Washington Hypocrites

Our elected officials have denounced cigarette smoking as a health hazard and a drain on the nation’s healthcare system. They tell us that even second-hand smoke can kill you. To get people to stop smoking, laws have been passed to increase the tax on a pack of cigarettes at the federal, state, and local levels. The federal per pack tax is $1.02. The highest combined state-local tax rate is New York City at $5.85, followed by $3.66 in Chicago, with Evanston, Illinois third at $3.48 per pack, followed by Anchorage at $3.45 and. The average price for a pack of cigarettes nationwide is roughly $5.58 (including statewide sales taxes but not local cigarette or sales taxes, other than NYC’s $1.50 per pack cigarette tax).

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention estimates that smoking-caused health costs total $10.47 per pack sold and consumed in the U.S.

Of course, if our elected officials really believe cigarette smoking is so bad, they would outlaw all tobacco products. But then they wouldn’t get all that tax revenue to spend on their pet projects so they can get people to vote for them so they can get more political perks that the rest of us have to pay for.

If tobacco is such an evil thing, then why was the deadly stuff being sold at various Senate Shops “without state excise and sales taxes” until 2008? That’s right. Not only did the Senate Shops sell cigarettes; they sold them without the taxes that puff up the price everywhere else! So if you wanted discount smokes, all you had to do was take a trip to our nation’s capitol, take in the sights, and buy some tax-free cigarettes.

This mandated warning label appeared on cigarettes in 1966: “Caution: Cigarette Smoking May be Hazardous to Your Health.” It was revised in 1970 to read: “Warning: The Surgeon General Has Determined that Cigarette Smoking is Dangerous to Your Health.”

For 42 years our so-called esteemed elected officials compelled cigarette companies to warn users of tobacco products that they were harmful to their health while they were able to purchase the same “coffin nails” at a steep no-tax discount.

For years these elected officials have been exempting themselves from laws they burden us with. Do you think your congressmen have to abide by OSHA, EEOC, and other government regulatory agencies? Think again. They’ve exempted themselves.

Government officials who first enacted Social Security exempted themselves from the program and developed a private but voluntary retirement program — the Civil Service Retirement System — that you and I paid for. If a private plan was such a good deal for them, then why wasn’t an employee-owned retirement plan good enough for the rest of us? In 1984, this exemption was stopped.

Here’s an example of the decades-long hypocrisy of Congress from an article that appeared in TIME magazine in 1988: “Above Their Own Laws.” Former Illinois Congressman Henry Hyde said it best: “Congress would exempt itself from the laws of gravity if it could.” What Congress and the President do is try to exempt themselves from the laws of economics and common sense.

A report from Congress’s Office of Compliance notes that Congress has never applied Title II of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to itself. One of the arguments for this exemption is that there haven’t been any complaints or incidents of discrimination. I wonder. Can you imagine if a private business used this excuse?

In recent years, Congress has been brought under the laws that they saddled the rest of us with for decades. It’s about time.