One line from Eric Zorn's column bothered me all week. He wrote a column that poked fun at state and local electeds, most recently Cook County Board President John Stroger, for pushing to raise the tax on cigarettes. Even though taxes continue to rise dramatically on a pack, and the number of packs purchased falls, revenues continue to dramatically rise.
The column is here and the highlights follow:
Cigarette levies are a regressive and now wildly excessive form of taxation that thrives, I figure, because at some level smokers feel they deserve to be punished for their weakness and so can't complain.
The decrease in local cigarette sales caused by a doubling of the county tax will result in budget shortfalls at the city and state levels (Illinois officials estimate the state lost $40 million in 2004 when Cook County hiked per-pack taxes by 82 cents). And because our elected officials are too cowardly to spread their budget burdens around, you can be sure who they'll turn to with open palms and moist smiles when the time comes to make up the difference and plug the holes.
The cycle will continue until a fair-minded majority says, "Enough already! Pick on some other self-destructive habit for a change."
Here's the part that bothers me: calling our elected officials "cowardly" because they won't "spread their budget burdens around"
What is that about?
Suddenly, an elected is a coward because the tax with the highest degree of support among the electorate is the one they choose to raise? A coward?
Them's fighting words.
And how exactly does Eric suggest budget burdens be spread? An income tax increase for the state? A property tax increase? A sales tax increase?
It's easy to criticize -- and very easy to throw around really inflammatory language like cowardly -- but those sorts of adjectives demean public service and make a usually-insightful columnist look a little mean-spirited.
Am I off base here or is Zorn wrong?