This year I expect Democratic state governors to try and plug budget holes by raising the cigarette tax. Some Republicans will do this as well, but that isn’t the point. The point is: how do Democrats do this and expect to have ANY credibility whatsoever when they try to portray themselves as a party in touch with the working class and our interests? After all, there is a bitter irony in the promise of Democrats to fund a health care system with cigarette taxes. The yuppie Holy War against ashtrays of all things – and not imperialism and capitalism – continues unabated as an all-absorbing point of cardinal political focus.
The Dems continually talk about how most people who smoke are poor, minorities, etc. and then immediately say the way to “get them to stop smoking” (as if it’s any of their business), is to raise the cigarette tax by a dollar a pack! So much for their mock sympathy. The rather barbaric logic they use is that “if it’s a choice between eating and smoking, maybe then they’ll stop.” The larger issue is: why should they have to?
Anti-smoking people have long stolen tactics used by the anti-war left, such as “die-outs,” otherwise known as a mass of people laying down in the streets in order to represent dead bodies, once symbolizing dead victims of war and invasion and now standing for mere victims of smoking, the negative effects of which are interchangeable with most shoddy consumer products under capitalism. The practice of smoking itself and the lower “undesirable” strata associated with it has been banned from nearly all public space in the US, including smog-infested sidewalks. A country that rejects the Kyoto Protocol and public health care while banning smoking—which is one of the few social venues to employee organization still allowed in the workplace these days—clearly does not have its priorities straight.
Why is the cigarette tax regressive? Two reasons: it disproportionately effects poor and working class people who are the ones who smoke, and the poor pay the same amount of taxes as the rich that actually smoke. When you listen to anti-smoking people talk, it’s pretty clear that they are talking about working people. They’re pretty condescending, and they think that we need to be protected from ourselves. Don’t think that these fools will stop at cigarettes either. New York Governor Patterson has already proposed a special tax on soda. Stay tuned!