Blonde moment

And the silver spoon.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Random about sin taxes

I certainly am not the tax expert. I took a class on Public Finance in college and have learned to apply a few things to my discussions on taxes. For example, people with a lot of kids have a lot of utility for education and people with no kids have very little utility for education. And so, eventually there comes a compromise where there is some education paid for by all. Perhaps not as much as the fruitful couple want, and more then the childless need, but a compromise is reached.

Here in Minnesota there is a problem with the state budget and taxes. There are a lot of problems and things to fund and people to tax. But, there is also a bit of a tax payers revolt. So, the problem is those who have a high need for public services are in conflict with those who either don't need as much or don't want to pay for as much.

Our governor has a "brilliant" solution to the stalemate, a state run casino. We already have other state sponsered gambling. And we have the usual sin taxes, as well. And besides, the Native Americans have casinos? Why can't the state get theirs? Um... right...

I don't really want to argue about the pros and cons about a state run casino, and I am against it, but I would like to highlight an irony that I saw on the History Channel this morning. The History Channel had a documentary on gambling. One of the commentators made a good point: "We don't encourage people to consume more alcohol so we can bring in more tax revenue to fund schools." The same can be applied to smoking.

The problem with government run sins is just that, they're sins. And that can be debatable, but there is a reason we call "sin tax" a tax on sins. We have "sin tax" as a form of behavior modification, to fund programs to clean up after the "sinners," and other general budget needs. To generate more gaming revenue, you need a bright new gimmic every so often. And you need to advertise it on TV and radio. Sure, we see alcohol ads on TV like we see Minnesota State Lottery ads. But the point of the alcohol ads is to promote brand patronage for a specific company, not to generate state income. A state sponsered agency does not fund TV ads to say "Drink more beer to bring in tax revenue."

Personally, I don't see anything wrong with gaming, drinking, or smoking, all in moderation. And I don't think we should depend on any of the three to generate revenue. It's not that I don't have a problem on sin taxes, but we shouldn't depend on sin taxes.


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