Screwed Up Priorities

Which of these is more likely to help poor people, cheap groceries or cheap cigarettes? Groceries, right? Tell that to Mississippi’s Republican Gov. Haley Barbour.

Addendum 03/20/06:  Since Publius doesn’t care for my "self-righteous indignation over an evil, greedy Republican supposedly screwing the little guy to benefit evil, murderous tobacco companies", I’ve decided to explain what I thought was so obviously screwed up in these priorities.  I have no desire to "soak the poor while at the same time looking liberal".  I do, however, wish to be compassionate, and I do not believe that Gov. Barbour made a compassionate choice.

Given a choice between lowering taxes on necessities, like groceries, or a non-necessity that causes health problems, some deadly, for users and those around them, which cause increases in everyone’s insurance premiums, I’d think anyone with more than sawdust for brains would choose groceries.  Publius and some folks in the comboxes have suggested that no matter how steep the tax on smokes got, poor people would still buy them, which certainly wouldn’t help them become any less poor.  If all we were talking about was raising the tobacco tax, I might agree with them that little good would come from it.  However, Gov. Barbour had an opportunity to sign a bill into law that would not only raise the tobacco tax, but also lower the grovery tax.  It seems to me that at worst poor people would break even in that scenario; what they’d save on groveries, they’d spend on smokes.  Meanwhile, those who don’t smoke might be able to buy something nutricious for their families.  On a side note, I’d like to point out that PA, a state whose legislature is full of selfish asshats, does at least one thing right by having the decency to not tax groceries.  Taxing necessities – how retarded is that?!?

"I have a close family member who would really feel the crunch if over 80¢ were added to the cigarette tax in Virginia — and there’s no way she’d quit over it."  So says Publius.  "In Chicago, where I spent last week, a pack of cheap smokes is $7.50. Yet the po’ folks there still buy fags before food." So says Tom Smith.  "[I]if it means cutting out just one meal a day to buy a pack of smokes… i would have done it and i know plenty other smokers who would too. Case in point: i work with several guys who never have enough money for lunch, but they always have plenty of smokes." So says Squat.

Am I supposed to have sympathy for such fools?  I feel sad for them that they’d rather smoke away their lives than eat and I’ll pray that they come to their senses.  I’ll also pray that tobacco companies take it up the wazoo for deliberately addicting people.  I feel bad that they’ve been exploited and manipulated.  However, they still have free will.  As far as I’m concerned, a tobacco tax is a stupidity tax.  If you can’t figure out that food is more important than smokes, don’t come whining to me about how you don’t have enough money to feed yourself.  Forest gump had it right.; stupid is as stupid does.

That said, I’m not a fan of "sin taxes", i.e. taxes on undesirable behavior.  I prefer tax relief for desirable behavior.  That’s easier to implement in income taxes than sales taxes, though.  Still, I don’t much care for the government chiding folks for smoking, drinking exessively, etc. while profiting from those same activities.  In the case of tobacco, perhaps a decent comprimise would be to use cigarette tax proceeds for anti-smoking and smoking cessation programs.

One more thing: don’t give me a sob story about how taxing cigarettes hurts the tobacco industry.  I don’t care.  Making abortion illegal, or at least rarer, would hurt the abortion industry.  Boo-hoo.  I wouldn’t give a flying fig if Big Tobacco just curled up and died.

This entry was posted in economics, government, law, and politics and tagged , , , on by .

About Funky Dung

Who is Funky Dung? 29-year-old grad student in Intelligent Systems (A.I.) at the University of Pittsburgh. I consider myself to be politically moderate and independent and somewhere between a traditional and neo-traditional Catholic. I was raised Lutheran, spent a number of years as an agnostic, and joined the Catholic Church at the 2000 Easter Vigil. Why Funky Dung? I haven't been asked this question nearly as many times as you or I might expect. Funky Dung is a reference to an obscure Pink Floyd song. On the album Atom Heart Mother, there is a track called Atom Heart Mother Suite. It's broken up into movements, like a symphony, and one of the movements is called Funky Dung. I picked that nickname a long time ago (while I was still in high school I think), shortly after getting an internet connection for the first time. To me it means "cool/neat/groovy/spiffy stuff/crap/shiznit", as in "That's some cool stuff, dude!" Whence Ales Rarus? I used to enjoy making people guess what this means, but I've decided to relent and make it known to all. Ales Rarus is a Latin play on words. "Avis rarus" means "a rare bird" and carries similar meaning to "an odd fellow". "Ales" is another Latin word for bird that carries connotations of omens, signs of the times, and/or augery. If you want to get technical, both "avis" and "ales" are feminine (requiring "rara", but they can be made masculine in poetry (which tends to breaks lots of rules). I decided I'd rather have a masculine name in Latin. ;) Yeah, I'm a nerd. So what? :-P Wherefore blog? It is my intention to "teach in order to lead others to faith" by being always "on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers . . . or to the faithful" through the "use of the communications media". I also act knowing that I "have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors [my] opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and [I] have a right to make [my] opinion known to the other Christian faithful, with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward [my and their] pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons." (adapted from CCC 904-907) Statement of Faith I have been baptized and confirmed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I, therefore, renounce Satan; I renounce all his works; I renounce all his allurements. I hold and profess all that is contained in the Apostles' Creed, the Niceno- Constantinopolitan Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. Having been buried with Christ unto death and raised up with him unto a new life, I promise to live no longer for myself or for that world which is the enemy of God but for him who died for me and rose again, serving God, my heavenly Father, faithfully and unto death in the holy Catholic Church. I am obedient to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. That is, I promote and defend authentic Catholic Teaching and Faith in union with Christ and His Church and in union with the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of St. Peter. Thanks be unto Thee, O my God, for all Thy infinite goodness, and, especially, for the love Thou hast shown unto me at my Confirmation. I Give Thee thanks that Thou didst then send down Thy Holy Spirit unto my soul with all His gifts and graces. May He take full possession of me for ever. May His divine unction cause my face to shine. May His heavenly wisdom reign in my heart. May His understanding enlighten my darkness. May His counsel guide me. May His knowledge instruct me. May His piety make me fervent. May His divine fear keep me from all evil. Drive from my soul, O Lord, all that may defile it. Give me grace to be Thy faithful soldier, that having fought the good fight of faith, I may be brought to the crown of everlasting life, through the merits of Thy dearly beloved Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. Behind the Curtain: an Interview With Funky Dung (Thursday, March 03, 2005) I try to avoid most memes that make their way 'round the blogosphere (We really do need a better name, don't we?), but some are worth participating in. Take for instance the "interview game" that's the talk o' the 'sphere. I think it's a great way to get to know the people in neighborhood. Who are the people in your neighborhood? In your neighborhod? In your neigh-bor-hoo-ood...*smack* Sorry, Sesame Street flashback. Anyhow, I saw Jeff "Curt Jester" Miller's answers and figured since he's a regular reader of mine he'd be a good interviewer. Without further ado, here are my answers to his questions. 1. Being that your pseudonym Funky Dung was chosen from a Pink Floyd track on Atom Heart Mother, what is you favorite Pink Floyd song and why? Wow. That's a tuffy. It's hard to pick out a single favorite. Pink Floyd isn't really a band known for singles. They mostly did album rock and my appreciation of them is mostly of a gestalt nature. If I had to pick one, though, it'd be "Comfortably Numb". I get chills up my spine every time I hear it and if it's been long enough since the last time, I get midty-eyed. I really don't know why. That's a rather unsatisfying answer for an interview, so here are the lyrics to a Rush song. It's not their best piece of music, but the lyrics describe me pretty well.

New World Man He's a rebel and a runner He's a signal turning green He's a restless young romantic Wants to run the big machine He's got a problem with his poisons But you know he'll find a cure He's cleaning up his systems To keep his nature pure Learning to match the beat of the old world man Learning to catch the heat of the third world man He's got to make his own mistakes And learn to mend the mess he makes He's old enough to know what's right But young enough not to choose it He's noble enough to win the world But weak enough to lose it --- He's a new world man... He's a radio receiver Tuned to factories and farms He's a writer and arranger And a young boy bearing arms He's got a problem with his power With weapons on patrol He's got to walk a fine line And keep his self-control Trying to save the day for the old world man Trying to pave the way for the third world man He's not concerned with yesterday He knows constant change is here today He's noble enough to know what's right But weak enough not to choose it He's wise enough to win the world But fool enough to lose it --- He's a new world man...
2. What do you consider your most important turning point from agnosticism to the Catholic Church. At some point in '99, I started attending RCIA at the Pittsburgh Oratory. I mostly went to ask a lot of obnoxious Protestant questions. Or at least that's what I told myself. I think deep down I wanted desperately to have faith again. At that point I think I'd decided that if any variety of Christianity had the Truth, the Catholic Church did. Protestantism's wholesale rejection of 1500 years of tradition didn't sit well with me, even as a former Lutheran. During class one week, Sister Bernadette Young (who runs the program) passed out thin booklet called "Handbook for Today's Catholic". One paragraph in that book spoke to me and I nearly cried as I read it.
"A person who is seeking deeper insight into reality may sometimes have doubts, even about God himself. Such doubts do not necessarily indicate lack of faith. They may be just the opposite - a sign of growing faith. Faith is alive and dynamic. It seeks, through grace, to penetrate into the very mystery of God. If a particular doctrine of faith no longer 'makes sense' to a person, the person should go right on seeking. To know what a doctrine says is one thing. To gain insight into its meaning through the gift of understanding is something else. When in doubt, 'Seek and you will find.' The person who seeks y reading, discussing, thinking, or praying eventually sees the light. The person who talks to God even when God is 'not there' is alive with faith."
At the end of class I told Sr. Bernadette that I wanted to enter the Church at the next Easter vigil. 3. If you were a tree what kind of, oh sorry about that .. what is the PODest thing you have ever done? I set up WikiIndex, a clearinghouse for reviews of theological books, good, bad, and ugly. It has a long way to go, but it'll be cool when it's finished. :) 4. What is your favorite quote from Venerable John Henry Newman? "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt." 5. If you could ban one hymn from existence, what would it be? That's a tough one. As a member of the Society for a Moratorium on the Music of Marty Haugen and David Haas, there are obviously a lot of songs that grate on my nerves. If I had to pick one, though, I'd probably pick "Sing of the Lord's Goodness" by Ernie Sands.

11 thoughts on “Screwed Up Priorities

  1. Tom Smith

    Poor people are going to smoke, no matter what the price of cigarettes is. In Chicago, where I spent last week, a pack of cheap smokes is $7.50. Yet the po’ folks there still buy fags before food.

  2. edey

    don’t you think that the priorities are a little messed up if people on a limited budget are buying something that could be considered a luxury item (smokes) before something that everyone would agree is a necessity (food)? while smoking does suppress appetite, it doesn’t supply nourishment that food does.

  3. howard

    I get not trying to cripple the tobacco industry as a matter of policy. But when there’s a choice between favoring necessity or favoring vice? Wow — that is messed up.

  4. Tom Smith

    Yes, I do think the priorities of smokers with little money are inverted. I merely contend that poor people will be helped more by low cigarette prices, because no raise in price will cause them to quit. I am well aware that it’s counterintuitive, but it’s true. With cigarettes, even drastic price increases as incentive to get people to quit fail to work.

  5. edey

    so what you’re saying is lower prices for cigarettes are better for poor people so they have more money left over on their fixed income to buy necessities? as in they consider their cigarettes top priority as a necessity?

  6. Squat

    well, edey, speaking as an ex-smoker i’d have to say yes. it’s stupid, but it’s an addiction. how many crack or heroin addicts would easily give up a meal for another fix? i know it seems like an extreme comparison, but if it means cutting out just one meal a day to buy a pack of smokes… i would have done it and i know plenty other smokers who would too. sad, but true.

  7. Squat

    can you please come down off your high horse now ;-)? you have apparently never had a chemical addiction. i smoked for 15+ years and i’m only turning 30 this year. it may have started out as a social thing, just trying to look cool or grown up, but it quickly turns into an addiction. i’m not just talking about a social or mental addiction, but a physical one. It is impossible to explain to someone who has never felt it what an addiction feels like. i have been “clean” for a few years now, but i am still tortured every time i see someone light-up or see packs of smokes at my local Quick Stop when i’m just trying to get some milk. It becomes such a part of your life, that it invades every aspect. everything reminds you of smoking. to this day i still fight off urges and i will for the rest of my life. oh, and the best part is… it DOSEN’T get any easier as time goes by. if anything, i find it gets harder.
    i know that you (and many others) hate smoking and all those “evil” smokers out there, but please! you don’t need to pity them, just have a little compassion.

  8. edey


    so what eventually inspired you to quit after 15+ years of smoking? i’m honestly curious since it’s such a hard thing to do what keeps you “clean”. i know it’s gotta be a continual decision.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *