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Getting Smoked

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Amid all the hoopla of Obama's World Tour '09, the initial act of the Obama tax raising saga took place back home. Who felt the bite first? Was it the ultra-rich, like Obama pal Warren Buffet? Nah. Was it those shady real estate types, like Tony Rezko, who profited handsomely from the housing bubble? Nope. Was it Rev. Wright and his profitable political operation masquerading as a church? Not a chance. However, it was another group who happen to have been almost as enthusiastic about Obama as the three I just mentioned.

And the unlucky winners are . . . cigarette smokers. They got the first puff on the Obama tax smoke and it was a harsh one. Obama signed a law that raises federal cigarette taxes by more than 150% to $1.01 a pack. Yeow!! Insert hacking cough here. Now most of the people smoking are: you guessed it, poor. In a recent Gallup survey, 34% of people making $6,000 to $12,000 smoked. For those making more than $100,000 in the survey, only a little more than 10% smoked. Since Obama got 60% of the votes of those making $50,000 or less, it would seem these Obama lovers got duped. Perhaps, they fully expected and wanted to be taxed more. According to Joe Biden logic, they are all more patriotic than the rest of us. However, all these mental meanderings are rendered mute by the O-man himself.

In his speech at the Democratic convention in Denver, Obama said ". .. the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle class." I would call less than $100,000 middle class, though maybe to Obama these folks are working poor and therefore, raising their taxes first doesn't qualify as breaking a campaign promise to the middle class. If we allow Obama this lawyerly puff of smoke, there is still another problem, that dratted $250,000 pledge. In Dover, NH on September 12th, 2008, the smokestack in chief said "I can make a firm pledge. Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 will see any form of tax increase." Having ditched his no tax promise with only a lone AP news story as a witness, we all know why those families will never "see" this tax increase until it hits them. With legions of media sycophants, any substantive story about Obama is quickly drowned out with puff pieces about the First Dog or Michelle's lip gloss. For the vast majority of the news media, I feel exactly the same way LBJ did about Time magazine's Hugh Sidey, accusing him of being a "goddamn whore" for the other party.

Returning to the smoking room, here's another thought. This tax is supposedly being done to provide health care for four million children. Funny thing though, with Obamacare on the way (price tag $1 to $3 trillion!!) why was this needed at all?  If you going to overhaul the whole system, why bother raising taxes for a program soon to be swallowed in the sea change of health care reform?

I'm guessing Obamacare is going to cost way more than planned, though not a soul on god's green earth really knows what it will end up costing. The "placeholder" or first installment is around $600 to $700 billion. That's just for starters. Odds are President Smoke Screen is going to need every single dime he can squeeze from everybody and anybody. As a constantly reviled group, smokers are the low hanging fruit. Or maybe, as a smoker himself Obama wanted to clock them as some kind of way for him to stop puffing.

In psychological terms, substitution works sometimes. The man who wrote Cigarettes are Sublime, supposedly substituted writing about cigarettes rather than smoking them as a way to kick the habit. One thing's for sure, there's no substitute for the voracious maw of government when it comes to increasing taxes for colossal undefined programs. Also, there's no alternative way to deal with lying grandstanding politicians. When they lie, it's best to just depart or tell them you're going out for a smoke and don't come back.

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About Mr Dock Ellis

  • In the food business, you have lots of smokers. Being a foodie is a tense and highly pressured business, and it doesn’t pay a whole lot. A good manager has to know how to “pay” his employees with enough esteem raising acts and comments without opening up his boss’ wallet. One of those payments to smokers is covering them when they take smoking breaks. Another is being a little loose on the rules when it comes to not smoking here or there. Telling someone to take his smoking break in a fifty mile an hour wind with bone-chilling temperatures (standard stuff in a Minnesota winter) is not the smartest thing to do. All it does is increase employee turnover rates and absenteeism as the smoking foodie looks for a more tolerant employer.

    But that is not the real issue here, is it? The real issue here is that smokers are getting hit with a nasty tax they can ill afford.

    There is another issue that few folks want to really address. And that is responsibility. This is a rough one to address – but it really is the 800 pound elephant in the room. The tobacco companies created over a million nicotine addicts in WWI handing out free cigarettes to soldiers on the front. I want to emphasize the point – addict.

    The culture of the day only promoted nicotine addiction by making it “cool” to smoke – creating another issue around which teenagers could rebel against their parents. So the addicted parent – who already understood the hazards of smoking as an addiction – could not effectively prevent it in his own kids. My father was clever in getting me not to smoke when I was a kid. But not everyone was a s clever as my dad, having his eight year old draw deep on an unfiltered Camel and then nearly vomit as a result. And not every parent was as lucky. I didn’t want to smoke. For some kids peer pressure was more important than the instinct to hurl or chuck up one’s cookies. These kids learned to smoke, no matter how much it sickened them. While the tobacco companies did not create the “peer pressure”, they sure cashed in on it. And it has taken lives. My father died at least a decade before he should have; my mother-in-law succumbed to the ill-effects of smoking. I do not hate smokers. I loved too many of them. I cannot look down on them in contempt for falling for an addiction pushed on them by expensive and subtle advertising campaigns paid for with dollars of death.

  • Cindy


    Here’s a true story: my smoker and non-smoker made the same money. My smoker was behind on bills, sick all the time and yes, wasted time on breaks. She lived with her parents although she was close to 30. My non-smoker managed to save enough money to buy a house and get married in Italy. Same money. How’d she do that?

    So, the mystery of this true story has been solved. As is the case of most mysteries, the author leaves out the part that reveals the solution.

    I’m sure you’re a nice person Joanne. What do I know? For all I know people trod right over you, employees or not, and you’re just venting. I don’t know you. I only know what your argument sounds like to me.

    You say you’re a fair person and maybe you are. But do you think your ‘true story’ is an argument that fits in with being fair-minded?

  • For the smoking question: if you smoke 3 packs a day, divide it up. I have no idea how many smokes are in a pack, but to me, that’s a lot of time.

    For the non-smoker: Actually, both she and her husband worked for us. He was part-time, since he was a teacher. I’m thinking through thrifty, well-planned saving, they managed to fulfill their dreams which included buying a house and wedding in Italy.

    I’m not the kind of person who glues an employee to their seat and tells them not to get up. In fact, I’m pretty laid back as long as the job gets done. I’m also not the kind of employer who used TARP money to buy a $1800 papyrus wastebasket while redecorating the “corporate” office. Most of our furniture came from the second hand office supply store. I’m the kind who mows the lawn at the business and cleans the toilets on occasion.

  • Cindy

    Here’s a true story: my smoker and non-smoker made the same money. My smoker was behind on bills, sick all the time and yes, wasted time on breaks. She lived with her parents although she was close to 30. My non-smoker managed to save enough money to buy a house and get married in Italy. Same money. How’d she do that?


    I’m confused as to what this is supposed to prove. I know non-smokers who lived with mom and dad into their 30s. I know smokers who own homes and pay their bills. What does any of this have to do with smoking?

    But this makes me really curious about the non-smoker. Did her husband make her pay for the house and wedding or what?

  • I can answer one question. My last job was doing fundraising for nonprofits – the Sierra Club, World Wildlife, etc – a boiler room. And you had to be glued for two hours straight to the monitor making phone calls. A fifteen minute break every two hours; so an eight hour shift was like torture. All the pressure and no letting off steam. I’d rather have a seven minute break (as a smoker) every hour, than having to wait two full hours for a longer break. And I did (and many others too) sneak out for one. No, my performance wasn’t suffering for the fact, nor the company’s production levels. Otherwise, it would have been a ball-buster.

  • Cindy

    I love how “workers” see only the gross and not the blood, sweat and tears. Do you work 7 days a week? Do you take vacations? Do you have a guaranteed retirement and health benefits? Do you pay 42% in taxes?

    I have been both Joanne, but here I’m speaking as an employer, not an employee. I’m well aware of the potential disadvantages of owning a business. I am only an owner by chance, as I had to rescue this business from failure for the sake of everyone, owner and employees. It required plenty of work to do. And I was anxious for a long time as it teetered on the brink repeatedly. So, I also understand that it can be emotionally draining.

    However, despite this, in my opinion, none of the disadvantages of ownership compare with the disadvantages of being an employee. An owner is free, an employee is not. There is a great deal of difference in those positions; working extra hours or taking less pay could not possibly reduce the value of being an owner to the level of being an employee. I maintain that no matter what, I have always fared better than any employee I have employed.

    And if I paid 42% in taxes I’d consider myself a comparatively fortunate human being. As it is, I will be selling the home my husband built because we cannot afford the taxes. So, it also isn’t as if I don’t understand having to make changes either.

    My new question is how many cigarettes can a person possibly smoke in 4 hours?

  • BTW, got the email. My first submission, also, was to the same literary agency that sponsors the event. They were nice and suggested I attended the conference. I lived in the Bay Area at the time (only a year ago), so it would be convenient of course. But the price tag was the object.
    My work was already good and mature – just didn’t have literary contacts. And you know how difficult it is to break into the field and get your first book published. Anyway, I couldn’t afford the $500 plus price tag and that was that.

  • Sure, I agree, Roger. There are many variables, just as there are many different kinds of businesses. I know this. 🙂

  • But Joanne. These differences are not necessarily traceable to nicotine addiction. They could derive from any number of things.

  • Actually, Cindy, if you MUST know, I’m not a big employer. Many of our employees make much MORE than we do, because they work here part time and are state employees. They have paid vacations, full health benefits and guaranteed retirement at 55. What do I have? Well, I can tell you I’m probably going to be working until I die.

    I love how “workers” see only the gross and not the blood, sweat and tears. Do you work 7 days a week? Do you take vacations? Do you have a guaranteed retirement and health benefits? Do you pay 42% in taxes?

    Here’s a true story: my smoker and non-smoker made the same money. My smoker was behind on bills, sick all the time and yes, wasted time on breaks. She lived with her parents although she was close to 30. My non-smoker managed to save enough money to buy a house and get married in Italy. Same money. How’d she do that?

    I consider myself a fair person, but employees do what they want with their money. Just don’t complain to me if your vices eat up your nest egg.

  • Cindy

    “…they waste time on smoke breaks and they are often more sick than non-smokers. Although I paid them a good wage, all I heard was complaints about how little they made because they wasted their money on smoking…”

    This sounds like a typical self-centered employer. You resent them for taking extra break time? How much can they possibly smoke in 8 hours? You pay them so ‘well’ they can’t afford cigarettes?

    I would never work for someone who thought so little of me. These people make your wealth possible. I wonder how they are faring compared to you.

  • Sorry to hear about your dad, Ruvy. My dad, who started smoking in the Minnesota backwoods at 11, finally quit at 40. He’s now in his late 70s and is only there because he quit. It wasn’t easy, it took him two years. I appreciate that it takes more than willpower to quit smoking. Luckily, out of six of his children, no one has smoked for more than a couple of years.

    As for another regressive tax, our state gas tax is among the highest in the nation. Supposedly this is to maintain our roads, but if you drove down any major or minor road this time of year, it’s like driving on the moon. Every spring is the same thing. As a company who needs gas as part of the package, we suffer the most. People who have been hoodwinked into buying large SUVs suffer too.

    It’s most interesting to me that big business and our government is in cahoots to divide and conquer the people. But what’s really sad is that very few see beyond the ruse.

  • B-tone,

    Not sure what you are really raging about. The Blessed of Hussein has managed a most retrogressive tax on the poor by raising the cigarette tax. It stinks but has a distinctive odor from him practically bowing on Turkish and Saudi prayer rugs and leaving farts of submission. They are two rather different issues, B-tone. And two very distinct odors as well.

    The problem with a lot of smokers is not that they are stupid – it’s that they can’t manage to teach their kids not to smoke. I was lucky – my dad, may he rest in peace, taught me not to smoke.

    But more often than not, tobacco companies have automatic customers in the kids of smokers who rebel with cigarettes – only to find themselves as hooked as mom and dad.

  • This has turned into a bash everybody fest, hasn’t it? Except apparently for Ruvy, you all hate the smokers, think they are vile and stupid for doing it, but supposedly feel their pain when the source of all their misery is taxed.

    So you get to bash the smokers, then turn about and hold their nicotine stained hands in sympathy while bashing the dastardly Obama. What a load of disingenuous crap you all are spewing.

    MDE blithely spews out a load of unsubstantiated bullshit against Obama. The general concensus is that his trip to Europe, Turkey and Iraq was overall a smashing success. But, since he didn’t go over there and offend everyone in site, you believe that he has sold us down the drain. You all just can’t stand it can you? Obama may turn out to be the only one who can pull this nation out of the shit hole that conservative idealogues have thrown us into. You imagine that you are all standing on the high ground when in fact you are precariously perched upon all the crap that the Reps shoveled out of that hole.

    There is not one visible Republican today who has even an iota of credibility. The best that the GOP has to offer us are a bunch of genuine idiots – Cheney, Steele, Jindal, Bachman, Cantor, Palin, “The Newtster,” oh and of course, Joe the Fucking Plumber! That’s an impressive lineup of right wing jack asses who couldn’t manage to walk and chew gum at the same time. My money’s on Gingrich. You can’t beat a politician named after a lizard. And, hell, Newt sounds like the voice of reason, a veritable sage, compared to the rest of them. It seems to me that most of them operate on the same level as those who huddle deeply in their home made bomb shelters wearing tin foil hats spying conspiracies in every dark corner of their world.

    I suppose it’s apropos that all of the current leaders of the Reps are loosers. Go get em you righty-tightys!


  • Quite right about that. It is a bitch to quit. Very few substances are less addictive. Sometimes, a cigarette is your only “friend.” A drug for all occasions.

  • I followed Joanne here. She’s right about some smokers – and her experience matches mine when dealing with the many smokers who worked at the Burger King I once managed. They were always a bit short because of the money they needed for smokes.

    But there is another side to all this. My dad was a smoker and it killed him – but for the life of him (literally) he could not quit. He told me point blank that he was hooked like a heroin addict was to a drug – and for this, I cannot simply blame him. For years in my youth there was an entire “cool” culture about smoking. Then suddenly the “truth” was admitted and everyone was supposed to quit smoking!

    In American society, it always seems that the poor are the last to catch on to cultural changes that are beneficial. Rich folks started seriously loosing weight when they saw what a fat pig President Taft was 95 years ago. Women these days are inculcated to be practically anorexic in the States. But, poor folks are still carrying around the extra weight in the States in spite of the cultural conditioning of over nine decades.

    So here we have the poor continually being screwed over by the cigarette companies which promise relaxation and a cheap (and legal) high on the one side, and then being screwed over one the other by lying in the teeth corrupt pols like Obama who smack them with a tax hike on a drug a lot of them just can’t quit.

    “Kool”, huh?

    You Yanks are all getting screwed over – first by lying accountants who cook the books for corporations – then by the politicians who pretend to have solutions for the country’s problems – then by the corporate plutocrats who steal your money (with the help both of the Shrub and the Blessed of Hussein). This tax increase on poor people is just one more stick up your collective butts….

  • Everyone is getting greased, not just smokers.

    Perhaps my flip comment flew over the heads of others. I don’t smoke for many reasons, including health, and my attitude is this, I don’t like it. I prefer to hire people who don’t smoke, although I have hired smokers. Why? Because they waste time on smoke breaks and they are often more sick than non-smokers. Although I paid them a good wage, all I heard was complaints about how little they made because they wasted their money on smoking and were often sick at least two days a month.

    I don’t see any indignation over small businesses getting extra tax-shafted. I’ve been living this nightmare in Michigan for years. Oh, yeah, I forgot. “Since I don’t do it, it doesn’t concern me?” Funny how it’s different if the shoe is on someone else’s foot.

    It would be just peachy keen if we could allot our tax dollars to the places we wanted it to go, and to pay taxes on only the things we are interested in using. For example, an elderly couple must pay the school tax twice a year here. Why? Preservation of the community? Or you could be anti-war, anti-abortion, or anti-gay and want your tax dollars to go toward those things (or not) you believe in.

    Yup. We’re all getting hosed. If you don’t think so, you don’t have your eyes open yet.

  • Mr. Dock Ellis

    Interesting how the concern here was that some people don’t care when someone else is getting greased. This exactly where Oblahblah makes his hay. He spouts off about “fairness” and then slams the people he’s supposedly defending. The guy is faithless and fickle, always sucking up to his current audience at the expense of a former one.

    Now, his new pals, the Washington Elite wants to tax the poor and he’s OK with that. Whether its bashing America before the Europeans or groveling before the Saudi Tyrant, he’s constantly brown nosing. That is, before he dumps that group or person to schmooze the next object of his affection. I wouldn’t want to be on his side because eventually you too will be jettisoned for political convenience.

  • Well yes, “doesn’t concern me” covers a multitude of sins. Just a shorthand the way I used it.

  • Cindy

    You mean since I don’t do it, it don’t concern me?

    Not quite. I mean since it doesn’t hurt me, I can rationalize that it’s done to someone else.

    There is a saying from the IWW:

    “What affects one of us, affects all of us. We’re all in this together.”

    That tradition is also adopted by anarchism. To the extent that people, taught to compete, assess things in terms of division and me and mine, it’s a problem for the whole human race.

    Not just for the people they don’t care about, but for the value of their own humanity. The thing that makes their life of any importance at all.

    What if people said, hey I could get arrested for hiding Jews or slaves? Well, people today justify and rationalize how the poor, for example, either deserve it, or aren’t their problem.

    And for the example Joanne provided: Joanne doesn’t care about taxes to someone else’s cigarettes. Then she rationalizes it with some stereotype to make herself feel more comfortable. She even apologizes, knowing this is wrong.

    But the point there isn’t cigarettes at all. The point is more like this: well, I’m not a Nazi so I don’t care of Nazi speech is banned.

  • You mean since I don’t do it, it don’t concern me?

  • pablo

    I second your comment in #8 Cindy. Very well put.

  • Cindy

    I don’t smoke, so I don’t mind that he taxes that.

    Nice. I think I can safely say, this attitude (extended beyond smoking, of course) contributes more to human problems that any other.

  • 1. he fibbed when he campaign-promised about raising taxes on the so-called middle class


  • I don’t smoke, so I don’t mind that he taxes that. However, it does happen to be the “disadvantaged” who seem to have that bad habit and can’t break it. I hate to stereotype, but they also drive big trucks and complain when the price of gas was over $4. If it hurts that much, do something, like quit or buy a small car. Obviously, it doesn’t hurt THAT much.

    The main point that I got here was 1. he fibbed when he campaign-promised about raising taxes on the so-called middle class. Big whoopie. They all lie when it comes to that. It’s called the bait and switch, in case you aren’t aware.

    2. That the health care reform is likely going to cost more than originally planned. I agree. How can a bunch of bureaucrats with no idea of fiscal responsibility come up with a cost-effective plan? Answer: They can’t.

    A better plan might be to legalize marijuana and then tax THAT. Can you imagine what kind of taxable goldmine that would be?

  • Cindy

    Taxing smokers is a great place to start…

    If anyone should be taxed, it should be narrow-minded dimwits. It’s these people who burden others with the imposition of their idiotic ideas. Perhaps taxing them might broaden their horizons or at least it might help to stop them from trying to enforce their stupidity on others.

  • Obama smokes because it makes him feel more like he’s back in Hell where he was spawned?


  • B-man,

    You missed the most poignant epithets: He’s devil incarnate, Satan himself, anti-Christ.

    This should complete the picture.

  • Yeah, you got it right. Obama is a cocsksucking dick head who should have his balls ripped out with a grappling hook. That pig fucking bastard has turned his back and dropped his pants, spread his cheeks and shit all over the poor. I think the good folks on the right should pool their resources and provide free cartons of cigs taken door to door to the wretched nicotine deprived refuse, by fucking god!

    It’s sooooo fucking obvious that Obama has big wang wet dreams about taxing everybody to the hilt just like every pussy assed faggoty commie liberal. Fuck em all!


  • Tony

    I find it humorous that you equate a smoking tax to a tax on the poor. If people are poor, they definitely shouldn’t be spending upwards of $5.00 a day on cigarettes anyway. Not to mention the massive drain these people cause on the health care system.

    If individuals CHOOSE to smoke, and CHOOSE to welcome in the health problems that the activity induces, then they now choose to pay higher taxes.

    I get its tough to quit smoking, as I am a former smoker, but honestly, I don’t know many conservatives who would try to argue the point that those people, who knowingly bring on the health risks associated with smoking, should not be taxed. Taxing smokers is a great place to start, because poor smokers — usually without insurance — cost everyone who pays into any health care system (private or public) more money.