Boring tax untapped revenue source

By Kevin Wilson

I’m not what you’d call a 9-to-5 worker — maybe more like 4-to-1. It means a lot of late nights, whether I’m working or not.

It also means near-midnight snack runs — like a few nights ago at the Wendy’s pick-up window, and the drive-through cashier apologized because the printer was broken and she couldn’t give me a receipt for my debit card purchase. As I waited for my food, I struggled to picture a scenario where I would need that $3.21 receipt.

(“All right, sir, your license, insurance and registration check out … but my captain tells me we’ve had a string of food robberies, so I’ll need documentation on those bacon cheeseburgers and chicken nuggets.”)
Another late-night habit is destroying mom-and-pop stores and contributing to the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor. For short, I call them Wal-Mart runs.

During my recent run, I thought about a promise I’d made to a few coworkers who smoke. I figured, just to be a friend, I’d keep a pack of their preferred cigarettes on hand, despite the fact that I don’t smoke.
To me, cigarettes are like tampons or orthopedic shoes — I’ve never had a use for them, so I have no concept of how much they cost. Imagine my shock when this particular pack of cigarettes was $4.
Four dollars? That’s a lot of money to spend on something neither entertaining nor beneficial to health. Even assuming somebody buys cheap cigarettes or buys in bulk at $3 a pack, a pack-a-day smoker could easily spend $1,000 a year.

Much of that $1,000 comes from taxes. I’ve learned throughout my life we call these “sin taxes,” because they financially punish behavior certain groups find reprehensible.

But really, doesn’t the sin go both ways? I give no excuse for the person who chooses to buy alcohol or tobacco, but I find it morally bankrupt for the government to profit off people who have an addiction and justify it by calling the respective activities sinful.

If taxing on sin is such a great idea, why stop at smoking and drinking? Add extra fees to any marriage license beyond the first, because it’s sinful to not honor original marriage vows. Send extra property tax bills to people who don’t throw the occasional neighborhood cookout, because the Bible says you’ve got to love thy neighbor. These ideas are stretches, but they illustrate how imperialistic it is to tax someone for their moral stances because they don’t align with another person’s stances.

Wait a minute, Kevin … you don’t drink or smoke, so why do you care? My response is to quote another comedian, Dave Attell. He says if you neither drink nor smoke, “Then you’re boring … they should tax that.”

While I disagree that I’m boring, I certainly agree with the idea of taxing boring people — it sounds more beneficial than taxing smokers. I’ve spent plenty of time talking with smokers, and I’ve spent plenty of time talking with boring people. I’ve never come away from a conversation with a smoker thinking, “That guy owes me money for listening to him.” That’s how I leave just about every conversation with boring people.

I think I’ve found my new life goal. The day I can implement laws to tax the boring, I’ll be the first name on the city council ballot.

And if I’m elected, I already know how I’m spending the first $4 of my stipend.

Kevin Wilson is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. He can be reached at 763-3431, ext. 313, or by e-mail: