Taxing Smith: Do It for the Kids!

February 28, 2007

Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) has suggested doubling the federal cigarette tax to help pay for expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. S-CHIP pays for low-income children who are not covered by Medicaid.

As far as we know, S-CHIP is not targeted at children who smoke or have smoking-related illnesses, so we are a little confused as to why the Senator would single out smokers to pay for the increase. If helping children is in the general interest, then shouldn’t the funds come from general revenue?

Of course, increasing taxes on all of us is not as politically safe as targeting those who are out of favor in society, such as smokers, gamblers, drinkers, etc. Don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax that man behind the tree.

It’s also odd to tax an activity you don’t approve of in an effort to raise revenue for something you do. What happens when people stop smoking (or start buying black market cigarettes) as a result of higher prices? Reducing the number of smokers isn’t going to reduce the number of children in S-CHIP, so how then do we recoup the money?

Perhaps we should target people named Smith? It makes about as much sense as targeting cigarettes.

With 2.5 million Smiths in this country (the most of any last name), even $50 or $100 per Smith would go a long way to help poor and ill children, right? What better cause? If it’s not enough, then we’ll just tack on the Johnsons, Williamses, Joneses…


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