Vice Tax or: How David Paterson Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Attacking The Weak

In this day and age, it’s hard to live anywhere. Florida is filling up with more criminals than geezers. In Michigan, you can’t even find a job if you started your own business. Idaho still blows. Arizona is filled with assholes. Utah was founded by assholes. California? Broke assholes. Moving to a state like New York, I didn’t think I would run into these kinds of problems. The economy appears to be fine on the outside. I found a job within 2 weeks. I have seen more geezers than criminals. It doesn’t blow, and there aren’t as many assholes as I anticipated. However, once I stopped reading The Post, and opened up The Times, I found a much bigger beast lurking underneath all of the glitter in this fair state. They call it a “$9 billion budget gap”, and it’s changing the way that the everyman lives.

I should have known that it was a bad sign that I moved here on the 58th day of the fiscal year, and yet the state still didn’t have a planned budget revealed. Albany seems so far away from the city, but their chokehold still makes it’s way towards us. So, Governor Paterson and his rag-tag gang have started slashing and burning. The usual cuts, you know? Let’s cut down on health care, and education. That’s pretty typical, right? Now, before you go throwing bricks through windows, I must point out that as of this week, the Rubber Rooms are officially closed. For those not aware of rubber rooms, look it up. Basically, it is a place where they throw misfit teachers to sit in all day, every day, until they reach a hearing for discipline. Typically, teachers stay in there for months or even years…with what I believe to be full pay. [The question really is, now that the rubber rooms are closed, are all the teachers that got sent home still getting paid to stay at home?] Then there’s the cut that everyone heard about with the MTA and all their wisdom and power over us. They shut down a couple of lines and over 20 buses.

This has been one of the worst days of my life. You can’t expect me to figure all of this out. I’m too old!”, exclaimed an elderly woman trying to figure out how to reroute her daily routine.

There has been hearings to close down more than half of the service booths in the city’s subway stations. This will lead to increased subway crime, lost tourists, and free rides. They also threatened to take away free rides for grade schoolers, which probably would have caused mass rioting if it would actually have happened. There has also been talks of increasing the monthly fare rate to over a hundred bucks next year, which will be one of the biggest fare hikes ever. All of these cuts in the grand scheme do very minimal attacks to the deficit monster. However, the folks in Albany had a trick up their sleeve.

Two words: Vice. Tax.

Say it slowly.

Vice.

Tax.

Got it? Good.

I moved to New York knowing that it was going to cost an arm and a leg for cigarettes. As of last month, New York had one of the biggest tax rates for cigarettes worldwide, clocking in at $2.75 per pack. As of today, July 1 2010, the tax has been increased $1.60, which clocks it in at a tax of $4.35 per pack. That’s about a third of the cost now. The genius thing about this bill is that New Yorkers are STILL going to smoke regardless. They have estimated that this will raise $440 million in revenue. This looks well and good for the state, but come the fuck on, did it REALLY have to be $1.65? Earlier this year, Paterson suggested $1, and he got nods of approval. State Senate decided to up the ante, and now we’re paying for it. The real problem with this is that it was not advertised at all. You had to be in the know to find out that not only was this happening, but it was going in effect in less than 2 weeks after it’s initial passing. Nobody had time to stock up, or god forbid try quitting. I’ve spoken to a couple of smokers about it, and neither of them were aware of the changes. In fact, one of them who I am not going to name, had no clue at all whatsoever that New York was facing one of the biggest deficits in history. I walked into a deli in the Lower East side last night, and spoke to the clerk, who was busy chipping away at the price tags in front of the cigarettes.

“The price is now $2 more. State need money, so they take from us. Now I have to change price on all these cigarettes.”

I asked him if there was been a major rush for cigarettes today.

“The price is as of 20 minutes ago. Nobody has come in to rush, because not many know. You know, some come in, but many come regular schedule.”

These statements in fluent broken english were enough to convince me that this tax hike was not brought upon properly. I rushed to the bodega near my house to see if the price of loosies changed. They haven’t, but that doesn’t mean they won’t raise the price to $1 per cigarette by the end of the week.

Now, as a responsible citizen, I kind of have to accept this vice tax as something that is ultimately going to help out the state. At least I felt this way until I read about what this money was going to go towards. This is not definitive, but I have read that it is going to go towards cancer treatment/research, and programs to get people to quit smoking. How does this make any sense? The more money that goes into this program, the less people are going to join. Something about this doesn’t seem right. And you know what, there are many other things floating around Albany that doesn’t seem right.

One common term that has been floating around lately is Soft Drink Tax. Paterson has been throwing this idea out for a while now, and talks are starting to get a little more serious. The planned tax is for 12 cents per can/12 oz. That’ll make the tax 68 cents per 2-liter and $1.44 per 12 pack. Growing up in a household of heavy soft drink consumers, this would take a large large toll. Even now, I still consume about 200 oz of soft drink per week, which would mean that’d be an extra $2 I’d be paying over the already high prices of soda in the city. This idea has been rejected by many, and may never see the light of day. I saw a Pepsi truck yesterday with a protest ad. Some things just weren’t meant to be.

Now I understand that these tax hikes have to happen somewhere, but I still feel like they’re barking up the wrong trees. Tobacco and soft drinks are easy targets because they are obviously bad for your health. They are also easy targets because people are going to consume them anyway. However, one factor that hardly ever gets mentioned is that they are generally attacking the lower class with these vice taxes. You would think that if the government needed to raise money, they would take it from the rich, not the poor. The upper class of New York consume a significantly less amount of soft drinks, because they can afford to make those health conscious decisions. Where is the tax on the stuff that the elite buy? Where’s the mineral water tax? Organic tax? Truffle tax? Kombushka tea tax? Look folks, just because these things aren’t terrible for your health doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a right to tax it. Rich people are going to buy things that rich people buy, because if they don’t, what else are they going to buy? As of now, there is  no tax on clothing under $110. What the flying fuck are they thinking? They’re going to raise taxes on things already taxed, and not even consider clothes? New York’s privileged spend obscene amounts of money on clothing, and Albany can make obscene amounts of money off that! If you find easy ways to attack the rich, you can make a lot of money. Even Robin Hood knew that shit! And he was a fox!

Before I round this off, I must mention one more statistic that could change everything. New York is filled to the brim with alcoholics. Yet, the tax of alcohol is laughably low, and hasn’t changed since 1967.

Put that into your pipe and smoke it. It’s just going to cost you more.

-T.

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