Media Support Sin Taxes, Even 20,000 Percent Increases

Death and taxes may be the only certainties in life, but journalists’ support for higher taxes is almost as predictable.Actions that liberals dislike, such as smoking, eating the "wrong" food, and spewing carbon earn media support for tax increases.Right now, the media are promoting a “bipartisan” bill in Congress that would expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) by raising tobacco taxes sky-high.“Senate Panel Adds Billions For Health,” announced a headline from the July 20 New York Times. The headline sent a positive message that people’s health would be improved, rather than the honest message that the bill calls for a 156-percent tax increase on cigarettes, and a more than 20,000-percent increase on cigars (up to $10 per cigar).$10 a cigar? That deserved a headline or two.But instead of stating the enormous tax increases that would pay for children's insurance, most media accounts focused on the president's opposition to saving children.“Now, that is not a compassionate conservative,” remarked Joy Behar on ABC's "The View" July 18. Behar was talking about Bush's stand against the bill (she incorrectly said he had vetoed it), but she gave none of the administration's objections -- tax increases and expansion of government.The July 20 Los Angeles Times severely understated the potential tax increase on cigars, saying only that the tax "would more than double."But Drew Newman of the J.C. Newman Cigar Company wrote in a letter to The Washington Post that the cigar tax increase could be as much as 20,412 percent: “from just under 5 cents to a maximum of $10 per cigar.” “The effect of such an enormous tax increase would be devastating [on small businesses],” continued Newman in his July 21 letter.But smoking isn’t the only sin the media want to tax. Some journalists favor fat taxes to save people from unhealthy food, and many promote taxes to make the world greener.CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta was surprised at the amount of opposition to a fat tax on April 12.“[T]here was a Gallup poll actually done on this as well and I was actually surprised by the results. Only 10 percent of people in this country think it’s a good idea to have a fat tax,” Gupta said on “American Morning.”How could Gupta be surprised that most Americans don't want to pay more money to eat whatever they want?Eco-sins are also high on the media agenda. Journalists keep telling people what to do and not do to stop global warming. This has included suggesting higher gas taxes (to reduce demand) and carbon taxes.   

Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour is the Assistant Managing Editor for the MRC's Business and Media Institute.