Marc Fisher’s article in Monday’s online Washington Post is ridiculous. (Here’s the article.) He thinks that by opposing an increase in the cigarette tax Bob McDonnell is somehow demonstrating that he’s beholden to Philip Morris and the tobacco industry. The tobacco industry is enormously important to Virginia’s economy. Raising the cigarette tax to 60 cents from 30 cents will inevitably hurt that industry and the Virginia economy. Bob McDonnell is absolutely correct to say that we cannot tax our way to prosperity, and there is no worse time to raise taxes than in the current economic environment.
The irony of these sin taxes is that if they have their supposedly desired effect of lowering consumption of a certain good, in this case cigarettes, the tax won’t achieve its other purpose — to increase state revenue. So if you are relying on the increase in the cigarette tax to raise revenue rather than change behavior, you are implicitly punishing a class of people — smokers — who you think deserve punishment. I find that appalling — not to mention regressive, as cigarette smokers cut across class and demographic lines.
As for Marc Fisher, the real purpose of the article is to try to undercut and strangle in its crib Bob McDonnell’s appealing message of practical, common-sense solutions for Northern Virginia. Fisher is doing the Democrats’ dirty work of trying to make Bob McDonnell look like just another Republican who doesn’t care about Northern Virginia. Nice try, Mark. Anyone who knows McDonnell or who has heard him speak knows that’s bunk — McDonnell’s message is one that has tremendous appeal to Northern Virginians sick of gang violence and traffic jams. McDonnell has a record of taking on tough problems like gang violence that are important to Northern Virginians.
I’m looking forward to Fisher’s post on how the Democrats are somehow pushing card check only because their big union donors demand that they do. Or that the Democrats are pushing green technologies only becuase the environmental lobbies are pushing them to (and because some of them, like Al Gore, stand to make a hefty profit off these investments).
I’m not holding my breath.