Sometimes A Cigar Tax Is Not Just A Cigar Tax


You might be noticing such a sentiment these days in the righty-tighty blogosphere. They’re freaking out! They’re outraged! Outraged, I tell you!

What’s got them all up in arms? Presidential signing statements? Flagrant politcization of the Department of Justice? 3,628 dead American troops?

Nope. Cigar taxes.

Here’s the quote you’ll see on the righty-tighty blogs from a cigar manufacturer in Tampa: “I’m not sure in the history of man, since our forefathers founded the country in 1776, that there’s ever been a tax increase of 20,000 percent.” The claim is that the evil commie tax-happy bastard Democrats scheming to raise the tax on cigars from one thin nickel to ten dollars. One of ’em goes as far as to ask: “Have Democrats in Congress finally found a way to tax Rush Limbaugh directly?”

Were that this statement were accurate, and were that it were so horrible anyways. Let’s have a looksee at what is actually happening. Please, bear with me, because the truth about this is buried in bullshit and so is therefore difficult to find.

The State Children’s Health Insurance Program is administered by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, under the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. The program’s stated purpose is to “provide $24 billion in federal matching funds over 10 years to help states expand health care coverage to over 5 million of the nation’s uninsured children.” Its authorization expires Sept. 30. Senators have been in discussion about the program’s particulars, including how to fund it and, possibly, how to fund an expansion of it.

Now remember, one achievement of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s 100 Hours was to install pay-go. The 110th Congress isn’t allowed to just pull out its Discover Card. Or, as it might be said more formally: “The fiscal year 2008 budget resolution includes a ‘deficit neutral’ reserve fund that allows for up to $50 billion in new spending for SCHIP as long as those costs are fully offset.”

The righty-tighty bloggers would have you believe that the evil commie tax-happy bastard Democrats just pulled the idea of raising this tax out of their asses. But I found something rather interesting on the internets about that. Ready?

“Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of the insurance lobby group America’s Health Insurance Plans, said that her organization supports an expansion of SCHIP but is unwilling to pay for it by cutting Medicare Advantage payments. AHIP is lobbying for the tobacco tax to fund the program.”

Those evil commie tax-happy bastard insurance company lobbyists!

And who’s the evil commie tax-happy bastard Democrat who introduced a measure earlier this year that would increase the federal tobacco tax to help fund SCHIP?

Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon. Who is a Republigoat.

Now that we’ve identified the evil commie tax-happy bastards, let’s do something novel and actually read the proposed language, shall we? “Large cigars are taxed at the rate equal to 53.13 percent of the manufacturer’s or importer’s sales price but not more than $10.00 per cigar; A $5 Cigar would be $7.50 A $10 Cigar would be $15.00.”

You mean a $5 cigar would not automatically cost $15? A $7.50 cigar wouldn’t automaticaly cost $17.50? That’s what the righty-tighty blogs would have you believe to read them. The $10 figure, the figure that gives them the “20,000 percent” ooga-booga number, is the ceiling, not the rule. Call the fire department, friends. Your pants are on fire.

But even if these alarmists were being 100-percent honest, I just have to ask: Would it be so bad? Is it not sensible to fund a health insurance program with tax money raised from a vanity that makes people unhealthy? They insist against universal health care in the Untied States of America, they insist against an excise tax to help cover children; why not just insist that Americans get a medical text and a scalpel and perform the damned surgeries themselves? C’mon, America! Pull yourselves up by your boot straps! Lazy bums!

I learned a long time ago in Washington that there is no issue that is ever as straightforward and square as it looks sitting in front of you on the table, and that, usually, to develop a true understanding of what’s going on, you will have to leap over a few acronyms, and you will have to occassionally scour for some facts. I have also learned that, generally, the more exclamation used in a presentation, the more likely it is that the presentor is lying. There is no mad rush by a conspiratorial group of evil commie tax-happy bastard Democrats to make Rush Limbaugh pay a million dollars for a cigar. Legislators are weighing options under new rules to expand funding for a vital health care program, an expansion that is likely to face a veto anyway.

These people should be farmers. Anyone who can make hay from horseshit should be a farmer.

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