Yesterday the North Dakota House voted down HB1387 which would have instituted a 127% tax hike on cigarettes. The bill failed on by 19 – 72 vote margin, but the debate was interesting.
Rep. Glen Froseth, arguing against the bill, noted that tax hikes on tobacco use disproportionately burden the poor. But Rep. Eliot Glassheim, the bill’s sponsor, thought that was ok. “If we have to put a burden on them to assist them in saving their lives,” Rep. Glassheim argued, “I think that’s worth doing.”
That’s a pretty chilling argument for those interested in individual liberty. How much burden is ok for the government to put on our heads in order to get us to live the way the government wants? And if it’s ok to do this to smokers, who is next? Should we tax the fatties into shape? Are we going to put an excise tax on sporting goods since sports like football and hockey create so many injuries which eat up health care dollars?
Now that the government is so inextricably involved in our health care, what taxes and restrictions on our day-to-day lives can’t be justified with this argument?
We can all be thankful that this bill failed, but as we get more and more government in health care it will be used as a battering ram for policies that micromanage our lives for the greater good.