Mayors across the country increasingly see smokers as God’s gift to spendthrift governments. They steal from them accordingly. This is especially true of New York’s Michael Bloomberg, whose ambitions along these lines match his outsized city. Let other places diddle around with ten-cent tobacco taxes, as does Hueytown, Alabama, or even a buck (Washington, DC); New York is bigger than that. Mike wants to boost its already-staggering tax on cigarettes by a whopping 50 cents. This will push the price of a pack past $8, with Leviathan grabbing $3.50 of that. New Yorkers will then suffer the dubious distinction of paying the highest tobacco tax nationwide: even Chicago steals only $3.05 per pack.
Mike shrugged off suggestions that he’s picking smokers’ pockets a tad aggressively. “It’s not a revenue source,” he announced, and he’s right about that. It’s a revenue geyser. “We’re trying to save the lives of our children.”
I won’t pretend to understand how bankrupting their parents saves children’s lives, but perhaps Mike’s onto something here. Can taxing smokers and other dangerous folks really save lives? If so, let’s tax politicians.
Smokers and politicians have more in common than you might think. Both blow smoke. Both stink the place up. Both stand around in the cold and solicit strangers, one for a light, the other for votes. Both are addicted, though smokers kick their filthy habit a heck of a lot more easily and often than politicians do.
Think how many lives would be saved had we taxed politicians all along. No more Americans dying of boredom during endless political campaigns and debates. Outraged citizens would never again suffer heart attacks over the latest Congressional scandal. And without politicians’ pork larding the budget, government spending should shrink so we’re less likely to keel over from shock after figuring our taxes every April.
But the number of lives saved here is modest compared to those spared by our tax’s effect on war. I predict this scourge will disappear once politicians are too busy coughing up their tax bills to shove troops at the world’s hot spots. With the biggest killer of all time eliminated, life expectancy should zoom.
There are other, less obvious ways that taxing politicians back into the holes they popped out of will save lives. For starters, it should scare the daylights out of their appointees at bureaucracies large and small. Those at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may well be so terrified we’ll tax them, too, that they’ll release the cures for cancer they’re delaying — or at least the remedies for obesity and crow’s feet. Perhaps the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) will become too nervous to demonize and regulate alcohol. Red wine could finally prevent as much heart disease here as it does in France.
With any luck, we’ll observe the same chastening effect at the other alphabet agencies, including those that may not directly take lives but try their hardest to ruin them. Name your poison — the IRS, FEMA, the TSA, the DEA — and imagine the furor as their employees dive for cover.
Given stakes this high, we want our tax to succeed, so let’s take some pointers from Mike the Knife. First, the rate should be exorbitant enough that folks think we’re joking. But of course we’re not: lives hang in the balance. So don’t be shy. Pull a number out of the air and double it. Now triple it. We want politicians to gasp as loudly as smokers have.
Secondly, notice that Mike foists his preposterous tax on an unpopular minority. The minority we’re targeting is even more loathed than smokers. Also in our favor is that politicians tend to be millionaires, while smokers cluster at the lower end of the economy. If Mike can justify picking on the poor for their own good, how much more can we justify taxing politicians for ours?
The IRS’s sliding scale has snagged trillions of our taxes over the years; I bet it’ll work for us, too. We’ll tax city councillors at 100% of their paychecks; mayors at 200%; State Assemblymen, 300%; US Congressmen and Senators, 400 and 450%, respectively, and Presidents at 1000% — 2000% if they ask, "What Constitution?"
What will we do with all this loot? The sky’s the limit, but we might consider funding preliminary R&D on a PAC patch or governing gum. If those wean politicians from their cravings as well as nicotine patches and gums wean smokers from theirs, we’ll research a vacillation vaccine next.
Some might call my tax a pipe dream. But with a bit of tinkering, it should work. So sit back, relax, and get ready to enjoy a politician-free paradise!
Becky Akers [send her mail] writes primarily about the American Revolution.