"Everybody's going to have to give," President-elect Barack Obama warned over the weekend. And some people will have to give more than others -- starting with low-income smokers.
Democrats are rushing this week to impose massive tax hikes of at least 61 cents on every cigarette pack sold in America, in addition to new increases on other tobacco products. The money will fund a long-plotted federal expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).
Yes, this is Dr. Big Nanny's prescription for recession: punitive tax increases on the poor to feed a universal health care Trojan horse.
Obama and his liberal Democratic colleagues sure have a funny way of demonstrating "progressive" values, don't they? Health surveys show that smokers are more likely to be blue-collar workers, minorities and have less than a high-school education. The National Taxpayers Union noted that tobacco taxes take a 50 times larger share of income from those earning less than $20,000 than those earning more than $200,000. Put another way: Families making less than $30,000 per year pay more than half of all taxes paid on cigarettes, while families making more than $60,000 pay only 14 percent.
That's the dictionary definition of "regressive," not "progressive."
And what will that money buy? SCHIP, you'll recall, is the joint federal-state program that covers health insurance for children and families at or near the poverty line. During the last two years, President Bush and the Republicans took a rare fiscally conservative stand against widening eligibility criteria far beyond the working poor. Democrats wanted to be able to enroll families with incomes at 300 or 400 percent of the poverty level -- adding an estimated $35 billion over five years to the existing SCHIP funding costs.
Opponents of this HillaryCare-esque push were lambasted as cruel child-haters for arguing that the program should not be extended to include well-off families, illegal aliens and single adults. They were attacked as heartless penny-pinchers for questioning the wisdom of subsidizing the SCHIP expansion with a dwindling and unstable funding source (smoking is on the decline and cigarette tax revenues are shrinking). Left-wing comedienne Joy Behar called me a "b*tch" on national television for reporting that the Democrats' poster family for SCHIP expansion to cover the "poor," the Frost family of Baltimore, owned middle-class assets including two properties and three cars.