Monday, March 2, 2009

The Most Regressive Tax of All

Contributed by Mark E. Smith
Saturday, 14 February 2009
Last Updated Monday, 16 February 2009

When you see a homeless veteran rolling a cigarette to help cope with the constant stress of living on the streets and ward off the hunger pangs a bit, do you become angry that they are smoking or do you give them some money for food or tobacco? Either way, after April 1st, you might be well advised to cross the street and avoid them altogether, as they will not be able to afford to buy rolling tobacco any more and studies have shown that smokers who are deprived of tobacco are apt to become irritable or even violent.

The Democratic Congress has just passed a two thousand one hundred and fifty-nine percent (2,159%) tax increase onrolling tobacco, President Obama signed it into law, and it becomes effective on April 1st, increasing the cost of an ounce of rolling tobacco well beyond the reach of most homeless and low-income people. Many of the companies that sell rolling tobacco will be going out of business on April 1st. You might think that this is a good thing because you've been told that smoking is bad for the health, and I'll speak to that in a moment, but first let's look at the tax.

The tax increase on rolling tobacco was imposed in order to fund [[SCHIP]] which supposedly provides more health carefor children. Actually, of course, most of the money will go to the health care industry and the big pharmaceutical companies, who will immediately begin prescribing dangerous and unnecessary drugs to children who weren't previously covered by any health plan. If the Democrats and Obama had really wanted to provide health care, they would have passed a single-payer health plan like Canada's, but that would anger the insurance companies so it is off the table.

Another place they could have gotten the same amount of money would have been by placing a one percent (1%) or even a half of one percent (0.5%) tax increase on the luxury yachts and private jet planes that are purchased by multimillionaire corporate executives with taxpayer bailout money, but that would anger the wealthy elite so that too is off the table. They could have gotten a much larger amount by decreasing the military budget by a tiny fraction of one percent, perhaps as little as a hundredth of one percent (0.01%), but both the Democratic Congress and the Obama administration are committed to pursuing the Bush/Cheney wars of aggression based on lies, so that's off the table also.

They certainly aren't going to increase taxes on the wealthy, and they know how angry the diminishing middle class is already, so the only people they could tax are the poorest of the poor and that is exactly what they have done.

Doesn't it seem strange to anyone that Congress doesn't dare increase taxes on the rich by a fraction of a percent, but increases taxes on the poor by over 2,000 percent without a second thought? But those who think there is a health benefit to not smoking may be surprised to learn that not all scientists agree. Thereis some dissent, for example, about the matter of second hand smoke. But there is an even bigger story that was apparently suppressed in the U.S. to the extent that I can't find any references to it and would greatly appreciate it if anyone with access to Swiss medical references would try to find it.

Back in 1972 there was a joint Swiss-American study on carcinogenic hydrocarbon particulates. The scientists chose a Swiss town in the Alps that was built around the top of a mountain. Half of the town was on one side of the mountain top and half the town on the other side. One side of the town was developed and had a highway, many paved streets, and lots of automobiles. The other side of town, shielded behind the mountain top, was mostly rural farmland and had only a few cars and tractors. In those days all the men intown smoked cigarettes but none of the women admitted to smoking. If women did smoke, they did so secretly and infrequently and weren't about to admit it. Naturally, the scientists found carcinogenic hydrocarbon particulate matter in the range of about five parts per million on the roadless side of town, but about five hundred parts per million on side of town with lots of cars. What was really interesting was that they also found ten times higher cancer rates among both males and females, for all types of cancer, on the side of town with cars.

Unless or until I can find the reference, which was published in a respected medical journal, this study will just have to beviewed as anecdotal evidence, so I'd like to add some more. As a senior citizen, I've noted cases of people who have been smoking all their lives and do not have lung cancer, while there have been cases of young people who have never smoked dying of lung cancer. I believe that the real culprit is automobile emissions and also the microscopic particles from rubber tires and metal brakes that go into our air and are inhaled into our lungs. But the automobile industry is much more powerful than the tobacco lobby so it was easier for the government to crack down on tobacco.

As a low income senior citizen, I've been rolling my own cigarettes for decades. I have a rolling machine and I order pounds of additive-free tobacco by mail along with filtered paper tubes. Since the company that supplied my tobacco will be going out of business on April 1st, I just ordered enough tobacco to last me a year. I'll clear all the food out of my refrigerator's freezer section and keep tobacco in there instead. I can always trade tobacco for food, if necessary, but I can't trade food for tobacco. After that tobacco is used up, I'll have to buy generic packs of cigarettes, which will cost me at least five times as much as it costs me to roll a pack of cigarettes now, and I'll probably never be able to afford additive free tobacco again, so I'll be paying for chemical poisons I really don't want. Those chemicals are added to cigarette tobacco to alter the taste and to make the tobacco burn more quickly

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This is probably the most regressive tax in United States history and I believe that makes the Obama administration andthe Democratic Congress the most regressive government in U.S. history.

Contributed by Mark E. Smith

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