Elie Mystal, the Editor of our sister site Above the Law, did a fair amount of kvetching over the Texas “pole tax” on Friday. He focuses primarily on his distaste for sin taxes, “I can’t avoid sin taxes — and thus I can’t stand them. First of all, they are regressive. Secondly, they’re anti-business. So we literally have a tax regime that freedom-loving progressives and money-loving conservatives should hate, and yet sin taxes continue to be an acceptable way for the government to shove its morality down our throats.”
We’ll address that statement in a minute but first, we’ll examine the pole tax which supporters have stated, “is an appropriate exercise in state power — promoting public safety by discouraging the ‘combustible combination’ of drinking and live nudity.”
Nude women + alcohol = rape? What kind of sex crazed sociologist came up with that equation? Just because boobs and beer make your sick ass go out and terrorize females doesn’t mean that other males are incapable of telling the difference between fantasy and cold, lonely reality.
And if this is a serious problem — what the f*** is $5 going to do about it? Texas legislators want us to believe that there is an epidemic of sexual assaults occurring because of the “combustible combination” of alcohol and live nude girls, but they also want us to believe that a $5 surcharge is going to make a difference.
We agree with Elie that Texas has come up with a bad — nay — horrendous idea. An extra $5 at the door isn’t going to accomplish a damn thing. Strip clubs are highly “combustible” environments regardless; taxing patrons to get them to think twice before entering doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Where Elie is dead wrong is his notion that “Either [the behavior subject to tax] is a serious societal problem that the government needs to step up and make [it] illegal — or it isn’t. If it’s not that big a deal, then what is a sin tax other than the government trying to get a taste of a lucrative American business?“
We have a problem with the “step up and make it illegal” part. The decriminalization and taxation of certain “sins” is a perfectly good way for states to raise money since taxes on income and property are far more political and thus, not effective.
Alcohol and tobacco both cause a myriad of health problems in humans that can result in high medical treatment costs. Taxes on these items are appropriate in order to supplement the burden that they place on society as a whole. Drugs and prostitution are, for the most part, criminalized. Thousands of people are arrested and jailed yearly for engaging in these behaviors, imposing millions of dollars in costs to taxpayers. Here’s a newsflash: human beings are not — ARE NOT — going to stop engaging in these behaviors. So why not take the “criminal” element out of the equation?
If they were to be made legal, highly regulated and taxed, states could enjoy new revenue streams and citizens can engage in behavior that they choose. That’s something many “freedom loving progressives” can certainly get behind. Plus, if drugs and prostitution are legal, won’t this encourage entrepreneurship and a more competitive marketplace? That sounds like something “money-loving conservatives” would approve of.
So while we’re with Elie railing against Texas’ impotent legislation, sin taxes are useful when implemented intelligently. California is putting legalized marijuana to a vote and DC may not be far behind so maybe we’re beginning to see some common sense for a change.