Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Zorn picks on electeds who raise the cigarette tax

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."

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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?

5 comments:

leo said...

Err, don't tax you, don't tax me, tax the guy behind the tree.

So long as they don't increase the tax on licquor, I don't care what they charge for cigs. (joke)

Bill Baar said...

Smokers are bad people. That's why it's ok to tax them. Even smokers feel guilty now a days.

Zorn's right. It's a regressive tax on people with an addiction.

I had the monkey on my back.

Besides it really stiffs those small stores and gas stations.

Nathan Kaufman said...

Leaders in Illinois might consider a major expansion of medical education and research in the state university system. This could be used to provide summer educational programs and opportunities for youths in the state (chemistry, biology and other - science!). It could also be a strategic complement to activities at the Univ. of Chicago and Northwestern.

I need to read Zorn's piece and think about it more.

CF said...

Zorn's article is idiotic, but I don't have a problem calling our elected officials cowardly. That seems an obvious bipartisan statement of fact. My favorite stupid line from Zorn's article is this: The cycle will continue until a fair-minded majority says, "Enough already! Pick on some other self-destructive habit for a change." Hey Zorn, the majority of people don't smoke, so what the hell do they care about cig taxes? At no point will this fair-minded majority say "hey, how about higher food and clothing taxes instead." Yes, the "cycle" of simple human nature will continue, Mr. Zorn. It will continue as long as there is "humanity". Curse those humans!

slingshot said...

The tax is excessive. It will promote bootlegging from nearby counties and the state of Indiana. This strategy will back fire on them. Smokers will find ways around the tax by not buying cigarettes in Cook county. And since smoking is an addiction, I doubt it will make to many people quit. I will make a prediction too. John Stroger will be needing a new job in the foreseeable future. His mismanagement as President of the Cook County board is what caused this tax increase. It won't necessarily be the tax that makes him loose his job, but his total incompetence at doing his job.