Sunday, September 23, 2007

Why we'd give Congress' SCHIPs proposals a veto

In his radio address on Saturday, the Bully Boy made clear his intent to veto Congress' planned SCHIP bill by declaring, "Instead of working with my Administration to enact this funding increase for children's health, Democrats in Congress have decided to pass a bill they know will be vetoed." What's SCHIP?

It's the State Children's Health Insurance Program: "This is Title XXI of the Social Security Act and is jointly financed by the Federal and State governments and administered by the States. Within broad Federal guidelines, each State determines the design of its program, eligibility groups, benefit packages, payment levels for coverage, and administrative and operating procedures. SCHIP provides a capped amount of funds to States on a matching basis for Federal fiscal years (FY) 1998 through 2007. Federal payments under title XXI to States are based on State expenditures under approved plans effective on or after October 1, 1997."

Bully Boy's against it, it's children's health, we must be for it!

Well make up your own mind, but we actually support the veto based on the Senate plan.

Delaware's The News Journal editorializes today: "The Senate version will pay for this expansion with an increase in the federal cigarette tax of 61 cents a pack. That added tax had the political benefit of drawing the endorsement of the American Cancer Society and imposing on a powerless group, smokers. It sounds dandy, but it's an increasingly unreliable revenue source."

Our opposition zooms in on the same thing but for different reasons.

We were against it in July when Marianne Wright Edleman spoke with Amy Goodman about it.

AMY GOODMAN: Where do cigarettes come into this?
MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN: Well, cigarettes come into that because cigarettes kill and cigarettes provoke lung cancer, and every child and every human being we can, by increasing the cigarette tax, stop from smoking or slow down from smoking is going to have a public health benefit, save taxpayers money from the cost of the effects of smoking and tobacco. And so, the Senate has said that this is going to be a six -- they are going to impose a sixty-one-cent increase on the tobacco tax, that would yield about $35 billion, far short of the $50 billion that they promised in their budget regulation resolution. But this is the first step, and it's a good thing to have a cigarette tax. The more people we can stop smoking, the more lives we’ll save and the more taxpayer money we will save in hospital and other cost.

We like Marian Wright Edelman, we think she does outstanding work at the Children's Defense Fund where she is president and which she founded.

When the interview aired we were against it and said, "As soon as it's vetoed, we're writing about it." With Bully Boy declaring he will veto it, we'll jump the date.

There are a number of troubling things to us about the statements made on Democracy Now!

Cigarettes are legal. Until they are illegal, it's really no one's business if someone smokes. "Public health" is the sort of cry that leads the left to look like they're attempting to turn the United States into The Nanny Nation. Adults can make their own decisions of whether to smoke or not. (Disclosure: Dona smokes. Rebecca states she intends to as soon as she finishes nursing.) The idea that you can curtail perfectly legal behavior by raising taxes isn't something we support. We find it very offensive.

If the Children's Defense Fund wants to focus on children, we'd suggest they do just that and stay out of the business of adults' personal habits.

But, believe it or not, that's not even our biggest concern.

What's our biggest concern?

Does the left (including Democrats or at least some) support a flat tax?

A flat tax is where every American, regardless of whether they earn a few thousands a year or millions, would be taxed at the same rate. Some on the right push this as "fair." They want you to believe that a family of three living on $18,000 a year can be taxed at, say, 10% and so can someone pulling in $5 million.

We don't believe that's fair. We believe taxes should be progressive and the more you make, the more of a percentage you should pay.

That didn't used to be a controversial position in this country. If you made a great deal more, you paid a greater percentage. But the right has pushed that 'equality' is everyone paying the same rate as if it's equal for a single-working mother to pay 10% on $18,000 and a someone making $5 million to pay 10% on the income. The mother pays $1,800 and while that is small fries to someone pulling in millions, it's a very significant amount that's not going to feed her family.

As opponents of the flat tax, we don't see why anyone on the left would attempt to ease it into existence but we feel the Senate SCHIP proposal does just that. Every time a national 'sin' tax goes into effect, it argues that a percentage is fair.

A millionaire smoking cigarettes can well afford sixty-one cents for every pack of cigarettes. What about the lower income person?

Marian Wright Edelman wants to stomp out cigarette smoking. We don't feel that's the goal of the Children's Defense Fund and are unaware of any huge increase in juvenile smoking, but have at it.

Even so, last time we checked, the United States was still supposed to be a free country and smoking was still legal. If Marian Wright Edelman doesn't want to smoke, that's her right. And she can certainly propose taxing smoking out of the reach of others.

The attacks on reproductive right did not result in overnight banning. Instead, what they have done is chip away bit by bit at existing rights. Similarly, a push for a national flat tax will not come in a sweeping, single bit of legislation. It will inside slide in slowly, bit by bit.

When it does, advocates will point to things such as the national cigarette tax and argue (rightly if the Senate bill passes and becomes law) that we already have it in many ways.

It should also be noted (Dona wants this in and C.I. says, "I'll live with it") that Marian Wright Edelman can afford to lose a few pounds. If we're going to tax cigarettes what's next because Dona thinks possibly food should be taxed especially on those who create a danger to public health by being above whatever insurance companies currently state is the normal weight.

"You're taxing the health care system, you're hurting yourself and those around you," says Dona. "Of course you should have to pay a tax and, no complaints, because looking at you reveals that you refuse to eat normal portions on your own so obviously you need someone to impose limits on you."

Don't agree? Neither do we (including Dona) but that's the assumption that the proposal makes. You're too stupid to do the right thing -- the right thing as we see it -- so we will impose our beliefs on you.

The Delaware editorial raises the issue of the unreliable nature of such a tax and that's a strong point as well. Though some may or may not be aware of it, almost every state has already imposed their own state tax on cigarettes. Allegedly to curtail smoking but, let's face it, were that really the case then the taxes wouldn't make up so much of their yearly budget.

If you want to smoke, that's your decision. Smoking is still legal.

In a review of Joshua Key's The Deserter's Tale, a reviewer felt the need to take Key to task for smoking. He had multiple children, was struggling to make ends meet, would, in fact, enlist just to provide for his family and the issue was his personal choice to smoke?

Get a grip little Nebbishes of the Left. People are going to smoke and they are going to drink. Both are legal. (People will do many things that are illegal as well.) And when they haven't broken the law, guess what, it's really not your damn business. You aren't the Supreme Ruler of the Universe.

When you set yourself up as such, you make the left look like a bunch of busybodies who have nothing better to do than stick their noses into other people's personal business. Way to live up to the right-wing stereotype.

We oppose a flat tax, we oppose busybodies who think they can legislate personal choices.

You think smoking is a nasty, disgusting habit? Then don't smoke.

But whether anyone else does really isn't your business.

The self-righteous attitude is disgusting and doesn't fit well on the left.

In Michigan, Dona was having a cigarette in a designated smoking spot. A woman walking by, five feet from Dona, felt the need to shout out, "You shouldn't smoke!" C.I. responded, "You should mind your own g**damn business!" A sentiment we all share. We wouldn't pass Marian Wright Edelman on the street and yell out, "You should drop some pounds!" We hope she wouldn't yell out to Dona, "You shouldn't smoke!" But we're not sure that she wouldn't.

It's really easy to grab a demonized section of the public and tax them. It's really easy to scapegoat them and tell others, "This is just them, this isn't you." But the reality is that what starts with the scapegoated usually transfers out to the rest of the nation. It's equally true that doing the 'easy' thing to get what you want is self-defeating when it reinforces beliefs in flat taxes. But the 'easy' way appears to be the order of the day when an organization that doesn't present itself as religious wants to couch their arguments on "God." And, for the record Cedric notes, Jesus, not God, spoke of the children so possibly you might want to get your 'easy' talking points correct before utilizing them? (Cedric: "That is not a small point. It's actually a very big point. And people citing scripture should cite it correctly.")

So we're glad Bully Boy's announced that he'll veto it. We think it's wrong for reasons that differ from his. But we do agree that yet again expecting smokers to carry the debts of the nation is not unfair, it's unrealistic. We also think the left flirts with stupidity when it advocates a flat tax.
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