Skip to main content

View Diary: DK Elections Policy Weekly Open Thread: What Issues Are You Interested In? (256 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  You seem to have a very conservative view (5+ / 0-)

    on sin taxes. Sin taxes are really a win-win situation: 1) They convince many Americans to not do stupid things (like smoke tobacco) and make those who choose to do so anyway pay the price for it, and 2) They provide the government with lots of much-needed money.

    If sin taxes disappeared, then the government would need to either raise taxes elsewhere (good luck getting that through Congress) or cut spending on stuff like education, poverty, and the environment.

    Given that, I'd take sin taxes any day.

    (-8.38, -4.72), CT-02 (home), ME-01 (college) "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one." -Spock

    by ProudNewEnglander on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 09:41:48 AM PST

    [ Parent ]

    •  Mark27 has spoken quite forcefully... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ProudNewEnglander, MichaelNY

      Against sin taxes before, to the point where David Nir has asked him to shut up about it, IIRC. Not that that matters on the policy threads, of course, but just know that he has that history on the issue.

      For the record, I wholeheartedly agree with you that sin taxes are smart policy, although I'm not sure they act as a strong disincentive.

      Pragmatic progressive. Oregonian, Cascadian, and American. Keeper of the DKE glossary.

      by SaoMagnifico on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 09:48:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  What's the evidence on the extent (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BeloitDem

        of the disincentive? Smoking has decreased a lot in the last few decades, but how much of that is related to increased tobacco taxation and how much is related to heavy publicity for its dire health consequences and resulting decrease in "coolness" of smoking? Meanwhile, have alcohol taxes had any measurable effect on drinking?

        I am not opposed to taxing things to try to create a disincentive, but if it's shown that the taxation has no such effect, that would make me look more askance at them. I'd mention gasoline taxes in this discussion, too. Obviously, many people have no choice but to buy gasoline to go to and from work and the shopping mall to buy groceries, but do gas tax increases at a certain level decrease optional driving and, thus, help the environment?

        Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

        by MichaelNY on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 11:41:19 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Even If The Disincentive Factor Was Considerable.. (0+ / 0-)

          .....don't we as a society have some measure of civic duty on behalf of those who continue to consume the product we're trying to disincentivize?  Particularly if that product is proven to be fiercely addictive to users?  And particularly when the profiles of those consumers are among the most vulnerable amongst us, often including abuse victims and the mentally ill?  At the very least don't you acknowledge the need for a balance between disincentivizing usage of a product and not destroying the lives of those who keep using it (and their families who suffer along with them)?

        •  And Furthermore..... (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jncca, gabjoh, MichaelNY, Skaje

          .....how much can we really believe that government is operating in good faith with disincentivizing usage of the "sinful" product they're taxing if they keep going back to that tax to pay for every new program?  If Obama raises cigarette taxes to single-handedly pay for a new children's health care entitlement and proposes to raise them yet again to single-handedly pay for universal preschool, can we really believe he wants to disincentivize cigarette smoking?  Likewise, if the Minnesota Legislature spiked cigarettes to historic levels out of a desire to coerce people to quit smoking, do we then expect that they want to default on the Minnesota Vikings stadium that the cigarette stadium was earmarked to pay for.  They don't get to have it both ways.  If sin taxes are intended to disincentivize usage, politicians are guilty of the highest order of budgetary malpractice by setting up long-range spending priorities paid for with a funding source they don't expect to materialize, and in fact hopes it doesn't.

          •  Yeah that pretty much solidifies it for me (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MichaelNY

            I used to be fairly ambivalent about vice taxes, but the more I think about it, the more I realize how disingenuous it is for politicians to suggest that they pass them out of real concern for the health of their constituents, or to actually try to reduce usage.

            It's like making police departments reliant on speeding tickets for their budgets.  Would they really then want people to stop speeding?

    •  You see, I have mixed feelings about sin taxes (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mark27, gabjoh

      And I'm pretty darn liberal. I'll support them if they're the only way we can get necessary revenue, but I'd prefer to get that revenue from an income tax. I don't think they really have much of an effect on demand (particularly for addictive substances like tobacco) and they mostly just serve to take money out of the hands of a group that is overwhelmingly less financially well off.

      •  Even For Those Who Accept The Perverse Ethics... (0+ / 0-)

        ....of the "sin tax"--and frankly the very term sounds like it was concocted at a Moral Majority convention held at Liberty University in 1985--one would think that sooner or later progressives would come to terms with the extent of the damage they are doing policy wise as pretending that the consumers of whatever "naughty" product government is declaring sinful are the ones who need fixing in America as opposed to say, just about anything else.  The very people who have been knocked on their backs by market forces and rightward-shifting public policy of the past four decades are also the ones that pseudo-progressives are repeatedly lining up to decry as the "sinners" who should single-handedly shoulder the burden of extra taxation as well?  Really?

        The cognitive dissonance here is so thick that you can cut it with a knife and it makes me sick that so many otherwise sensible people not only buy into this, but want to expand the monstrous cynicism to yet another bogeyman with marijuana.

    •  To Be Honest..... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      madmojo, Skaje

      ....it's fast becoming an irreconcilable difference for me and the Democratic Party as it seems that exploiting the addictions of low-income workers, abuse victims, and the mentally ill for fists full of blood revenue is becoming the only thing the Democrats are successful at anymore in the realm of governance.  I was physically ill and unable to sleep for weeks after Mark Dayton and the Democratic Legislature of Minnesota shanked the most vulnerable in their midst with the largest increase in cigarette taxes in American history earlier this year, and if I still lived in Minnesota I wouldn't consider voting for any of them.

      I could go on for multiple paragraphs on every reason "sin taxes" are bad and predatory policy (and a particularly dissonent policy for those who claim a progressive and secular worldview), but the most obvious reason to oppose them is the extent to which they exacerbate income inequality by singling out working-class lifestyles as a source of "sin" and thus as a source of "taxation".  As the template of "sinfulness" expands to meet the needs of cowardly politicians trying to take advantage of more "sinners" to fill the nation's financial coffers in lieu of raising taxes elsewhere, the natural conclusion is an American tax system put forth by the left that is a thousand times more regressive than the Paul Ryan budget.

      Knowing so many friends and family who are the receiving end of sin-taxing abusers, the last thing I want to see is another class of "sinners" in the form of marijuana users manufactured by government for the sole purpose of stripping them of their financial livelihood.  Before the world turned upside down and pseudo-progressives fell in love with the idea of the most regressive and exploitative imaginable taxes, THAT is what I would have defined as a "conservative view on sin taxes".

      •  You argue passionately for your cause (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mark27, Gygaxian, MichaelNY, wadingo, tk421

        I'm sympathetic as well.  Democrats went for vice taxes because it's the only way they can sell revenue increases to the public anymore.  In the recent Colorado ballot initiatives, the margins surprised me, but the outcome did not: the broad-based yet small income tax increase to fund education went down in flames, while the 25% taxes on marijuana passed in a landslide.  I voted the opposite way on both of them, but knew I was likely to be on the losing side for both.  The problem here is not specifically the Democratic Party, but rather the American public that has gotten incredibly stupid about taxes over the past few decades.  Conservatives have successfully raised an entire generation of Americans to hate income taxes.  Rather than seeing them as a collective effort to make our country strong, they see the government just wanting to steal their money and set fire to it.

        So people, as they tend to do, instead want to shove that burden onto the "others".  Onto people they do not like.  Smokers have been demonized for decades now, and while their habit is harmful to their health, so are a ton of other habits one can choose from to help pass the days, many of which I indulge in as well.  I do not judge other people, and the very act of calling it a "sin tax" implies a whole lotta judging going on.

        •  I always thought you lived in Hawaii. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY, wadingo
        •  Yes, The Moral Judgments Going On..... (0+ / 0-)

          ....with "sin taxes", particularly when the same "sinful" behavior is tapped into over and over again, creates a glide path towards systemic societal intolerance towards said "sinful" group, the exact sort of thing the left has been fighting against for decades.  There are a handful of issues where I differ with progressive doctrine, or at least have a position slightly more nuanced than the mainstream progressive position, but they're all issues where I acknowledge that reasonable people can disagree.  When it comes to bankrolling government vis a vis arbitrarily defined and cherry-picked "sin taxes", I have absolutely no clue how they can be defended in any capacity under the rubric of progressive policy.

          And it pains me that I have to qualify my support for something as logical as marijuana legalization with paranoia that government's only interest in it is to create a whole new class of vulnerable citizens to financially persecute, while massively exacerbating income inequality in the process.

          •  What it will say about this (6+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Mark27, jncca, MichaelNY, wadingo, Skaje, gabjoh

            Is that a regressive tax is still better than throwing people in jail for no good reason, especially when prosecution is most likely to target the least powerful in society while letting the powerful off the hook.

            •  In Principle I Completely Agree..... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              MichaelNY

              ....but given how easy marijuana is to grow and distribute, I think there will be a huge black market even if it's legalized, particularly since government will go so nuts raising taxes on the legal product that it will push much of the trade back underground.  The guy growing pot in his basement will still be able to get me a bag of weed cheaper than the overtaxed, chemical-saturated corporate product.  

              And considering the size of the under-the-radar tobacco black market and the number of people quietly being funneled into prisons as a direct consequence of artificially overpriced cigarettes, I expect we'll see the same thing with marijuana.  A black market that will be just as large as today's, with thousands upon thousands of prosecutions each year.  We may even see MORE people thrown into prison after marijuana is legalized....because postlegalization, anybody who dares to dabble in black market marijuana will now be a direct threat to Uncle Sam's sin tax empire.

          •  The good news about marijuana legalization (5+ / 0-)

            at least in Colorado and Washington, is that it came from outside the establishment, and that it passed despite being fought tooth and nail by Democratic and Republican politicians.  I've been ambivalent on the merits of "government by ballot initiative", but it really worked out last year.  The people rose up and demanded legalization, without the politicians structuring that path for us.  Now (in Colorado at least) the legislature is rushing to monetize the thing they so desperately tried to keep from existing, but I'm not too broken up about it.  For the casual user, the tax shouldn't be too much of a burden given how much cheaper it will be than when it was illegal.  For the serious user, they can just grow their own in peace for once.  The taxes on marijuana aren't optimal, but I still think the current situation is a hell of a lot more desirable than before November 2012.

            •  I Think For As Long As It's Limited To Colorado... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              MichaelNY

              .....you'll probably have a pretty good thing going.  But I suspect you'll lose your competitive advantage as the legalization wave spreads, and particularly if the federal government ever green-lights it (no pun intended) nationally.  When that happens, I think there will be more concern about centralizing tax stamp authority among an oligopoly of corporate bad actors (read tobacco companies) and, correspondingly, less tolerance towards people growing their own weed in their basements.  I'd be very pleasantly surprised if the template for legalization in Colorado was the way things played out nationally, but given government's obsession with milking it for blood revenue, I don't see how things avoid going in a very unsavory direction very quickly.

              •  On a slightly different note (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                MichaelNY

                I've had regular discussions with a few of my friends about how to push forward with decriminalization of all drugs, something I feel would do wonders to crush the violent gangs that traffic them, end accidental overdoses, reduce the transmission of diseases, etc., and something they always bring up is that America is too socially conservative to allow it.  Marijuana is one thing, but could you imagine the outcry if people could shoot up heroin in a safe government building?  The horror!

                I have a running joke that what we should do to get majority support is to have it where you can do the hard drugs in a government building, but you have to be surrounded by ministers of various religions berating you for your lifestyle.  That should get America on board, lol.

                •  My Position Is The Same..... (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Skaje

                  I'm reasonably concerned about the uptick in usage of harder drugs that pose a more clear and present danger to individuals and bystanders in the event of legalization, but on balance I think the consequences of continued prohibitions would still be worse.  I'm not quite fully onboard with this yet, but I think a template exists from which a controlled setting for hard drug usage would be a better option than what we're doing now.

      •  I notice how you didn't (0+ / 0-)

        actually address either of my points.

        You didn't deny that without sin taxes, important government programs would have to be cut. That, in and of itself, makes sin taxes a progressive idea.

        But you seem to be glossing over the obvious point that, quite simply, the actions that are being taxed are sins!! They are bad! Bad for those people, bad for the people around them, and bad for society! A civilized society does not let people get away with doing things that are directly harmful to society, and do not benefit anyone (cigarette smoking is one of the best examples of this). Thus, who these people are is really not relevant. All that matters is that they are intentionally harming society, and therefore they should accept the penalty for that.

        I am a secular progressive, and there is no dissonance at all between that and my support for sin taxes. I want the government to have enough money to pay for social programs, education programs, health care programs, environmental programs, etc. I also think that people who do stupid things (and it's very difficult to argue that smoking cigarettes is not a stupid thing) should have to suffer a penalty for that decision. Thus, the idea of sin taxes comes logically.

        It's hard for me to have sympathy for people on the receiving end of sin taxes, because they are perfectly capable of not buying whatever it is that they are paying a sin tax on. They choose to buy these things. They are in control of whether they pay sin taxes or not. If they choose to buy these things, then that's their decision, but they must accept the consequences of that decision.

        Your view on sin taxes is the conservative one because you apparently don't want the government to have the money that sin taxes provide. You apparently also think that people should be able to get away with actions that hurt society and benefit no one. That is, in my opinion, a selfish, and therefore conservative, view.

        (-8.38, -4.72), CT-02 (home), ME-01 (college) "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one." -Spock

        by ProudNewEnglander on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 11:40:44 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  This really cannot end well (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Stephen Wolf, MichaelNY

          I don't see how this doesn't escalate and I would strongly encourage you both not to take this too far.

          27, originally OK-1, currently NY-10. Former swingnut.

          by okiedem on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 11:47:18 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  This is the Policy thread (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Mark27, gabjoh

            We're supposed to be having policy discussions here. Also, even though I disagree strongly with Mark27, I don't think that he will take this too far, and neither will I.

            (-8.38, -4.72), CT-02 (home), ME-01 (college) "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one." -Spock

            by ProudNewEnglander on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 01:02:02 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  Because I Don't Accept The Premise...... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Skaje

          There are all kinds of funding mechanisms besides the most regressive and predatory ever devised to pay for the daily operations of government.  And even if no other means existed than the most regressive and predatory, there's an ethical principle here of not taking advantage of people while they're down that I would think would have to be explained so extensively to self-proclaimed progressives.

          Who are you to decide what "sins" are?  And who am I for that matter?  You claim to be secular in the same paragraph as you decree government as our moral arbiter, and I'm pretty sure you weren't being ironic.  The concept of a "sin tax" comes right out of the Jerry Falwell/James Dobson playbook, and progressives who embrace it appear to not have the vaguest hint of how hypocritical they're being.  You can't stand in judgment of another person's sin, particularly when advocating a financial censure against said "sin", without taking society on a glide path to systemic intolerance against those deemed moral inferiors by their government.  It's dangerous beyond imagination.

          You're right....I don't want the government to have the money that "sin taxes" provide.  I want government to have the money that progressive and ethically applied taxes provide.

          •  Your second paragraph doesn't make any sense (0+ / 0-)

            I do decree government as our moral arbiter, and I feel that in a civilized society, that must be the case. There is no religious aspect to this at all, and I'm not sure why you are trying to insert it. I don't want the beliefs of any religion to be our moral arbiter. You seem to be under the impression that any opposition to cigarette smoking is religion-based, and quite honestly that's nonsense. I want the beliefs of a civilized society, embodied by the government, to be our moral arbiter. This has nothing to do with religion. Please stop trying to insert religion into this discussion.

            You then said,

            You can't stand in judgment of another person's sin
            Are you serious? This is the entire purpose of a jury! Are you seriously advocating for the dismantling of our entire criminal justice system? The Constitution specifically gives people the right of a trial by jury. It is the jury's job to stand in judgment of the defendant's crimes. If not them, then who?

            And finally, I do believe that smokers are morally inferior. They are selfish, with absolutely no consideration for how their actions affect other people. I consider smokers to be the moral equivalent of burglars.

            (-8.38, -4.72), CT-02 (home), ME-01 (college) "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one." -Spock

            by ProudNewEnglander on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 12:59:55 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  You're Confusing Sin With Crime...... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Skaje, okiedem

              A society is well within its rights to prosecute crime by way of jury per your example, but sin is a term that exists within the realm of religion.  Juries don't stand in judgments of sinners....they stand in judgment of criminals. And the fact that cigarettes are legally sanctioned for sale, complete with punitive and predatory taxation, by definition means they are not criminal.

              I won't even dignify your final paragraph with a response.

              •  Yeah this is straight up trolling (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                MichaelNY
                I consider smokers to be the moral equivalent of burglars.

                27, originally OK-1, currently NY-10. Former swingnut.

                by okiedem on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 02:50:01 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  This a million times. (0+ / 0-)

                There's also the assumption of innocence until proven guilty, ie due process, that PNE also left out, but being he used the worst possible example to make as an analogy, and that America, and Amricans like him now think due process is now "quaint" as Gonsalez and John Bybee or whomever I'm thinking of from the Bush administation has not cultured to believe, its par for the course.

            •  If you really want to throw a grenade in there... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Skaje, Stephen Wolf

              sin taxes exist in part because religions do not pay their share of the tax burden.  One practice that exploits addictive personalities is deliberately tax-exempt, while another practice that exploits addictive personalities is heavily taxed.

              Sin taxes are just one branch of a tax system that was contrived over time by selfish special interests, with the aim to put greater burden on the politically or numerically weak.

              Mr. Gorbachev, establish an Electoral College!

              by tommypaine on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 01:23:55 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  I don't mean to bring even more religion into this (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Mark27, gabjoh, MichaelNY

              But while I'm quite the atheist myself, I've always been a fan of the quote "Let he without sin cast the first stone".

              I'm not talking about the criminal justice system, which serves to punish those who prey on others.  That is of course necessary to society and you know Mark wasn't advocating against that.  I'm talking about judging people for stuff they do in their personal lives which harms only themselves.  The "sins" that we have been talking about in this discussion.  I don't judge smokers, drinkers, stoners, or even those addicted to meth, coke, or heroin.  I don't judge people for being overweight.  I don't judge people for being lazy, wasting their days playing video games, gambling, or masturbating.  I don't judge people for any of their little vices.  We all have them, even if we think they are not vices, or that ours are superior to the vices of others.

              Now, I've had similar discussions with others, and the followup to this is usually: "But they do affect others!"  The argument being that it costs society money in medical bills, that it costs their family members, and that all actions have consequences on others.  To which I always say: this is about freedom.  One of the deepest beliefs I hold is that people should be free to do what they want with their bodies, and with their spare time, as long as it directly harms no one else.  If you are going to argue that the government should be involved in forcing people to live healthy lives, then you have taken a position quite at odds with my basic philosophy.

              People should have the right to make bad decisions.  In many cases, it's the only way people learn anything.

              •  I guess I just have a different philosophy (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                MichaelNY

                I do judge people who do things that I view as dumb. It seems that I simply have less tolerance for such behavior than you do.

                Your last paragraph is striking. I agree that people have the right to make bad decisions, but they also need to accept the consequences of those decisions if they choose to make them. In my view, people do not have the right to both 1) make bad decisions and 2) not have to suffer any negative consequences for them.

                And finally, if people actually did learn from their bad decisions, then I might feel differently. However, I think it's pretty clear that people do not learn from their bad decisions. How do you explain people who have been addicted to many different drugs over many periods of time in their lives? Or people who smoke tobacco for 40 years? Most people do not learn from making these bad decisions, and that's one reason why I think the government has a big role to play in reducing the number of people who make these bad decisions.

                (-8.38, -4.72), CT-02 (home), ME-01 (college) "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one." -Spock

                by ProudNewEnglander on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 01:49:45 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I have trouble understanding your world view (0+ / 0-)

                  Could you explain on what basis you think the government should punish people for making "bad" decisions which hurt others. Is it based off a belief in government paternalism or do you think that there is something morally outrageous about victimless vices?

                  27, originally OK-1, currently NY-10. Former swingnut.

                  by okiedem on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 02:46:57 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  which *don't* hurt others (0+ / 0-)

                    27, originally OK-1, currently NY-10. Former swingnut.

                    by okiedem on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 03:17:54 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  A brief answer (0+ / 0-)

                    Sorry I don't have more time to answer this question in more depth.

                    I do believe that some level of government paternalism is needed, since Americans (and I know this is a generalization) don't really have much personal responsibility, and don't consider other people when making decisions.

                    I don't consider using drugs to be a victimless vice. As I see it, using drugs benefits no one and hurts a lot of people, and thus the government should strictly regulate, tax, and (in some cases) outlaw the drugs.

                    I hope this gives you a perspective into where I'm getting at.

                    (-8.38, -4.72), CT-02 (home), ME-01 (college) "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one." -Spock

                    by ProudNewEnglander on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 06:39:51 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  One could argue that the reason you don't (0+ / 0-)

                      go into more 'depth' to answer that question is not because of lack of time, but because of lack of depth, there is no depth for you to go into as

                      I do judge people who do things that I view as dumb
                      is the most shallow thing a person copuld do, judging people for things you think are dumb is the very definition of shallow.
                •  It Strikes That A Core Principle.... (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  MichaelNY, Skaje

                  .....of progressive public policy is tolerance and respect for the rights and freedoms of others.  Your proud proclamations of intolerance for a demographic of Americans as benign as tobacco users strikes me as a very curious position to take for somebody whose first volley in this thread was to decry what you perceived as my "conservative position".

                  As the pantheon of "smoke-free" designations creeps further and further outdoors, society is breeding a toxic brew of intolerance, going against the grain of the integrative means in which intolerance has been resolved in the past and thus doing a disservice to the cause of tolerance today.  The venom and bile you direct towards smokers is the kind of attitude that can only come from judging somebody from afar without ever getting to know any of them.  My request for you is to seek out whatever remote designated smoking area you can find and actually converse with some of these people.  I can assure you that you will come upon people bearing hardships you can't even imagine, ranging from chronic pain to parental/spousal abuse to drug addiction recovery to mental illness.  A couple of hours talking to these people should help you recognize the immaturity of the judgments you've bestowed on their humanity.

                  •  There's one problem with that idea (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    MichaelNY

                    The smoke. I have no desire to breathe cigarette smoke, and it seems that most people don't have any desire to breathe cigarette smoke either. Cigarette smoke is both dangerous and disgusting not just to the smokers but to anyone around them as well.

                    I believe that everyone has the right to breathe clean air. A continuation of this idea is that people should not be allowed to pollute the air without paying some kind of penalty... like a sin tax.

                    (-8.38, -4.72), CT-02 (home), ME-01 (college) "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one." -Spock

                    by ProudNewEnglander on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 04:01:51 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  A Lot Of Problems With The "Clean Air" Entitlement (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      gabjoh, Skaje

                      Taken to its natural conclusion, there's a pretty long list of consumer products that someone would think "smells yucky".  If public policy decrees the need to clear a path of fresh air to accommodate the every footstep of people who believe they're entitled to it, just about every personal freedom along with the functioning of modern society grinds to a halt.  I'd like to walk down a sidewalk without enduring motor vehicle exhaust, but you know what, that's not my "right".  And it's a very safe bet that the people calling to codify intolerance with ever more punitive laws against smokers will live to regret the "your rights end where mine begin" smugness that can and will be turned around on them in the future.

                      •  too bad we tax gas. (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        MichaelNY

                        ...better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity, than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference. -FDR, 1936

                        by James Allen on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 04:20:23 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                      •  Subway sandwich shops, for example (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        MichaelNY

                        I hate the smell of those places, worse than the Turnpike, worse than gas stations - let's start by taxing those.

                        "Pillows, but no sleep / Feathers, but no birds." | Pro-transit young black urban progressive | SSP/DKE | -9, -7.79 | NJ-05 - ! | Yard signs don't vote.

                        by gabjoh on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 06:00:14 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Does the smell of Subway shops (2+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          James Allen, MichaelNY

                          damage your health? I didn't think so. Cigarette smoke clearly and obviously does damage the health of people who have to breathe it on a regular basis.

                          (-8.38, -4.72), CT-02 (home), ME-01 (college) "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one." -Spock

                          by ProudNewEnglander on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 06:41:19 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  Not if you aren't in a room with them (nt) (0+ / 0-)

                            "Pillows, but no sleep / Feathers, but no birds." | Pro-transit young black urban progressive | SSP/DKE | -9, -7.79 | NJ-05 - ! | Yard signs don't vote.

                            by gabjoh on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 06:59:43 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  If you argument is by paying a tax it is okay (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Skaje, MichaelNY

                            to damage the health of people... then you should rethink the logic of your position.

                            The deadliness of cigarettes is irrelevant to taxing them.  Cigarettes should be prohibited anywhere in public because they kill people.  Mixing the health issue with the taxation issue is simply bizarre.  Do you also think that drunk drivers should pay higher gasoline taxes?

                            Mr. Gorbachev, establish an Electoral College!

                            by tommypaine on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 08:01:27 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  That is an important observation (0+ / 0-)

                            And something that didn't occur to me before.  If cigarettes really are so abhorrent, then try to ban them.  Taxation is this squishy middle ground where politicians can claim that they are trying to effect social change but in reality, all that is happening is that smokers are still smoking but now they pay more money to the government.  They become another revenue source, and in a perverted outcome the government actually has an interest now in keeping them smoking, otherwise its revenues fall.

                          •  Many fewer people are smoking (0+ / 0-)

                            Whether increased cost for cigarettes has much to do with that, I have no idea.

                            Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

                            by MichaelNY on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 08:33:20 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  It's likely that cost is part of it (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            MichaelNY, BeloitDem

                            But I strongly suspect more significant reasons are the growing awareness of the health risks, and the end of tobacco's glamorous image.  I think those two reasons account for most of the decline from 42% to 19% of all adults smoking, going from 1965 to 2011.

                          •  taxation is used for all kinds of incentivizing an (3+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            uclabruin18, Skaje, MichaelNY

                            disincentivizing and social engineering. My Federal Income Tax professor says the tax code is the Senate Finance Committee telling people how to live their lives. Its like cap and trade:  it don't actually regulate the bad stuff, it creates incentives so that hopefully people will do less of that bad stuff, or more of the good stuff.

                            ...better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity, than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference. -FDR, 1936

                            by James Allen on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 08:34:38 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  This is true (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            MichaelNY

                            All the various credits and deductions one can take incentivize various behaviors.  It's a subtle, yet I feel significant, difference from direct application of vice taxes though.  Allowing a tax deduction for putting solar panels on your roof comes across differently than slapping on a fee on anyone who doesn't get the panels...imagine how different the reaction would be to the ACA mandate if instead of there being a fee for non-compliance, there was simply a tax deduction for compliance.

                            In the end I suppose it really is the same thing though.  I guess I don't mind a lot of the tax code silliness because it doesn't come across as being a punitive thing, whereas cigarette taxes are definitely punitive.

                          •  I think part of the idea (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            James Allen, sapelcovits

                            is to make it harder for teenagers to start smoking. I have to say, overall sales taxes bother me a lot more than "sin" taxes.

                            Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

                            by MichaelNY on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 09:17:23 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  The problem is (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            MichaelNY, Mark27

                            It doesn't work very well for addictive substances, since demand is pretty inelastic. Quitting smoking is really hard.

                          •  Right, once you start. n/t (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            sapelcovits

                            Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

                            by MichaelNY on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 10:47:42 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Yeah, but I'd also argue that starting (3+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            MichaelNY, Mark27, Skaje

                            Typically isn't discouraged by price increases in any range that would not create a massive black market among people already using. People don't set out to smoke a pack a day for the rest of their life, they start out smoking a couple cigs, which isn't very expensive. It builds up to costing a lot as they become addicted.

                          •  Is there some research about the degree (0+ / 0-)

                            to which expense affects smoking?

                            Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

                            by MichaelNY on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 11:13:14 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                      •  This comment sounds very anti-environmentalist (0+ / 0-)

                        I hope that wasn't what you meant by it.

                        (-8.38, -4.72), CT-02 (home), ME-01 (college) "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one." -Spock

                        by ProudNewEnglander on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 06:42:56 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

              •  Completely Agree...... (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                gabjoh, Skaje

                ....and the extent to which so many on the left have allowed themselves to be immersed in this "civilize the savages" worldview--where low-income and mentally ill tobacco users are always first in line to be taxed and where a prohibition on big gulp sodas manages to find false flag progressive defenders--completely undermines the mainstays of the progressive project.  How can progressives in one breath claim that the levers of government needs to employed to financially empower the underclass, while in the next insist that the same group of people are engaging in a lifestyle from which Big Brother must rescue them through whatever punitive and paternalistic means necessary?

                Whenever those on the left rally to the cause of lifestyle control for the peasantry, the de facto message is that the people are the problem, not the system in which the people exist in.  And a good percentage of the people will at that point rightfully tune you out.  

        •  You see, I reject your premise here (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Mark27, Skaje
          It's hard for me to have sympathy for people on the receiving end of sin taxes, because they are perfectly capable of not buying whatever it is that they are paying a sin tax on. They choose to buy these things.
          Most tobacco smokers start as teenagers and are addicted as adults. Lots of them would love to kick the habit, but it's a lot harder than you make it out to be.

          I'm also wary of the idea that we should be punishing people for what they do to their own body, but in the case of addictive substances it's particularly egregious.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

  • Recommended (127)
  • Community (60)
  • Media (32)
  • Elections (32)
  • Trans-Pacific Partnership (30)
  • 2016 (29)
  • Law (28)
  • Environment (28)
  • Civil Rights (26)
  • Culture (24)
  • Barack Obama (24)
  • Hillary Clinton (23)
  • Republicans (22)
  • Climate Change (21)
  • Science (21)
  • Labor (19)
  • Economy (19)
  • Josh Duggar (18)
  • Jeb Bush (18)
  • Bernie Sanders (17)
  • Click here for the mobile view of the site