Taxing the poor dumb people
Slot machines are moving inexorably toward reality in New Hampshire. It’s interesting that it will be the Democrats who make it happen — the champions of the common folks. But in the end it’s just the New Hampshire way: Tax the poor dumb people.Rich smart people don’t play slot machines. If they want to gamble, they go on a cruise or go to Las Vegas or the Bahamas. They don’t head down to Rockingham to play the slots. All that money for the general fund, it’s going to come from people who can’t afford it. But it’s OK — it’s a New Hampshire tradition.New Hampshire was the first state to have a lottery. And you know what? Rich smart people don’t buy lottery tickets. Have you ever been to a Quik Stop and seen a rich smart guy in a suit buying a lottery ticket?No way. Even though New Hampshire has something like 30 different ways to win, rich smart people don’t do it. The people who want to get rich quick – whom the TV ads entice to try – are the people who don’t have any other way to get rich. A lot of the time they’ll be buying smokes at the same time and paying taxes on them. Rich smart people don’t smoke. Poor dumb people smoke.Even better, if you’re a legislator, you get to say that taxing cigarettes is a way to discourage people from smoking. Which is plausible, just barely, until you add the little piece to the law that says you’ll raise the tax if it doesn’t raise enough money.And you get to say it’s not really a tax at all, it’s a voluntary thing, because if you don’t smoke you don’t pay. Except most smokers are addicted, and we took the money from the mega-tobacco settlement, money that was supposed to help the addicts, and dumped it into the general fund. Raising money on the backs of addicts, poor dumb addicts, and stealing the money that was supposed to treat their addiction.Genius. The New Hampshire way.So now, if not enough poor dumb people play the slots and we still need more money, what next? What other ways can we tax the poor dumb people?• A mobile home tax. We could say it’s not really a tax – it’s a way to encourage people to support the economic recovery by buying a real house. And we could say it’s a way to encourage tourism by getting rid of eyesore trailers on our beautiful country roads. No-brainer.• A used car tax. We could say it’s not really a tax, it’s a way to encourage people to support the economic recovery by buying a new car. Everyone wants economic recovery, don’t they?• A suitcase tax. No, not the kind you take on a trip, a 40-pack. Rich smart people don’t buy 40s of Keystone Light. If they drink beer at all, they drink Sam Adams. And you don’t buy a 40-pack unless you intend to get drunk. So we could say it’s not really a tax, it’s a way to discourage drunkenness.• A C-minus tax. We could tax the parents of every kid in public school for every grade worse than a C. We could say it’s not really a tax, it’s a way to encourage kids to get better grades. It’s No Child Left Behind. It’s for the future of America.According to legend, when Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, he replied, “That’s where the money is.” Plausibly, a legislature that needs money could take the same approach: Go where the money is — go to the people who can most afford it. That would be the rich smart people.There’s another approach, of course. Back in the Middle Ages the rich smart people lived in castles (think Bedford, maybe, or Durham) and didn’t pay any taxes. The poor dumb people lived in mud and filth and paid lots and lots of taxes.For my money, I like Willie’s idea. But the Middle Ages is where we — New Hampshire, America — appear to be headed.Mark Lennon of New London also blogs on the NHBR Network, where this article originally appeared.