SCHIP, FDA regulation and other used cars
Someone is selling Americans a bill of goods - and using tobacco to pay for it
by David Williams
The reason I buy used cars instead of new ones is twofold. First, a new car depreciates so badly after its initial purchase that the buyer essentially just hands the dealer several thousand dollars as said dealer metaphorically kicks him in the shins.
Secondly, I hate fast-talking salesmen with patter designed to tell you how good you will have it when you buy, when all the while they know how much you are really going to get stuck with it.
What does that have to do with tobacco? Well, it seems that car dealers and politicians learned their seedy double-talk from the same seedy teachers. And politicians seem to have everything to do with tobacco these days.
Here’s what I mean.
Congress is on the verge of passing long-awaited legislation that would allow the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco – what goes in it, how it is marketed, and who gets access to it. Both houses of Congress have passed similar bills, and after a quick conference committee vote, the President will get a chance to sign it or veto it, probably before Christmas.
Mr. Bush has pledged to veto it, but the bills draw wide support and would be expected to have sufficient votes to override the veto and become law. We covered the subject of an FDA-regulated tobacco world in last month’s Tobacco Reporter magazine, so you can look at that issue or find it on-line.
Special interest groups and the anti-smoking lobby have managed to demonize tobacco enough to successfully blame it for most of the societal ills of the world as it is. But the House and Senate leaders took a one-two offensive punch to tobacco by adding another bill that would beef up the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), using proceeds from huge hikes in the federal taxes on tobacco – cigarettes, smokeless products, and especially cigars.
SCHIP is a federal program that provides insurance to children of families that make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private health insurance. On its face, that seems to be a good program that addresses a specific need for a targeted group of people – one I used to be in. But let’s look deeper.
SCHIP is, in effect, nationalized health care. Up to now no one has singled it out as that because it helps a relatively small socio-economic group. But the new bill expands the program exponentially – to the point that people making up to $80,000 a year in their households and have children as old as 24 can qualify for it with the new changes.
It bothers me that no major news source has proclaimed this as loudly as they have the news of how the program will be financed – with money squeezed from evil tobacco smokers, and people who sell the vile weed. These guidelines move national health care up about 20 light years – it provides a framework for a broader, more sweeping program that is sure to come.
Although I staunchly believe the Founding Fathers did not intend the federal government to become the caretaker of the social problems of its people, I am not about to argue the issues of nationalized health care now. This is just not the forum for it. But I do take issue with the fact that the leaders of Congress simply will not address the inevitable conclusion of these efforts – it’s a step toward the same “Hillary’s Health Care” that the American people shot down in the 1990s.
The car salesmen that win election would rather show the voter how much they care about the little children and how much they can make things better by sticking it to the evil denizens of the tobacco industry. What they are not saying is that once this beefed-up SCHIP is in place - and people are dependent on it – tobacco users are going to decline, priced out of the market with exhorbitant taxes and constant chiding from the health lobby and idiotic do-gooders like Truth.com.
Then the program will get less and less money as it gets more and more citizens hooked on feeding themselves on the government teat. The money will have to come from a broader tax base – like the ordinary guy out there, and his guilty pleasures.
Welcome back to the welfare state.
Growers of tobacco and the people in the industry know that reduced-risk products are on the horizon for smokers, and provide an alternative for smokers who want to reduce their health risk while enjoying their legal habit. Everyone in the industry is loudly proclaiming they do not want young people to start smoking.
But an element of the anti-tobacco horde seems intent on having nothing short of eradication of the product.
They disguise their intent in the spirit of negotiation, talking about reduced-risk products while they get into bed with pharmaceutical industries trying to make a buck on smoking cessation products. They shriek that only quitting is best, no loaf of bread at all is better than half of a loaf, and those who will not quit will be shamed or taxed into it.
Dead and failed ideas are as palatable to the general public as that six-year old sedan with the shiny paint job and four-cylinder engine that leaks oil. But the salesmen have to sell what is on the lot, don’t they?
I guess the galling thing is that an elected official is supposedly representative of all their constituents. They should not be in the business of trying to force something on us that we do not want by wrapping it in things we would like.
I hate having to buy a car. I am starting to hate voting, as well. Perhaps the causes for my revulsion are the same – but at least, I understand the motivations of car salesmen.
I doubt anyone wants to see the real motivations of elected officials. It’s rather like touring the bologna factory - you will never eat bologna again.
But this bologna is going to hang around for awhile. And the car salesmen we send to Washington are going to end up force-feeding it to us to the detriment of our rights as American citizens.