Sunday, June 10, 2012

California Voters Reject Prop 29 for Good Reason

50.8% of California voters have decided against Prop 29, which would have raised the tax on a pack of cigarettes in the state by a $1 a pack. The vote was close, but in anti-smoker California this signifies a sea change in public opinion: People are beginning to realize that regressive taxation against a minority is wrong. Skeptics rightfully charge that this money would not have gone towards cancer research for smokers by rightfully pointing to the fiscal track record that tobacco control has already left for us to examine. The truth is that the money extorted from smokers has never gone towards cancer research (for smokers), nor has it ever gone towards the research of reduced risk tobacco products. Lung cancer continues to be amongst the deadliest of cancers, not because its trajectory is so much more deleterious in its nature as compared to that of other forms of cancer, but for lack of funds in eradicating the disease due largely to prejudice. Of all cancers, lung cancer receives the least amount of federal funding in the United States, even though smokers are singled out with the highest rates of taxation. Cigarettes are the highest taxed commodity in the United States. Furthermore, smokers pay more into the system than the cost of smoking related diseases, but yet are denied funding for the very research that we  continue to pay for many times over.

This trickery and embezzlement in the name of public health has been propelled upon the unwilling with a swift and unwavering force ever since 1998 when the Master Settlement was called into action. The Master Settlement Agreement was supposed to have been enacted for the purpose of covering the Medicaid costs of treating smokers. Instead what we have witnessed has been the outright theft perpetrated against a group that has been unable to defend itself.  For example, many government officials and bureaucrats have been borrowing against future tobacco bonds (to go into the general fund and “other” needs, such as parks and the purchase of undeveloped land) in cash strapped states such as, surprise, California. California Watch, a government watchdog group has uncovered some startling facts about California's love of tobacco money:

Rather than waiting for annual payments, the state and some local governments decided to borrow money against their anticipated future revenue. All told, they’ve issued $16 billion in bonds since 2001.

Could it be that the state of California, via Prop 29, was looking for yet another way to tax smokers into oblivion in order to cover the debt that has been incurred by reckless state bureaucrats who borrowed against future smoker money? Nah….. That would be too cynical an assumption, right?

In December, California had to dip into its reserves to cover bond payments.

They’re in debt to future tobacco bonds! How could they borrow our money to spend on other things without our permission? That is supposed to be our money! But, but…MSA money was for the treatment of sick smokers on Medicaid…Yeah, right…and pigs fly and all politicians, special interest groups and lawyers are honest; only tobacco companies lie; and as for the people most affected, well, we don’t exist.

As the state’s finances worsened, officials went back to investors.