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A Taxing Situation
Jim Welp’s article “A cry for secession” (LEO, April 16) argues that Kentucky is not a progressive state. He evidences the General Assembly’s rejection of a higher cigarette tax. Implicitly, he will have us believe that tobacco temperance is “progressive” and higher cigarette taxes will aid the temperance cause. Jerry Abramson may agree with Welp, since not too long ago Abramson made a public statement referring to the controversial smoking ban as “progressive.”
Yet, many people in the region have reservations about coercive anti-smoking policies. And the progressive nature of higher cigarette taxes can certainly be questioned. To obliquely reference the Great Nazarene, one person’s progress is another person’s regress. The policies that a progressive embraces has everything to do with his or her idea of a better future, and such ideas can vary broadly. Notions of “progress” for an anti-smoking busy-body is likely to be the opposite of “progress” for a person who enjoys his tobacco.
Governments have been taxing vices and luxuries more heavily than other consumer goods since time immemorial. Sugar, tobacco and alcohol all provide examples. It’s an ancient method for raising revenue while minimizing public outcry. The approach itself, therefore, is more old-fashioned than progressive.
Also commonly acknowledged is that taxes can be used to deter behavior. Daniel Webster once remarked on the sinister potential of the tax power, that “the power to tax is the power to destroy.”
Is a larger cigarette tax supposed to raise revenue or keep people from smoking? The tax cannot long do both; such would be a contradiction. If people stop smoking, less revenue will be raised. If more revenue is raised, then it will be because people continue to smoke. Obviously, a greater tax on cigarettes is about using the tax power to destroy.
In a free society, taxes should be used to raise revenue only, not destroy. If the people wish to illegalize tobacco, then let the General Assembly pass the law to make tobacco illegal. If not, then tobacco is legal and it is dishonest to attempt taxing it out of existence. Taxes probably won’t even work to eradicate tobacco, as much as re-enforce questionable government practices.
The proponents of tobacco temperance believe that a tobacco-free future is best. Perhaps it is, but there are many ways to achieve it. And one must wonder how much freedom of choice, and wise statesmanship, plays into their vision of our future.
Brad Caffee, Jeffersonville
With the cost of a gallon of gasoline just below or at $4 in this city, why are our city leaders talking about expanding Spaghetti Junction instead of something that might actually have more of an impact now, like public transportation? Invest more in TARC now, more lines, perhaps some even 24 hours, especially in a city where the bars close at 4 a.m., or does the city make too much money on DUIs?
How about a light-rail system? I would like to see something in Louisville as well as a statewide rail between Louisville and Lexington with stops in between, specifically Frankfort, my hometown, where a lot of great paying state jobs are located, but are too far away to even consider a commute with the soaring cost of fuel. I’m no expert on the subject of light rail by any means, but it seems to me like a no-brainer that it would generate new jobs, connect the bluegrass region like never before and save everyone from having to pay the Oil Tycoons toll.
Where is the leadership in this state? Are you out there? Can you hear us? If you’re not going to lead us into the 21st century, then please get out of the way so the rest of us can get to our destination: a sustainable future.
Ricky Woodson, Louisville
A Little Respect, Please
I’ve lived here all my life and I think you’re pretty great. It’s nice when there are events that bring everyone together. Those things — such as the events for Derby and St. James Art Fair — make you fun and interesting.
However, what is NOT fun is that you seem to forget all the people who live downtown, in the areas around Old Louisville especially. That’s where I live. And I’ll tell you what, Louisville, when you decide to shut down the street where I live so I can’t get to work or to the grocery store or even back home, it takes all the fun out of everything. I’ve been downtown for a full year now, after moving from the east end suburbs, so I’ve experienced up close and firsthand some of the big events: St. James, Thunder and the Mini Marathon.
I’ll start off with the St. James Art Fair. My house is back-to-back with St. James, and people who come there forget that they’re still in someone’s neighborhood. I’m riding my bike to class and I get shouted at by some vendor because I came too close. I live there, you are in my neighborhood. What gives you the right, Louisville, to tell me I can’t park on my street because a bunch of suburbanites are coming to visit? I think they should have to park at the stadium and take a bus to St. James. My fellow U of L students do it all week long. This would allow residents to park on their streets and cut back on all the ridiculous traffic around the area, reducing headaches for everyone.
Next I’d like to draw attention to Thunder. I went to my friend’s Thunder Party off Outer Loop. It took me 20 minutes to get from Outer Loop to Old Louisville and 25 minutes to go six blocks and police officers kept directing traffic like everyone is leaving the city. That is ridiculous. I spent 10 minutes staring at my house. I have a few ideas for Thunder traffic: the stadium and buses, people can stay at home, carpool, or let people go in waves. Have designated parking areas, and space out when those parking areas move. Just stop messing with my street!
The latest addition to my growing list of grievances: the Mini Marathon. I support it — my little sister even (ran) in it. But shutting down Fourth Street, a major artery to and from the city, is just dumb. I was afraid I couldn’t get to work because I have to cross Fourth to get to my job. And I know many other people were in the same boat as me, judging by all the illegal U-turns and tight turnabouts I saw/did.
In short, my darling Louisville, I just want you to remember that not everyone lives in the suburbs. A lot of people live downtown; you don’t do any good by making our lives hell to make the suburbanites little adventure downtown easier. That sends us a message that we’re unimportant, which is not cool. Please stop shutting down streets for these events; there are other more efficient ways of handling traffic problems that would respect those who live downtown.
Lindsay Watson, Louisville