Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Who's the addict now?

Government likes to use code words so they don't look quite so much like the bad guys.

For example, it seems like every couple weeks we hear about a new plan by the state to “raise money” to “fill the budget gap.”

Of course, by “raise money,” what they really mean is, “raise taxes.” And “fill the budget gap” actually translates to “spend more.”

I'm never a fan of government increasing our taxes. Nor am I a fan of them spending more. But some plans, I must confess, irk me more than others.

The latest harebrained scheme by Albany, specifically Governor Paterson, is to raise taxes on tobacco products, including a $1.60 a pack tax increase on cigarettes … and (here we go again) collecting taxes on cigarettes sold on Native American reservations.

Disclaimer: I smoke somewhere between half a pack and a pack a day. Save yourself the time of emailing me about how bad smoking is, okay? I know. I'm not under the impression that cigarettes have Vitamin C in them. I didn't miss the label that says they're bad. I know. But this is America and I have the right to ignore conventional wisdom and do something that's bad for me. Okay? Good. Moving on.

The $1.60 a pack tax increase bothers me by itself. Raises taxes on addicts is more than cruel. It's got to be a sin. Maybe not one of the seven deadly ones, but a sin nonetheless. And the argument that maybe the state will tax people into quitting is flawed on so many levels. If that's the argument, the state is attempting to push it's own moral standards through tax code. Again, that's just evil.

For me, however, there's something worse than taxing addicts. There's something worse than using taxes to push their morals. And that's attempting to levy taxes on sovereign land.

The State of New York has no more right to levy taxes on Native American soil than it does to levy taxes on Florida or France. The many reservations found within the confines of the state are – essentially – each their own country as set forth in the many treaties we've made … and ultimately broken.

Of course, I'm sure Governor Paterson would love to be able to tax Florida and France, too. Just like I'm sure he's trying to devise a way to tax our brainwaves and white blood cells. After all, there's that “budget gap” to fill.

This concept of taxing reservations is not new. It's been pushed hard twice before and floated a number of times. You likely recall parts of the New York State Thruway shutting down over a decade ago over this exact same issue. As much as I abhor violence, I can't blame Native Americans for protecting their way of life. And if they were to do it again, I'd root for them.

The problem is simple. New York State spends more than it makes. The solution is equally simple. New York State should spend less.

The fact that certain people in Albany seem to think it's easier to declare war on the sovereignty of Native Americans than to reign in spending should tell you all you need to know about the disease that infects state government.

A drug addict will steal from loved ones, burglarize homes and even knock off convenience stores to get money to get their fix.

Albany – apparently – is no different.

Rather than allow our elected officials to knock off the metaphorical convenience store that is our Native American reservations, we should get them the help they need. Just like we'd send a drug addict to rehab, we should send our elected officials for their own treatment.