Any time politicians claim to want to help people or be concerned for their welfare, don’t believe them. Especially when they attach to their concern a tax ‘solution’ to the people’s problems.
Cigarette taxes are purportedly about getting people to kick their habit. If the taxes are exorbitantly high, people won’t buy cigarettes anymore. At least that’s their theory.
What ends up happening – as in places like New York where cigarette taxes are monstrous – is that a black market is formed where untaxed (or lower taxed) cigarettes are sold. People would much rather spend a few dollars on a pack of smokes than $12. (Remember Eric Garner? He was selling untaxed cigarettes.)
People can also drive across state lines to buy much lower taxed cigarettes.
There are a couple of dynamics at play here. First, the state doesn’t actually care about people’s health except in the context of lowering healthcare costs provided by state-funded programs. In other words, the real reason they want people to stop smoking is so they don’t have to pay as much in healthcare costs for more lower income people who depend on taxpayer-funded health programs.
The other dynamic is that the state, in a way, wants for smokers to keep smoking and pay the massive tax so they can make a killing from the revenue. They know that people aren’t necessarily going to quit.
What often ends up happening is that people go elsewhere to get cigarettes, so the state loses money (compared to how much they projected). So, people don’t quit smoking (which leaves the state on the hook for healthcare costs for lower income residents who end up ill from smoking), and they don’t raise the money they budgeted and are forced to raid some other fund to finance themselves.
In Oakland, they were going to combat obesity by implementing a soda tax, which would actually hurt lower income people, since they’re more likely to purchase sodas (and also more likely to be on some form of taxpayer-funded health program). The city said they were going to take the revenue raised from the soda tax and put it toward health and education programs.
While the has projected it would raise $6 million a year from the soda tax, the money isn’t going toward curbing obesity or anything altruistic like that. It went straight into the general fund, where it was promptly raided to help cover the city’s budget shortfall. A local CBS affiliate reported:
Mayor Libby Schaaf says Oakland is facing a $32 million budgetshortfall. She wants to help fill the gap by diverting $6 million of soda tax.
Many people are upset because city leaders promised voters the money would be used for health programs.
“It’s a bait and switch by the mayor,” says resident Louis Nagel.
But the city council reassured the residents that the money would be used to help people. “It will be used to support children and family activities,” insists Councilman Noel Gallo.
CBS noted that “Gallo says he supports the mayor’s idea to use the soda tax money for libraries and parks.” And what exactly do libraries and parks have to do with health programs helping people to stop buying sugary soda drinks? As Hot Air pointed out, “Nothing.”
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by EagleRising.com