "tax in the constitution" part either. I guess the biggest part I dont understand is what happens if the smoker base dries up? (Not likely, I know.) But what if? What happens since this is in the constitution? Where do they get money then? I guess it just makes me a bit nervous.
Then the part about going after a certain group to pay for child care...I mean, what if this was a tax only on wine? Would people still feel the same about it?

Oops. That should have read "child health care", not "child care".

Dave J. sez: I'll be quite open and honest about why I'll vote for this bill: I don't like smoking, I don't like smokers, and I'm sick and tired of having to move my family from an outside seat at a restaurant when some smokers light up nearby, and I'm sick of cleaning up cigarette butts in front of my house, and...need I go on? The fact that the money will go to a good cause is just icing on the cake, as far as I'm concerned.

Talk about needing a waaaaaambulance. How do you think that tacking an additional $.85 sales tax on tobacco products is going to address those aggrevations of yours? Here's a hint: They're not. That's what inelastic demand is all about. People will still smoke outside, so I'm sorry, you'll have to go inside, where smoking will be banned. I'm sorry you won't get your usual ration of toxic automobile exhaust, but hey, sacrifices will have to be made. You can go home after your dinner out and suck on the tailpipe while your car is idling.

If you don't like smoke or smokers, don't go where they are...there are plenty of alternatives, as most restaurants are now non-smoking.

If you really cared for health care for indigent children, you'd support a salt tax to fund it.

Hey, I hate gas-guzzling automobiles. I hate the people who buy them and drive them. It's fairly clear that the actions of these people are not only sickening other humans, they are one of the biggest sources of toxic emissions in the outdoor air and a clear contributor to greenhouse gases. The toxics dumped into our atmosphere due to automobiles and automotive by-products far outstrips those created by tobacco smokers. I'll bet you are part of that problem...YOU need to be paying more taxes on your vehicle for health care for indigent children.

Hypocrites.

I'm no fan of what I see as a regressive tax on poor schmucks --like I used to be--buying a pack at a time at Plaid Pantry...

But you're willing to sacrifice them to make a point - how egalitarian.

Godfry,

I agree with you sometimes, disagree more often; but, damn, when you DO hit the nail, you hit it square.

...uh, squarely

...albeit that last was just the least bit skwat-ish - and the hate part is a little unsettling - I'm sure that was intentional - for effect, right...

OK,

Have at them, then!

Did anyone ever look up the "teacher" who wrote that heartfelt letter convincing us that it was okay to vote against health care for kids? I'd like to see a newspaper profile of him, and the reaction he's getting around town (Salem?) . . . . if he exists.

Did anyone ever look up the "teacher" who wrote that heartfelt letter convincing us that it was okay to vote against health care for kids?

Have you already arranged for the pitchforks and torches, Sarah?

What a wonderfully simple picture you paint.

Or is that simplistic?

Isn't it funny when the chickens come home to roost. For years the left has argued that "we shouldn't mess around with the constitution."

Now lefties are trying to pass constitutional amendments and they trip over their own previous rhetoric.

Want to know why M46 failed but M47 passed?

Both were campaign finance reform, but M46 "messed around with the constitution".

If M50 fails (and it just might) that will be the reason.

Dumb reason. This is Oregon. Everything's up for a vote, all the time.

OK, so whether it's a good or bad tax, or the constitution can be re-amended easily or not, could someone explain why increasing the cigarette tax--which has happened more than once already--and sending the proceeds to any particular program involves amending the constitution?

Really, just what are the nuts-and-bolts of how this tax works? I can't recall anything like it, but maybe I missed it.


Thanks,

TomR

My understanding: For the Legislature to pass a tax, it has to have a 60% vote in favor. If it doesn't, the only way the tax can be passed is by amending the state Constitution. If the Legislature has a vote of 50% or more, it can ask the voters to do that. In this case, the vote for the tax was more than 50% but less than 60%, so it goes to the voters for a constitutional amendment.

As for the tax itself, it steeply jacks up tobacco taxes and dedicates the funds for various government health care programs. Proponents are sickeningly selling the tax as "for the children," but opponents point out that a lot of the money will go to other things.

You'll soon be getting a voter's pamphlet with more than you ever wanted to read on the subject.

If one is looking for a "punish and fund" solution, I would propose a sin tax on fast food as being more appropriate in this case. It would feed the moral indignation of citizens who are sick and tired of cleaning up wax paper wrappers, straws, plastic containers, paper cups, paper bags, spent ketchup packets and other larger-than-a-cigarette-butt litter. It would satisfy anybody over 30 who marvels at the sheer girth of today's young students ("I mean, when I was in elementery school there was one fat kid"). It would punish the merchants of heart failure who target children with a rapaciousness that tobacco companies can only envy (at least until you see a 7-11 constructing a Marlboro funland playground with a smokin' ballpit). And unlike a tax on an age-restricted consumer items such as tobacco, a tax on the Happy Meal, which is also a product designed to gratify at the risk of disease and death, may in fact reduce consumption among indigent children who are already customers. In some cases it could actually end up punishing the people it serves and vice versa. Which as a plan to modify behavior can't be beat in terms of beauty.

Jon, here's the answer to what happens if the smoker base dries up. You will make up the difference in higher state taxes you pay into the general fund. This is a ridicules and gutless way to fund any program. Look at what happened to the money Big Tobacco pays the states or the dedicated 911 tax you pay on your phone bill which is supposed to go to support the 911 system. Both are used to pay for thing other that what you were told they would be used on.

What happened to the state funded health care program Dr. K foisted on us. Didn't it sink under its own weight?

You'll soon be getting a voter's pamphlet with more than you ever wanted to read on the subject.

But most of the time, it includes no facts. Just a thick book of opinions.

richard/s, the 911 taxes going elsewhere is also like the Oregon Lottery funds going many places that isn't prescribed by law. Can you believe some of the projects it funds that they call "economic development"?

I'm with you, telecom.

There's more potential income for health programs in fast foods than there are in tobacco. There are probably more gains in reductions of consumption because fast food demand is a lot more elastic, thanks to plenty of ready alternatives. More positive effect upon a larger group of a broader constituency.

If sales tax on tobacco is to be dedicated to anything, it should be to making readily available and inexpensive (if not free) smoking cessation programs. Thus, it would have a built in sunset provision.

John Capradoe, smoking cessation programs were supposed to be funded by Big Tobacco's settlement with the states. Guess what, most of it has been diverted to the general fund and squandered by this states bloated spending spree.

Who benefits from smoking cessation programs? Johnson & Johnson, Glaxo (recently bought by Johnson & Johnson), which control 90% of the cessation market. They also use paridey pricing whan tobacco taxes and smoking bans go in place. Carton of cigs goes up $10 nicoderm and nicoderm cq go up almost the same. Who awards big grants to push for smoking bans and tax hikes. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation the non-profit arm of Johnson & Johnson.
Big Tobacco pays nothing for the Master Settlement Agreement. The consumers do! Not to mention the trial lawyers are receiving $13.1 billion. John Edwards is one of those trial lawyers. Hes watching out for the little guy alright 70% of tobacco users have household incomes under $50k with half of them under $30k. In many cases the S-CHIP will have lower income people subsidizing higher income peoples health care both from the federal tobacco and state tobacco taxes.
What next a black tax, a brown tax or how about the one I prefer a progressive tax. All these damn national socialists deserve what they get. Its their idea! Why are they not volunteering to pay for it? After all its "for the kids". I guess they could not have that. Spending their own money instead of someone elses.


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