A tax by any other name is just the same. The latest method is taxation by lawsuit, and the biggest victims have been the tobacco companies.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m no fan of death by slow poison. Nor am I a big fan of the way the tobacco executives have hedged and fudged and lied about the often destructive effects of their product. But nobody forces anybody to smoke a cigarette. I hasten to add that I have nothing against smokers either. Some of my best friends and spouses are smokers. I just don’t think we should be heaping huge and devious punishment on the tobacco companies for supplying their customers with a perfectly legal product that the customers consume of their own free will. This kind of multi-billion dollar taxation-by-litigation is not only arbitrary and punitive, it’s hypocritical, too.
Remember the rationale the various state governments gave for going after big tobacco? It was to pay for disease prevention, medical costs for smokers, anti-tobacco propaganda, and so on. But, now it turns out that most of the $246 billion payoff is being spent on other “priorities.”
According to the General Accounting Office, the states are spending only about 41 percent of their share of the settlement on health-related stuff. Most of the dough is being spent willy-nilly by the politicians on all manner of new programs. The usual. I’d like to think this is the last bit of hypocritical taxation-by-litigation that we’ll see. But I doubt it. When governments find a neat new way to take our money, they tend to get addicted to it.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.