While I generally acknowledge that most politicians are a collective of scum and villainy, it would appear that the Democrats have descended to a remarkable new depth. At stake is a $35 billion expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. President Bush has said that he’s not going to sign anything nearly that large. But, in a classic “it’s for the children” move, congressional Democrats have chosen a way to fund all $35 billion: on the backs of cigarette smokers. Stick with me here… The House and Senate passed legislation last week that would be financed with a 156 percent increase in the federal cigarette tax, taking it to $1 per pack from the current 39 cents. Low-income people smoke more heavily than do wealthier people in the United States, making cigarette taxes a regressive form of revenue. So much for the Democrats being the champion of the poor.
“I’m very happy that we’re paying for this,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in an interview Friday, noting that the plan would not add to the deficit. “The health of the children is extremely important,” he said. “In the long run, maybe it’ll stop people from smoking.” Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., defended putting the burden of expanded medical care on smokers. “The tobacco tax is a great way to pay for it,” he said, “because if you tax people who are smoking and they smoke less, then we have less health problems.” Rep. Jim McCrery, R-La., did not buy that logic. “To propose funding a growing program with a declining revenue source is, I would submit, irresponsible fiscal policy,” he said.
So to distill this to its essence, the Democrats want to tax the mostly poor people who smoke cigarettes, to pay for the health care of those who do not smoke, in a way that seeks to eliminate the original tax through less use anyway. And the President is going to veto the legislation anyway, so this has all been a bunch of fluff. Clear?