Thou Shalt Tax Every Sin
Death and taxes may be the only certainties in life, but journalistsâ support for higher taxes is almost as predictable.
Sin taxes on tobacco, alcohol, unhealthy foods and environmentally unfriendly actions have each garnered media support â sometimes in the name of saving children. Right now, the media are promoting a âbipartisanâ bill in Congress that would expand the State Childrenâs Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) by raising tobacco taxes sky-high.
âSenate Panel Adds Billions For Health,â announced a headline from the July 20 New York Times. The headline sent a positive message that peopleâs health would be improved, rather than the honest message that the bill calls for a 156-percent tax increase on cigarettes, and a more than 20,000-percent increase on cigars (up to $10 per cigar).
Many in the media focused on President Bushâs threatened veto of the bill, from news outlets to âThe Viewâ co-host Joy Behar. Behar incorrectly stated on July 18 that Bush had vetoed the bill âthat would extend health coverage for 4.1 million children in this countryâ and attacked him.
âNow, that is not a compassionate conservative,â remarked Behar. Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck asked for more information on the bill, but no one on the show mentioned the billâs enormous tax increase, which the administration opposes.
The ladies on âThe Viewâ also didnât mention that the bill would expand SCHIPâs taxpayer funding to cover middle-class families with incomes of up to $83,000 a year.
But smoking isnât the only sin the media want to tax. Some journalists favor fat taxes to save people from unhealthy food, and many promote taxes to make the world greener.
If Democrats and some Republicans in Congress get their way, the tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products will soar â and the media arenât exactly complaining about it.
The Los Angeles Times called it â
In that 1,027-word story, the LA Times explained the bill and predicted an override of President Bushâs veto â though the bill hasnât even been voted on by the full Senate.
But only one 27-word sentence in the July 22 story even mentioned that the funding would be paid for by raising tobacco taxes, and no one opposed to the tax increase was quoted. Not one tobacco company spokesman, cigar shop owner or smoker was included.
A July 20 LA Times article mentioned that the cigarette tax would increase from 39 cents per pack to $1.00 without presenting it as a 156-percent hike. The paper also severely understated the impact of the more than 20,000-percent increase on cigars, saying it âwould more than double.â
But Drew Newman of the J.C. Newman Cigar Company wrote in a letter to The Washington Post that the cigar tax increase could be as much as 20,412 percent: âfrom just under 5 cents to a maximum of $10 per cigar.â
âThe effect of such an enormous tax increase would be devastating [on small businesses],â continued Newman in his July 21 letter.
Some media reports didnât mention the cigar tax increase, and many didnât include industry spokespersons or say that an increase on smokers will hurt the poor more than any other federal tax, according to Gerald Prante, a Tax Foundation staff economist.
No Twinkies for You
Smoking isnât the only sin the media want to see taxed; another target is unhealthy food. Media support for âfat taxesâ has not been as straightforward as it has been for tobacco taxes, but it occasionally comes out.
CNNâs Dr. Sanjay Gupta was surprised at the amount of opposition to a fat tax on April 12.
â[T]here was a
On March 15, Betsy Stark reported on companies incentivizing healthy behaviors, but made it clear that unhealthy choices are âwrong.â
âTo avoid whatâs called the Twinkie tax, workers need to choose healthy foods over unhealthy ones âŚ Itâs your choice. But choose wrong and it will cost you,â Stark said on âWorld News with Charles Gibson.â
ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN frequently promote a pro-regulatory agenda in food stories, quoting radical left-wing nutritionists like Marion Nestle and groups like the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). But many of these âexpertsâ or âpublic health officialsâ are food fascists who support food taxes.
On Oct. 30, 2006, ABCâs Nancy Cordes included Kelly Brownell. Cordes labeled Brownell a âpublic health official,â but he is really an anti-industry spokesman who urged âsmall taxes on soft drinks, candy, gum, and snack foodsâ in a June 2000 report he co-authored with another food policeman, CSPIâs Michael Jacobson.
Hardly a news broadcast passes without the latest way to âgo green,â so itâs not surprising that the media have also pushed for increased taxes on eco-sins that liberals say contribute to global warming.
âPut in a tax to make it $4 a gallon right now,â urged Wastler on April 28.
But that wasnât the first time CNN promoted higher gas taxes. On the April 25 âAmerican Morning,â then-co-anchor Miles OâBrien said that there âcould be a good argument for a gas tax in all of this to help pay for these alternative fuels.â
Similarly, Washington Post reporter Steve Mufson promoted an increase on Oct. 18, 2006.
A âsimple way to trim U.S. oil imports, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, encourage alternatives to petroleum and ease world energy shortagesâ would be âraising taxes on gasoline or crude oil,â wrote Mufson.
Time magazine also promoted paying a carbon tax in its â51 Things You Can Do to Make a Differenceâ issue about ending global warming.