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DAVID ROSMAN: Not all taxes are equal this election

Wednesday, August 29, 2012 | 3:36 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — This is about taxes, the one topic we all love to hate and a pivotal point for both political parties this election season.

On the right of the fence, to quote George H.W. Bush, “no new taxes;” period, end of story. 

The left is taking the “fewer taxes for most but larger taxes or new taxes for a few” approach.

Both sides are trying to balance state and federal budgets from different directions.

This is also about Get Out the Vote efforts in mid-Missouri. Until Oct. 8, Republicans and Democrats, the religious right, the National Atheist Party and every special interest group will work so everyone is registered to vote and then get off their easy chairs Nov. 6 to mark their ballots.

The argument concerning the GOP’s and Democrats’ proposed tax plans comes down to money in your pocket and health care.

This is an excellent example of “parental politics.” The GOP is your dad wanting to you to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. The Democratic Party is your mom wanting to give you a hand when you need it.

There are few unbiased views of Mr. Romney’s and Mr. Obama’s opposing tax plans. Most, liberal and conservative, seem to agree on one thing, neither plan will reduce the national deficit.

Erskine Bowles, co-chairman of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, said, “our broken tax code will give away more in loopholes — $1.3 trillion — than it collects in income taxes. That’s nuts. …”

The real magician is Grover G. Norquist and his Americans for Tax Reform, which reincarnated American’s love-to-hate-taxes movement by creating the Taxpayer Protection Pledge: “Candidates and incumbents solemnly bind themselves to oppose any and all tax increases.”

What does this tax talk have to do with Missouri? It has to do with the educational health of Missouri and individual health of her citizens.

On Nov. 6, Missourians will be asked to vote on a new cigarette tax known as Proposition B, which will aid the state’s K-12 and higher education and improve health care statewide. Its purpose is simple. By creating a Health and Education Trust Fund and increasing cigarette taxes to 90 cents per pack (far less than the $1.49 per pack national average), education funding will be saved and health care expanded.

There will be the usual responses from my favorite pro-smoking antagonists, but individual states can tax cigarettes and direct the funds to education and health. Yes, this tax is targeted, but your smoke is killing yourself and others.

State Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, told me that there are two other benefits. It will create a partnership between the two hospitals in Springfield and the MU School of Medicine, which means more jobs created and more doctors for rural Missouri.

Although the joint resolution was a true bipartisan vote, Norquist and the Americans for Tax Reform have a strong following among Missouri voters. Fortunately, the same is not true within the Missouri legislature. This is where Get Out the Vote movement comes into play.

Political buddy and MU grad Brian Bough told me that it is a myth that Democrats will “just” come out to vote. In fact, the GOP, Libertarians and tea party have done a much better job of getting their constituents out to vote. (Think the August “Right to Pray” Amendment.) And the three are in Norquist’s hip pocket.

Rep. Kelly wants to change this. He is looking for volunteers to help create a Get Out the Vote list of unregistered voters who support this tax and then follow up with telephone calls.

Missouri’s budget has taken some rough cuts over the past three years with education and health programs taking the blunt of the blow.

If the idea of healthy Missourians, proper funding of our public K-12 and university systems, more doctors in rural Missouri and creating jobs in the Show-Me State excites you, contact Rep. Kelly at chris@chriskelly24.com and tell him you will help.

After all, the only thing you “solemnly promised” is to “establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. ...” That includes health and education.

David Rosman is an editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.


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Comments

Skip Yates August 29, 2012 | 4:11 p.m.

My problem with this cigarette tax is that the previous lawsuit which sent billions to the states, and made a few lawyers wealthy with little work, was to pay for health care costs, smoking health programs, etc, etc., and the money was spent for something else. That lawsuit increased the cost to the consumer for tobacco products. Same thing again....health and education trust fund, hospitals, and so forth all over again. So isn't there just so much we can hold up the tobacco companies/smokers for and keep a straight face?

(Report Comment)
Mark Flakne August 30, 2012 | 7:05 a.m.

Here are a couple of facts about the proposed cigarette tax.

1. Those of low income smoke at a much higher rate than those if high income.

http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/03...

This fact makes this tax quite regressive. Since you support it, Dave, one is forced to ask, "why do you hate poor people?" Why would you unfairly bridle them with a larger portion of the tax burden?

But the higher tax will force poor people to stop smoking and is consequently good for them... right? Daddy Rosman knows best... right?

Wrong.

This brings me to point number two...

2. While it is true that the states with the highest tobacco tax have the lowest smoking rates, there is no proof that the high tax rates have caused people to stop smoking. It is equally as likely that states in which fewer people smoke are more likely to pass higher tobacco taxes. After all, smokers don't vote for higher cigarette taxes, non-smokers do.

So, Dave, why do you hate poor people?

(Report Comment)
David Rosman August 30, 2012 | 10:41 a.m.

Mr. Flakne ~ Usually I would not respond to such a heartless attack as you have made in your response, but here is a fact. The poor of Missouri and every other state also cost the states a disproportional amount in healthcare expenses. It is my understanding from research and conversations with healthcare professionals and academics that the majority of the ailments come from two "epidemics," my word not theirs; smoking and obesity.

I do not know where your facts come from that "there is no proof that the high tax rates have caused people to stop smoking." This is refuted by studies and surveys from Health and Human Services, Pew and Gallup. In fact there is a notable reduction of teenagers who smoke due to the price of a pack of cigarettes, and those of lower income tend to reduce or stop smoking to pay for something that is necessary like food or clothing.

Your "facts' appear to have no basis, Mr. Flakne. Like others who believe in such unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, there is little if any logic in your arguments.

By neglecting the health of our citizens and your neighbors, those in opposition of expanding health care are, in fact, seeking to further reduce any advantage the US may have in the world. We are dying sooner, our public education is sorely lacking (and there is no proof that private education is any better), and over 45 percent of Americans believe in the mythical creation stories of the universe than the scientific proofs that can be studies and tested. We are not caring for ourselves and this is where the government must step in. Read John Locke.

Finally, if you read the column you should have called me "Mommy" not "Daddy." I am not always right, but I do always check my facts.

(Report Comment)
Mark Flakne August 30, 2012 | 12:22 p.m.

Mr. Rosman, you wrote: "...but here is a fact. The poor of Missouri and every other state also cost the states a disproportional amount in healthcare expenses. It is my understanding from research and conversations with healthcare professionals and academics that the majority of the ailments come from two "epidemics," my word not theirs; smoking and obesity."

So you are alright with taxing the poor with a cigarette tax at a higher rate than the rich because they use state healthcare dollars at a higher rate? It sure sounds like you are advocating that the poor fit the bill for their own healthcare. What will the Muleskinners do with you?

You have conceded my point that this cigarette tax will be levied on the poor at a disproportionally high rate when compared with other income brackets. It's just that you are ok with taxing poor people to make them behave, and I am not.

And I thought it was the conservatives and libertarians who "hate" the poor. It looks like I was wrong.

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop August 30, 2012 | 4:43 p.m.

Since smoking and obesity are normally self inflicted wounds, we can apply this to many other social ills which affect society. Violent and property crime, social diseases, poor school performance, you name it. Perhaps we can add taxes to products sold in blighted areas to ensure they pay for all the problems created there. But rather it would be better to recommend a different tax .... an income tax.

When you have skin in the game, you pay alot more attention to how your tax dollars are spent, and you demand much more accountability.

(Report Comment)

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