Taxing the Joy out of Life
By Alan Caruba
With exquisite irony, the box in which my favorite cigars arrive has a picture of the White House emblazoned on its cover and, underneath, the words, “Casa Blanca.” I smoke Presidentes, a Dominican Republic handmade cigar. They are identified as a “luxury cigar.” Given the current cost of the two boxes I enjoy every month that is an apt description.
Reports out of Washington, however, indicate that Congress has proposed raising taxes on premium cigars. The increase would be 20,000 percent. No, that is not a typographical error. 20,000 percent! It would raise the cost of a cigar astronomically.
The justification offered by the Democrat-controlled Congress is that it needs to waste…er…raise an extra $35-billion to $50-billion for “the state children’s health insurance program. The program distributes payments to the states to help buy coverage for kids not poor enough for Medicaid.” Yet another costly social welfare program among the others currently broke or shortly to be utterly bankrupt.
Watch out for Congress to go after “Big Candy” as a threat to the health of “little children” who must be “protected” against “excessive sugar consumption” (while insuring that the U.S. sugar industry continues to receive a subsidy that requires Americans to pay more for sugar than any other nation on earth.).
Before someone begins to assail me for smoking cigars, let me note that my Father smoked a pipe until he died and his father smoked a pack or more of cigarettes before he died. Both were well into their 90’s at the time of their demise and it occurred to me when I began smoking in college that I probably would not be adversely affected if I smoked as well. I took up cigars while serving in the U.S. Army. They are probably the only indulgence I have left as I verge on the seventh decade of my life.
There is a reason we celebrate living in “the land of the free” and that is, presumably, that the government designed by the Founding Fathers was supposed to leave us alone. The Constitution does not grant Congress the power to determine what or how much we eat, whether or not we become obese, whether we smoke, whether attending too many rock concerts can harm one’s hearing, or any other aspect of our presumably private lives.
But the government interferes everywhere it can, often to our detriment and even death. The demand for higher mileage from a gallon of gasoline completely ignores the fact that there is a finite amount of energy to be secured. The only way to get more is to lighten the vehicle and that leads to people in tiny cars getting squashed like bugs if they encounter an 18-wheeler truck or just a telephone poll.
The government mandates how much water your toilet is allowed to use and that has resulted in a new generation of toilets that, as often as not, must be flushed twice in the interest of sanitation. The government is throwing millions at solar and wind power research despite the fact that the U.S. has hundreds of years of coal reserves as well as oil and natural gas reserves that the same government keeps off limits from development.
Not long ago, the government decided to slap a big tax on yachts, thus forcing yachting firms to move their businesses offshore and throwing the workers who made yachts out of a job. Now, cigar manufacturers in places like Tampa, Florida will be forced to close and the importers and sellers of fine cigars coast to coast would suffer a disastrous loss of business.
The same thinking behind slamming the rich for wanting a yacht is behind an insane tax on cigars; obviously only rich people smoke them, it’s bad for their health, and we’re only doing this to help “the children.”
Meanwhile Congress is also considering empowering the Food and Drug Administration with authority over cigarette and other tobacco products, allowing the FDA to regular the levels of tar, nicotine, and other components of tobacco. The justification for this is that cigarette smoke contains 4,000 chemicals, “more than 40 of which are known to cause cancer.” But how does one explain all those smokers who do not get cancer?
How do you protect health-conscious people with a history of cancer in their family, i.e., a genetic likelihood, against the endless chemicals and other substances that exist in the environment? The answer is that you can’t.
If it seems to you that the federal government is totally out of control and detached from any sense of reality or common sense, you’d be right. It just keeps getting worse. A single phrase in the preamble of the Constitution, “promote the general welfare”, has been so totally misappropriated and distorted that government is now able to justify any idiotic, job-killing, industry-destroying law it wants to pass.
Government as carnival sideshow has become the order of the day. The posturing and pandering that occurs in the chambers of the Senate and House would be laughable if it did not lead to the hectoring of the public for every pleasure they enjoy. Smokers are already treated like lepers. This tax is shameless and indicative of the increasing intrusiveness into our right to make private and personal lifestyle choices.
Alan Caruba writes a weekly column, “Warning Signs”, posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center, http://www.anxietycenter.com/. His book, “Right Answers: Separating Fact from Fantasy”, is published by Merril Press.
© Alan Caruba, 2007