Higher Cigarette Taxes Will Do Little to Decrease Smoking

Following months of tenacious lobbying by groups like the American Heart Association, State Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-Azusca) introduced a bill last week that would raise the smoking age in California from 18 to 21 and impose a $2 cigarette tax hike. While certainly well-intended, Californians should be skeptical of such a proposal as new research suggests that cigarette taxes do not decrease smoking as much as conventional wisdom suggests.

Since 2002, there have been more than 110 increases in cigarette taxes at the state level.Taxes now make up about $2.50 of the $6 price of a normal pack of cigarettes. Adult smoking rates in the U.S. dropped from 22.5 percent in 2002 to 19 percent in 2011 according to the Center for Disease Control. The agency hopes to see rates fall to 12 percent by 2020. Tax increases on cigarettes are seen as a valuable tool for discouraging smoking by both policy makers and public health advocates like like the ALA. With numbers like these, it is difficult to argue against these points from a public health standpoint.

Yet, this argument is misguided. New research by professors Kevin Callison and Robert Kaestner published in Regulation questions whether further raising cigarette taxes will do much to decrease smoking rates. They find that adult cigarette use is largely unaffected by taxes. Moreover, they estimate  that a large increase, possibly about 100 percent, would be required to decrease smoking rates by just 2 to 3 percent. This flies in the face of the conventional arguments provided by cigarette tax advocates.

Moreover, the study finds, the tax burden of further cigarette taxes is felt acutely by the nation’s poor. If, as stated above, tax increases do little to reduce smoking, then a $1 tax increase would cost the average low-income smoker an extra $480 per year. Worse, even in the best-case-scenario, the person would spend an extra $450 per year, every year moving forward. Not only would higher taxes do little for public health, but their burden would be felt disproportionately by those with lower incomes.

Read the rest at Watchdog…

Federal K-12 Funding Should Follow the Student

With reforms to No Child Left Behind up for debate, House Republicans are wisely proposing that low-income families be allowed to take a portion of their federal funding to different public schools of their choosing. This form of school choice is known as “portable funding,” or sometimes “backpack funding” since money follows the child.

Low-income families are especially in need of school choice. The upper-class can afford private school tuition and the middle-class can afford to locate in neighborhoods with quality public schools. However, low-income families are too often left with no outlet from failing schools.

School choice is essential since every child has different needs. Each student has different priorities for what they need from a school that cannot be simplified into one test score or grade. School choice allows parents to weigh different factors and do what’s best for them. Factors such as academic success, school safety, or strength in a certain subject all matter to students in a different way.

Whether or not a school has high test scores or meets government-mandated standards should not be of great importance for government funding. If enough families choose to send enough students to a school to make it viable, then that school should be considered a success. All that counts is whether a school serves its students’ needs, whatever those needs may be.

On the left, teachers unions and progressives claim that portable federal funding of education will take resources away from poor school districts. But this approach fails to recognize the educational benefits for individual families and students who can take advantage of school choice. It also perpetuates the falsehood that bad schools just need more taxpayer money to improve. Customized education helps all students individually, whereas pouring more money into failing education systems has failed to produce nationwide gains.

Read the rest at the Washington Examiner…

Is Giuliani Right About Obama?

Rudy Giuliani made headlines this week when he stated that President Obama had been “influenced by communists since an early age.” The comments garnered critical reaction ranging from those calling Giuliani wrong to those calling him a racist. However, his critics ignore a very real and plain truth: Marxism has been a major influence in modern American liberalism since the 1960s and has played a large role in the president’s life.

The self-proclaimed Encyclopedia of Marxism details how communists helped to establish the peace movements of the 1960s in Europe and the U.S., which led to heavy Marxist involvement against the war in Vietnam. It’s important to note that while it was never proven that foreign communist regimes were involved with the anti-war movement, it is undoubtedly true that Americans influenced by and espousing Marxism were at the front of the anti-war movement.

It was in that movement that men like Bill Ayers would gain prominence. Ayers cofounded the self-described communist revolutionary group the Weather Underground, which orchestrated a string of bombings of U.S. government buildings during the 1960s and 70s.

In 2008, the media scrutinized the relationship between Barack Obama and Bill Ayers. Ayers had been to several functions at Obama’s home, yet Obama maintained that the two were merely acquaintances, a claim that was pretty much verified and then dismissed. But the media missed the point. The point is that a communist terrorist was treated with such respect and reverence by the left that he nonchalantly passed through engagements attended by Democratic presidential candidates. And still, he continues to excuse his organization’s terrorism.

American colleges are full of Marxist professors; this is not contested. The University of Chicago, where Ayers teaches and Obama briefly taught law, is an obvious example. One need only look at the Democratic Socialists of America, whose members include educators, activists, and public officials, to see the prevalence of Marxist thought in American politics. Their website proclaims that“Democratic Socialists believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically to meet human needs, not to make profits for a few.”

Read the rest at The Daily Caller…