Voters and readers voice what's important to them in the election

Monday, November 5, 2012 | 4:27 p.m. CST; updated 1:10 p.m. CST, Monday, November 12, 2012
At a watch party for the first presidential debate, MU students said what they'd ask the candidates if they had a chance.

COLUMBIA — In the weeks leading up to the election, the Missourian's community outreach team has been interested in what voters and readers had to say. We sought out their opinions about the candidates, their questions regarding the issues and their reasons for being politically involved. You can find all the voices we collected here.

On the candidates

At a nonpartisan MU student watch party, we asked attendees which candidate they would rather tailgate with, who they would rather study with and who they planned to vote for.

Madison Knapp said she'd rather study with Obama since "he's better at explaining things without being redundant, it seems." However, she intends to vote for and would want to tailgate with Mitt Romney, who Knapp said "probably goes to the kind of tailgate where they serve lobster and hand out free merch."

Daniel Lewis said he plans to vote for Obama, with whom he'd rather tailgate. He'd rather study with Romney, though.

"He has two Harvard degrees — if it's Obama, you're kind of screwed because he only has one Harvard degree," Lewis said.

On the issues

At a nonpartisan debate watch party in MU's Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center, we asked people what questions they would ask the presidential candidates if they had the chance. Readers were curious about a range of issues, including energy conservation, gay rights, campaign financing and health care.


Steffano Chavez asked about third-party involvement in the debates.

Dominique Feldman wants to know about the candidates' stance on energy conservation.

At another watch party in MU's Bengal Lair, attendees seemed to focus more on education issues, such as financial aid and teacher compensation.

Myra Gee would ask about teachers' salaries, foreign oil and a compensation plan for veterans.

Carlton Slaughter posed a question about the removal of financial aid and how that would affect middle and lower class families. 

We also tapped into reader opinions on Proposition B, which would increase Missouri's tobacco excise tax, by asking them if they thought making cigarettes more expensive would prevent people from smoking. Of 14 responders, nine indicated that yes, higher costs would help prevent smoking, and five said no, it wouldn't.

On political motivations

Despite the stereotype of American political apathy, some mid-Missourians say being involved in politics is critically important. To find out what drives them, we asked people about their motivations for being politically involved.

Aline Kultgen, civil liberties co-chair for the League of Women Voters of Columbia, wrote that losing her father in the Holocaust has been a driving factor for her political engagement. (Find her whole story here.)

"I am fully aware that genocides are still going on, and I am often discouraged that we haven't yet learned that lesson," she wrote. "But certainly if my father could keep fighting for what he believed in the face of German occupation, I can't give up either."

Frank Christian, a frequent Missourian commenter, is troubled by events over the past four years and sees a new American leader as the only hope for a better future. (Find his whole story here.)

"In my opinion, before the 1960s our two major political parties, Democrats and Republicans, were seen by the public as both wanting the best for America and Americans, but each just saw different ways to get there," he wrote. "This, obvious to those paying attention, is no longer the case."

Homer Page, chairman of the Boone County Democratic Central Committee, remembers being an MU student in the early '60s and being involved in the civil rights movement in Columbia. "My generation believed that we could change our country and make the dream of equality for all come true through direct action in the political process," he wrote. (Find his whole story here.)

"I am involved in the political process, because I still believe that the American democracy is the best hope that we have for creating a world where our grandchildren can live with opportunity, joy and the dignity that comes with pride in one's homeland."

Find the rest of our community-generated election stories here. For more information to help inform your decisions on Election Day, check out our Voters Guide.

Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.

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John Erkle November 5, 2012 | 5:14 p.m.

All high taxes on tobacco do is create Blackmarkets:

Illegal ciggies and spirits cost Britain more than 28 billions
Black market cigarettes, fuel and booze cost Britain about £28.5 billion in lost tax between 2005 and 2010. That kind of money would be more than enough to fund a 1% cut in the basic rate of income tax, a report reveals.

This should send the nazis into meltdown

Tax prompts Utah smokers to buy in Idaho, Wyo.
A recent dollar-a-pack tax hike on cigarettes has many Utah smokers traveling out of state to buy.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports $4 million in cigarette tax revenue has shifted to Idaho, Nevada, Wyoming and Colorado this fiscal year.

Cigarette taxes in Utah are the 16th-highest in the nation at $1.70 a pack. They were raised $1 in 2010. Similar taxes are 57 cents a pack in Idaho, 60 cents in Wyoming, 80 cents in Nevada and 84 cents in Colorado. Among neighboring states only Arizona has higher taxes than Utah at $2 a pack.

State analysts say revenues also are lower because more Utah residents have stopped smoking.

The state’s transportation fund also may fall $20 million below projections as Utah residents buy more fuel-efficient cars. ... index.html

(Report Comment)
John Erkle November 5, 2012 | 5:15 p.m.

Cigarette smuggling a growing problem in Maryland
Harsher penalties considered

BERLIN -- The number of people caught smuggling untaxed cigarettes into Maryland is on the rise, and it's costing the state hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost tax revenue, authorities say.

"If they can buy them in Virginia or the Carolinas for $5 a pack, they can go up to New York and sell them for $15 a pack, so they triple their money," said Detective Sgt. Richard Klebon with the Berlin Barrack of the Maryland State Police.
Law enforcement efforts ultimately aim to keep the tax dollars in Maryland; the state levies a $2-per-pack tax. As far as the Comptroller of Maryland is concerned, cigarette smuggling is a big business with little risk.
Comptroller Peter Franchot "has always been a strong proponent for aggressive enforcement of Maryland's tax laws," said his spokeswoman, Christine Feldmann. "It's a matter of fairness. Criminals who knowingly violate Maryland's tax laws hurt small businesses who follow the rules. It's about leveling the playing field."
She said typically when smugglers are caught, they can face criminal charges of transporting and possession of untaxed cigarettes. The transporting charge is a felony, and carries a fine of $50 per carton as well as the threat of up to two years in prison. Possession is a misdemeanor and can bring up to a $1,000 fine and a year in prison.
"It's happening every day because the penalty if you get caught is not very bad," she said, and as a result, "we've had multiple repeat offenders."
So far, state police at the Berlin Barrack are on track to seize about four times more cigarettes than last year. They had four arrests that yielded 1,737 cartons in 2011. This year, they've already made five arrests and seized about 1,600 cartons.
Troopers out of Berlin made two arrests in 2009 for 88 cartons. No arrests were made in 2008 or 2010, Klebon said.
It's against the law to enter Maryland with more than two packs of cigarettes purchased out-of-state. If someone has any more untaxed smokes than that, the law says the person is transporting untaxed contraband.

(Report Comment)
John Erkle November 5, 2012 | 5:16 p.m.

Black Market Cigarettes Proliferate in San Jose

Buying a cigarrillo (cigarette in Spanish) is very easy in San José and all types of brands, including Mexican, Chinese and others, for the streets have all types and from all destinations. And that is worrisome for the country's legislators.

The new anti-smoking law proposes a series of taxes that will increase the cost of cigarettes and (in theory) reduce consumption.

But, that may only be true for the legal kind, for the lack of laws and controls allows a lucrative market for clandestine cigs.

One has to only take a walk in downtown San José to see the variety of cigarettes available - legal and illegal - and the availability to purchase only one for immediate smoking.

The new "anti-tobacco" law that is currently in discussion in the legislature would not only impose new taxes, prohibit smoking in public places and control advertising, but also combat the contraband trade, which experts say is way out of control.

The intent of the legislation is not against the prohibition of importing and selling foreign brands, but rather to ensure that the imports enter the country legally, that is pay the import tax.

Legislator María de los Ángeles Alfaro, who is spearheading the bill, says "the logic is that raising prices will diminish consumption, but the market is imperfect".

Today, the price of a legal pack of cigarettes is about ¢1.300 colones. But the contraband can be bought for as little as ¢500 on the streets of San José, a price that, according to Alfaro, allows the young to afford to buy.

The anti-smoking bill has been around for some time and like all legislation to be approved in Costa Rica, it is a slow process.

If and when it is approved, the legislation would be one of the best in Latin America, according to the l Coordinador de la Red Nacional Anti-tabaco (RENATA) and an official of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Roberto Castro.

Castro explains that the bill is according to the provisions of the Framework Convention of the World Health Organization (WHO), and takes in the experiences of other countries.

(Report Comment)
John Erkle November 5, 2012 | 5:18 p.m.

Theres thousands more examples out there the world over!

Al Capone will smile along with Hitler if you pass higher ciggy taxes:

“The state must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation.”
(Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler; 1943)

The Führer thanks you from the grave:

Hitler was a Leftist
Hitler's Anti-Tobacco Campaign

One particularly vile individual, Karl Astel -- upstanding president of Jena University, poisonous anti-Semite, euthanasia fanatic, SS officer, war criminal and tobacco-free Germany enthusiast -- liked to walk up to smokers and tear cigarettes from their unsuspecting mouths. (He committed suicide when the war ended, more through disappointment than fear of hanging.) It comes as little surprise to discover that the phrase "passive smoking" (Passivrauchen) was coined not by contemporary American admen, but by Fritz Lickint, the author of the magisterial 1100-page Tabak und Organismus ("Tobacco and the Organism"), which was produced in collaboration with the German AntiTobacco League.

(Report Comment)
John Erkle November 5, 2012 | 5:20 p.m.

Illegal tobacco burns a hole in profits for licensed traders
BENIDORM TOBACCONISTS are alarmed over what they consider to be “a new wave of trafficking contraband” in the city. A high incidence of contraband tobacco has been detected over recent months; business mostly conducted within the British community. Certain establishments are selling the smuggled tobacco well below the market price offered in licensed premises. And some English bars and restaurants are also involved in selling under the counter tobacco amongst other illegal merchandise.

The Guardia Civil has launched an investigation into black market tobacco, concentrating on premises retaining an overlarge stock and checking on supply source documentation. It is suggested that in some instances the tobacco being sold is of inferior quality and contains unacceptable levels of tar, nicotine and manure mixtures. The illegal tobacco comes mainly from China.

(Report Comment)
John Erkle November 5, 2012 | 5:29 p.m.

Trade In Black-Market Cigarettes: Hot, Dangerous
Common sense dictates that with price increases, smokers would be deterred from smoking. Instead, the increase in prices has been a boost for illicit tobacco trading. “What happened was that the market size did not shrink, but instead there was a heavy increase in the illicit trade of tobacco.

(Report Comment)

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