Limited Taxation & Government
Post Office Box 408 Peabody, Massachusetts
01960 (617) 248-0022
E-Mail: email@example.com Web-page: http://cltg.org
Tuesday, November 24,
ADVANCES . . . NOVEMBER 20, 1998
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
Week of November 23, 1998
TOBACCO . . . Following Attorney General
Scott Harshbarger's announcement that he's accepting the nationwide tobacco settlement,
anti-smoking advocates are bracing for attempts to raid the windfall. The agreement will
bring Massachusetts $7.6 billion over 25 years, with payments from cigarette companies
continuing in perpetuity. Harshbarger is planning to file a bill for the next legislative
session that would dedicate all the money to expanded health-care coverage and
anti-smoking efforts. Acting Gov. Paul Cellucci has signaled that he agrees in principle
with that goal. But Dr. Greg Connolly, director of the state's Tobacco Control Program,
said he expects lobbyists and politicians to look at the annual payments as 'found money'
that could help pay for the Central Artery/Tunnel Project and other large state
obligations. "Someone will be in there saying, 'Look, now you can cut the income tax
down to 5 percent,'" Connolly said. . . .
"Raid the windfall"?
Okay, let's buy all the anti-tobacco zealots' arguments for just a moment; for the sake of
debate let's stipulate that the use of tobacco has in fact added to "the financial
burden on society"; let's let stand without disagreement that the health costs of
smoking have been a major drain on state budgets for decades.
For the sake of argument, let's just forget about the
billions upon billions of revenue dollars in tobacco taxes (increased by 50 cents on every
pack of cigarettes just in the past six years alone) the state has collected over lo those
many decades, almost $300 million each year now from smokers alone.
For the sake of argument, let's even agree for the
moment that state coffers deserve to be reimbursed by "Big Bad Tobacco" for the
years of avoidable "costs."
For the sake of argument, let's give the anti-tobacco
zealots and lifestyle police every point they've insisted upon, all of them.
They've won. "Big Bad Tobacco" has
capitulated and has agreed to pay $206 billion in tribute to the national lifestyle police
to get them off their backs, just to get them to go away. The Massachusetts share is $7.6
Reality Check -- let's simplify this absurd
- Tobacco makes and sells a legal product to a willing
- Smoker uses this legal product with full knowledge
that it may well be bad for his health, and gets sick.
- Government steps in and pays for Smoker's health care
by taking money from Taxpayer, then takes more from Taxpayer to sue Tobacco for the cost.
- Government is reimbursed by Tobacco for the cost of
the health care to Smoker, already paid for by Taxpayer.
- Government then claims the restitution for the money
Taxpayer provided both to Smoker's health care and Government's lawsuit now belongs to
Government, not Taxpayer?
What kind of shell game is that?
If the "financial burden on society"
allegedly caused by "Big Bad Tobacco" was paid by taxpayers over all those years
out of the state's general revenue funds . . . and if those funds are now to be
replenished by this restitution from the tobacco companies . . . just who else
deserves to be compensated but the taxpayers who "needlessly" carried
the "financial burden on society" for "the less fortunate among us"
over all those years?
Dr. Greg Connolly, director of the state's Tobacco
Control Program, accurately sees the writing on the wall, though he and his zealous ilk
will never, ever admit that the money belongs to the taxpayers and not to them.
Connolly said he expects "lobbyists and
politicians" to look at the annual payments as "found money," a windfall
that could be used -- of all the foolish purposes! -- to compensate taxpayers for
decades of being over-taxed to, as we always hear, help "the needy and least
fortunate among us." My God, he worries, someone might even suggest that you can now
cut the income tax down to 5 percent.
My goodness, how outrageous that would be!
Meanwhile, the state still projects collecting
another $300 million in tobacco taxes from smokers next year.
CLT&G will be filing bills with the Legislature
before next week's deadline to both use the restitution money as it was intended, to
compensate weary, over-burdened, compassionate taxpayers; and to reduce the income tax to
5 percent, as was promised in 1989 when it was "temporarily" increased.
Okay, the lifestyle police have robbed the pockets of
"Big Bad Tobacco" ('More fun than raising taxes and even more control!'),
so without missing a beat they've moved on to the next deep-pockets quarry, the latest
cause de jour: "Big Bad Guns"!
Boston mayor Tom Menino and mayors in other cities
around the country have filed, or in Menino's case will soon file, lawsuits against gun
manufacturers to "recoup costs associated with handgun violence in the city." [The
Boston Globe, Mon., Nov. 23; "Tough route seen for Hub suit vs. gun makers," by
But note the strategy behind their bullying nuisance
lawsuits: "The aim of the lawsuits being brought by the cities is not necessarily to
prevail in a trial. Municipalities hope to settle with the gun industry, thereby reaping
the kind of big money that cigarette makers are paying to states that brought lawsuits
"Pay us off or we will destroy you."
Intimidation and legal blackmail, in simple terms.
'More fun than raising taxes and even more
control!' What the controllers can't do by law, they're determined to do by lawsuit.
And they know how to patiently grind down the system, public opinion and their prey, to
get their way, sooner or later.
"These are reasonable claims. They will involve
a lot of work, and there may be some initial skepticism from some judges and jurors. But
that's just the kind of skepticism you saw initially with tobacco," said Richard
Daynard, head of the Tobacco Products Liability Project at Northeastern University.
"As [the cities] work on it, I think they'll find paydirt."
"Paydirt?" Rather, deep-pockets prey who
must surrender, accept the financially less destructive alternative to the onslaught
of lifestyle police blackmail. "Pay us off or we will destroy you," the voice of
Liberal compassion purrs.
And remember, the Food Police are lurking in the
shadows, just biding their time, awaiting the right moment . . .
Chip Ford --