Taxes

Charlie Rangel Sees the Light on Cigarette Taxes

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With the House vote to overturn President Bush's veto of the SCHIP expansion bill scheduled for tomorrow, the smokers' rights group NYC CLASH highlights House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel's turnaround regarding the fairness of cigarette tax hikes such as the one included in the bill. In 2002 the New York Democrat opposed Mayor Michael Bloomberg's (ultimately successful) proposal to raise New York City's per-pack tax from 8 cents to $1.50, issuing this statement:

Congressman Charles Rangel today came out in strong opposition to the dramatic increase in the city's cigarette taxes, describing it as an unfair burden on the poor.

"Low income people are the ones who will suffer from this," Congressman Rangel said.  "They are the ones who willl really feel the burden of a $1.50 tax.  To those who are better off, the tax won't make any difference at all."

The Congressman, who has long opposed excise taxes on similar grounds, also questioned the argument that the so-called "sin tax" will change behavior.

"If the motivation is to provide a kind of treatment for smokers by punishing them economically, the attempt is not only unfair, it is likely to fail," Congressman Rangel said.  "People stop smoking because they want to; if they want to continue they will find a way to get cigarettes they can afford—even if it means illegally on the black market, on the internet or traveling to low tax states."

The Congressman said he understood the city's need to raise revenues, but took issue with a method that would disproportionately burden the poor.

Nowadays Rangel is singing a different tune. Here is how he explains his support for financing the SCHIP expansion by raising the federal cigarette tax from 39 cents to a $1 pack:

I have a history of opposition to excise taxes, but in light of the heavy financial weight smokers place on Medicare expenditures and the overwhelming proof linking the increase in cost of tobacco products with a decrease in youngsters buying cigarettes; it's the right call.

As I've noted, the charge that smoking increases government spending appears to be false. Even if there is a net cost to taxpayers, there is no evidence that it exceeds the revenue generated by cigarette taxes at current rates. As for deterring underage smoking, teenagers have not become any more price sensitive in the last five years. And how is it just to penalize adult smokers for the misbehavior of teenagers and the people who illegally supply them with cigarettes? If Rangel was right about the regressivity of cigarette taxes, and he was, he needs to do a better job of explaining why it is suddenly fair to make smokers bear the burden of SCHIP expansion, especially since the people picking up the tab for the expansion would often be poorer than the people benefiting from it.

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  1. How dare you insult Charlie? He is a very principled opportunist.

  2. in light of the heavy financial weight smokers place on Medicare expenditures

    If we change “smokers” to “eaters” we can impose punitive federal taxes on food, and our new federalized health care network can be fully funded.

  3. High cost is why I quit smoking. That and the fact that a huge amount of the cost goes to taxes, lawyers and advertising.

    I know that I should have quit for health reasons, and tried many times, but it was cost that finally provided the motivation to get it done.

    “People stop smoking because they want to” – maybe some do, but higher cost is the best way to reduce the “want”.

  4. “in light of the heavy financial weight smokers place on Medicare expenditures”

    Entirely overwhelmed by the off-setting savings in SS resulting from smokers dying earlier.

    Reduced smoking rate is a big cause of the “crisis” in the SS ponzi game.

  5. I have a history of opposition to excise taxes, but in light of the heavy financial weight smokers place on Medicare expenditures and the overwhelming proof linking the increase in cost of tobacco products with a decrease in youngsters buying cigarettes; it’s the right call.

    Charles Rangal –
    Do you love me (do you love me)
    Do you love me (do you love me)
    Do you love me (do you love me)
    Now that I can dance
    Watch me now

  6. He’s still a giant douche.

  7. “”People stop smoking because they want to; if they want to continue they will find a way to get cigarettes they can afford — even if it means illegally on the black market, on the internet or traveling to low tax states.”

    Good; who can tell the congressman what the next step in this logic is?

  8. Good; who can tell the congressman what the next step in this logic is?

    OOOH, OOOH! Raise the FEDERAL taxes instead of city taxes, so people have no reason to go elsewhere to buy their cigs, not having a negetive impact on NYC’s cig market!

  9. What a stupid title. It runs completely contrary to the article. In fact, it wasn’t until the last paragraph that I had an inkling that you might not be a complete and total retard (and I’m still not convinced).

  10. I, for one, welcome our cigarette tax overlords.

    It’s just going to create a black market for tobacco, and in turn I’ll get my beloved Camel Lights for a far cheaper price.

    Of course, there will be an increase in gangland death, as in all black markets, but hey…

    They’re doing for the childrens…

    (P.S. “Childrens” was misspelled on purpose. I always imagine Homey da Clown when we talk about doing things for the childrens).

  11. Taktix –
    Also, GWB once used “childrens” as the plural of “child,” but I haven’t been able to find a clip of it since I saw it on John Stewart.

  12. JohnF:

    i?ro?ny 1 [ahy-ruh-nee, ahy-er-] -noun, plural -nies.
    1. the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning.

    7. an objectively sardonic style of speech or writing.
    8. an objectively or humorously sardonic utterance, disposition, quality, etc

    source

  13. Why does Rangel hate the children? If anyone opposed the the Schip increase is being “cruel” (to quote Pelosi), then those who refuse to enlarge it even more must similarly hate the kids. Why not $50 per pack?
    Why not just give each newborn $100,000 (instead of $500 or $1000 as some have advocated)? We’re a rich nation. Bill Gates can afford it. Hell, let’s make it $1,000,000 each and end social security and medicare.
    You’re opposed? What a cruel, misbegotten,
    child hating bastard you are.

  14. “People stop smoking because they want to”

    And–what’s the figure, 80%, 90%?–start right up again. It’s an addiction. The congresscritters are fully aware of this which is why it makes such a tempting revenue source.

    Price is the only thing that will get many people to quit, but fortunately the Big Tobacco has managed to keep the price steady and even drop it a little bit in the face of the smokers’ taxes.

  15. For a long time when I smoked, I used to roll my own (tobacco). This is significantly cheaper than buying pre-rolled smokes, even with better tobacco, like DRUM.

    Traveling in Europe, I noticed a lot of people rolling cigarettes in public, which I attributed to taxes that were even higher than they are here. Indeed, prior to going to London, I bought a couple cartons for $40, which I later resold for about $120, and people were happy to pay the price I was asking.

    Of course, I was wrong to do so, and if I ever go back there, I totally wouldn’t do that again. *Ahem*.

  16. I’m thinking of running out to pick up some smokes. ‘gonna do it for the children. I hear a bunch tight wad jerks are thinking of quiting because of the cost. Obviously they care about the children less than Bush.

    If raising the price of cigarettes through this SCHIP tax gets people to quit, then how will they fund SCHIP? Raise the tax again? And when the tax is $10 per pack and nobody buys legal cigarettes, who will pay for the brats’ healthcare then? What, “the parents” you say? Heartless bastards!

  17. Heartless bastards!

    Years ago, Ontario had to drop its taxes which at the time were draconian by American standards (no longer) due to smuggling. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before the same happens here, say in New York.

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