James Brosnahan is not cheap. He's had a lot of high-profile cases, has a high profile in the California legal community, and surely he commands a very impressive fee.Comment Posted By Transplanted Lawyer On 5.09.2007 @ 15:32
Let me try this again. It's not that I love government intervening in people's personal choices, it's that I accept that the United States isn't a libertarian utopia and was never intended to be one.
Consumption taxes have long been used to simultaneously generate revenue for the government and to discourage use of particular substances. I invoke the Founders to demonstrate that this is as appropriate a use of the government's taxation power as an import duty. I cited before to Hamilton, but consider also that George Washington (successfully) led troops into battle to preserve the government's right to tax whiskey. Come to think of it, the government STILL taxes whiskey more than it does other kinds of things we might consume.
Since I like to have a drink now and then, I too am a "victim" of this "tax-but-not-ban" policy, even though I'm not a smoker. But you won't hear me complaining that I pay more taxes on my booze than I do on my bananas. There are two reasons for this.
First, even if, in theory, we were to accept that the government properly has no power to tax something consumable but does have the power to ban it instead, that doesn't mean that it's a good policy to ban a consumable substance. We already tried that once. Prohibition demonstrated why (and I believe the War on Drugs again demonstrates why) banning a substance is bad social policy.
Second, I don't accept your argument that the government lacks power to tax a particular substance, or the corollary argument that even if it can, it shouldn't. Taxes on discretionary, consumable items are an effective blend of fiscal and social policy and they are well within the legitimate power of the government. I may not particularly like it, especially when I'm the one targeted to pay the tax, but then again I don't like paying income taxes either but I still do that.
Be realistic -- a ban wouldn't stop you from smoking. But it would drive you to buy your cigarettes from a street dealer, just as if you were a crackhead, and with all the same risks the crackhead faces.
Your complaint should not be that there are special taxes on cigarettes. It's better addressed to the amount of the tax. Sirius' argument -- if taxes on cigarettes become insanely high then a black market will form just as if there were prohibition -- is a much stronger one than the argument than "ban it, don't tax it." But a ban would guarantee that such a black market would form.Comment Posted By Transplanted Lawyer On 23.08.2007 @ 09:28
Sorry dude, usually I'm a big fan and I love the blog and I give you lots of link love because you get it dead-on right so often. But I can't go along with this one.
There are three solutions available to you: 1) politically oppose increases in cigarette taxes and encourage others to do the same; 2) smoke less; or 3) put on your big girl panties and pay the extra money for your cancer sticks. You're frustrated that option #1 apparently failed, and that option #2 requires you to make an unpleasant balancing decision between pleasure and money. But you make the same kind of decisions all the time with household budgeting.
But like it or not, taxes are and have been used by the government as an incentive to get people to change their behavior "voluntarily" rather than by forcing them to do something. This has been a staple mechanism of governmental influence over individual choices since British colonial days, and the Founders embraced the idea warmly (See, e.g., Federalist #21).
The failure of the Volstead Act is an outstanding analogy to draw regarding why a ban would simply not work no matter how foolish the rest of us think you might be for maintaining your habit. See also the ongoing failure of the Controlled Substances Act to ban harmful but enjoyable narcotics consumed for purposes not dissimilar to those you describe in praise of your tobacco habit. If the government decided to tax spinach (instead of subsidizing it) or oysters (which, as a luxury food, are taxed in some municipalities) or potato chips (which has been proposed already) that would be well within the scope of what the government is empowered to do as well.
So I'm sorry your tax burden is becoming higher and higher. But you are flat wrong to say that the government has no right or power to impose the tax and to structure it in exactly the manner that you have described. This sort of thing has been in the cards all along, and it's no more "theft" than any other kind of taxes are.Comment Posted By Transplanted Lawyer On 22.08.2007 @ 20:19
Sorry, but as enjoyable a movie as "In The Line Of Fire" was, Clint Eastwood did not direct it. That was a Wolfgang Petersen joint.
I agree that Malkovich was a really good villain. Another honorable mention should go to John Hurt as Caligula in "I, Claudius."Comment Posted By Transplanted Lawyer On 24.05.2007 @ 23:00
Right on target, Rick. A political party is a coalition of a variety of interest groups, and the GOP needs to keep its house in order and not allow any one of those groups to dominate its agenda or, more importantly, its image. I'm a big Rudy Giuliani fan, and I see a lot of promise in his recent call for the GOP to become the "party of freedom," and an opportunity to demonstrate that Republicans are not all part of the monolithic social conservative bloc that you write about.Comment Posted By Transplanted Lawyer On 2.03.2007 @ 16:08