False Consciousness in Massachusetts: You Must Pay More for Booze!


Because Americans (and everyone else on Earth) like getting stuff for free, legislators and pundits often accuse voters of "false consciousness," of voting "against their self-interest," when they inveigh against higher taxes to fund sub-par government service from which they benefit. There is something to be said against the presumption, famously promulgated in Thomas Frank's book What's the Matter With Kansas, that complaining that one's Medicare benefits are meager and supporting smaller government is rank hypocrisy. After all, one needn't be a Hayekian to think that politicians are rather good at wasting taxpayer money on pointless pork projects. But what some politicians, notably this one in my home state of Massachusetts, seem to not understand is that their political mandate is determined not by random opinion polls, but by how those finicky voters cast their ballots.

So despite the niggling fact that Massachusetts voters repealed an alcohol tax last election, Democratic State Rep. Kay Kahn decided recently that this was an unwise decision, that there is a "disconnect" (her word) between what voters pull the lever for and what they really want. So Kahn has taken it upon herself to correct the confused instincts of her constituents, offering a bill to reinstate the alcohol tax. From the State House News Service:

Although voters opted to repeal a year-old sales tax on alcohol, Rep. Kay Khan said Tuesday she has introduced legislation to reinstate the tax, as well as several other tax proposals she said should be part of the state's budget debate….

"I think that's what people want to hear," Khan said. "I think there's a disconnect between wanting all of the services, wanting to get money back to our cities and towns for local aid and education—and we have to pay for it."

Khan, who chaired the Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities last session, said she also intends to file legislation to increase the excise tax on alcohol, as well as a proposal to remove the sales tax exemption on candy and fruit drinks.

Of course, in a time of fiscal crisis, another Democrat in the State House has done the inevitable, tabling a bill that would increase cigarette taxes by $1.50 per pack, pushing many brands over the $10 mark. An updated list of state minimum cigarette prices ($9.50 for Lucky Strikes?) can be gasped at here.

Via Boston Globe blogger Garrett Quinn.