Do House Republicans Care More About Smokers than Kids?

Yesterday, a bill that would provide health care coverage for our more than 100,000 uninsured children failed to obtain a the required 2/3 majority in the Oregon House.

The vote was 35-22 for the measure, which would raise funds for this coverage by hiking Oregon’s cigarette tax by 84.5 cents a pack.

Given that my coffee maker is broken and I come to this post uncaffeinated, my brain is working a bit slower this early a.m. So help me out here, readers.

All but a half dozen of our state’s 29 Republican House members voted against the measure.

It just so happens that most of these 29 are on record as being “pro-family” and “pro-life.”

What could be more pro-family, and pro-life than ensuring that a child who is already born will have adequate health care?

Maybe it is that Republicans are reflexively anti-tax. Or it could be that the ones who serve in the Oregon House represent timber and high desert districts where many smokers live?

Well, tough shit, I say. If you don’t have the balls to ask some Marlboro man in Burns, or on a high-rise condo construction crew to dig in in for 84.5 cents more a pack. then you don’t get the time of day from me.

The children of this state deserve better.

13 Comments so far

  1. Stan (unregistered) on June 13th, 2007 @ 6:07 am

    I guess my first question is, what kind of person has a child if they cannot provide adequate medical care for them? I would never assume it’s the state’s responsibility to provide medical care for a child of mine. I would do anything to provide that kid with medical insurance — work two, three, four jobs, retrain, reeducate, whatever it took. What I would not do is assume it is the state’s responsiblity — or the smokers, no matter how reviled — to do it for me. That is a parent’s responsiblity, one that far too many shirk and fail to take seriously.

  2. Aaron B. Hockley (unregistered) on June 13th, 2007 @ 7:11 am

    Russ, I’m confused.

    Your post yesterday was bitching about the smokers in your ‘hood. Today you’re saying that apparently most smokers live in “timber and high desert districts”, so their representation is going to support them. Last time I checked, your Washington Park condo isn’t in a high desert district.

    Yesterday you said smokers were “Alienated slackers without the brains or drive to be activist progressives”. Today, you want to put the burden of healthcare funding onto the shoulders of these slackers?

  3. Himself (unregistered) on June 13th, 2007 @ 7:23 am

    Republicans are reflexively anti-tax (but it’s not just the Republicans).

    We should tax the hell out of cigarettes, simply to offset their outrageous cost to society. Ideally, cigarette use will decline as taxes go up, so it will be a diminishing source of revenue. Health care for children should not depend on this.

    Health care, education, public safety and social services need stable, adequate revenue. If we depend on sin taxes and lottery funds, we’re screwing ourselves in the long run.

    Oregon had a decent revenue base until the libertarian fringe led us down the tax slashing rabbit hole in the ’90s. We’ve gone from 15th in education funding to 31st, and we have the fourth worst student-teacher ratio in the nation. We have half the state police we had 15 years ago, and a vastly larger population.

  4. RedMolly (unregistered) on June 13th, 2007 @ 7:36 am

    what kind of person has a child if they cannot provide adequate medical care for them

    I love the assumptions that (a) having a child is something that can always be planned out successfully and never has irrational factors entering into the decision, and (b) once you’ve had a child, your life is 100% stable and your situation never changes.

    When our sons were born, I was employed full-time with excellent benefits. Unfortunately, that was in an area where we could never have afforded a house, and the salary wasn’t all that high either. We moved to an area with a lower cost of living; we bought a house; my husband started a new job that had the potential to pay much more but didn’t offer squat as far as benefits. And yes, my kids (along with the two of us) went uninsured for about a year until we found an insurance plan for self-employed people that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. (Of course, it doesn’t cover crap, but oh well. And yeah, it’s still $400 a month for just me and the two boys–my husband’s still uninsured–but once again, oh well.)

    And our situation is fairly mild compared to others… we haven’t had job loss, other expensive family crises or what-have-you. All we can do is cross our fingers that things keep working out OK and be politically active in the fight to bring the same level of health care coverage to the US that every other civilized country in the world currently enjoys.

  5. atlas (unregistered) on June 13th, 2007 @ 8:13 am

    So tax smokers to ensure healthcare? While statistics indicate smoking is going down?

    I don’t smoke and would like to see healthcare coverage for children… but I would not have supported that tax increase on cigarettes and am happy it failed.

    If you want to “help” others with their health perhaps you might consider a way to tax all the fatties out there… obesity is on the rise and has plenty of health consequences.

  6. The Guilty Carnivore (unregistered) on June 13th, 2007 @ 8:44 am

    Stan, what kind of society collects taxes but cannot provide the baseline services for its citizens? Of any service a government can return to its participants, I would say adequate health care would come first. What good is a park, or a freeway, or a war with brown people, if you’re dead?

    America’s spends more per capita for health care of any country in the world, yet we suck the most. It’s time to put to an end the corporate welfare system that is the current American healthcare system. It’s broken and systematically corrupt. It is a terminal cancer patient, smoking medical marijuana just to gain some respite in the final days before it dies a death of attrition, bringing with it all the parasitic organisms that have been feeding off the host.

  7. Justin (unregistered) on June 13th, 2007 @ 8:57 am


    I’m sure most people agree with the idea that parents should be the first line of defense when it comes to raising children. Problem is, though, that it isn’t always possible. Redmolly mentioned a couple of valid scenarios in which parents wouldn’t be able to insure their children, even though they were doing what they could.

    Personally, I recently went three months without insurance for my family as I changed jobs and had to wait through a probation period before my new employer’s coverage kicked in. As luck would have it, both my kids needed to see dr’s during that uninsured period (one developed a cyst on her wrist, the other broke his finger in a car door). Thankfully, we had credit cards and a little bit of savings to help, but if that would have happened just a year ago we would have been completely screwed. Other less fortunate families in the same situation might not have been able to get the medical attention their children needed.

    Sorry, got off on a tangent. I guess my question for you would be “why should children have to pay the price for the decisions of their parents?” In a just and civilized world, shouldn’t we find a way to make sure that all children receive the medical care they need regardless of their parents’ employment status, decision making, or dumb luck?

    Himself & Atlas…

    I definitely agree that the services you mentioned require a more stable revenue source, but there’s one more piece to consider. You correctly mentioned that the increase in tax would result in a decrease in smoking which, in turn, should lead to an eventual decrease in the revenue generated through that tax. However, overall health care costs will also decrease with the number of smokers, so less revenue would actually be required in the long run. I’d be curious to see what those numbers would look like in the long run…


    Ok, I know you were being just a tad facetious when you mentioned finding a way to “tax the fatties,” but you actually have a great point. Yet another problem with this country’s health care system is our insistence on treating symptoms rather than promoting prevention. Probably has something to do with the fact that there’s more money in it for the drug companies to treat a disease than to cure/prevent it… (yes, I’m a little biased on this one…) Maybe there should be a higher tax on french fries and Big Macs?

  8. Julian (unregistered) on June 13th, 2007 @ 10:27 am

    Why should one group subsidize another group in this way. Taxes as a basic distribution of wealth makes sense; those that have benefited from society can give back to it. It also makes economic and political sense b/c a society of only rich and poor will not work well. But, to increasingly shift the tax burden on smokers and beer drinkers (why not wine or luxury cars?) is stupid, irresponsible, and cowardly.

    I love that these tax laws are always stated to help stop smoking. If people stopped smoking like they wanted, where would all that lost revenue come from? In this case, people stopping smoking would have caused kids to lose health care. Therefore, this law (again) is stupid, irresponsible, and cowardly.

  9. Orygunner (unregistered) on June 13th, 2007 @ 11:06 am

    Russ, maybe you can explain to me how passing an ultra-regressive tax in order to fund a financially unsustainable program is a “progressive” solution. It’s neither progressive nor a solution.

    Is passing yet another tax that punishes poor and working people for their “sins” what passes for “progressivism” in Oregon these days? Or do y’all care more about symbolism (railing against “Big Tobacco”) than you do about results? That’s sure what it seems like to me.

    Unfortunately, this regressive, unsustainable, ineffective, puritanical bill is typical of the nonsensical non-solutions put forward by the moonbat left in this state.

    To Redmolly: Can’t feed, don’t breed ’em. Don’t expect me to pay for your mistakes.

  10. Himself (unregistered) on June 13th, 2007 @ 11:32 am

    The Democratic legislature doesn’t have the cajones to institute progressive tax reform, something that’s been desperately needed since the libertarian tax revolt of the ’90s.

    Kitzhaber and Kulongoski have both stood idly by as our state’s revenue goes down the toilet, and our schools, social services, health care and public safety are starved for revenue.

    Sin taxes are the only thing anybody in Salem cares to propose. How about progressive property tax reform? How about shifting some of the tax burden back onto the business community (the real winners of the tax revolt)? Even eliminating the corporate kicker seems out of reach.

    We’ve been living with a revenue crisis for over a decade. The only thing the politicians in Salem have the appetite for is band aids. We’ve got to start talking about this elephant in the room.

  11. Kevin (unregistered) on June 13th, 2007 @ 12:07 pm

    The whole proposal reminded me of Seattle’s plan to tax espresso (not drip coffee, just espresso) to pay for day care.

    Cigarettes are certainly unhealthy, but if this was to happen, I’d prefer a system that targets health care with an eye on need rather than age.

  12. RedMolly (unregistered) on June 13th, 2007 @ 11:11 pm

    Orygunner: Sorry about your reading comprehension problem. Nowhere did I suggest that my kids were not planned or wanted (“mistakes?” What the hell ever); nowhere did I suggest they’d ever gone hungry or suffered any other material deprivation. All I said was that even a solidly middle-class family like ours had a time when we weren’t able to pay the exorbitant and frankly ridiculous cost of private and unsubsidized health insurance.

    How much more difficult must it be, then, for families who either experience unanticipated problems–job loss, separation/divorce, serious illness–or haven’t had the advantages I’ve had–supportive family, good education, dual-income household–to meet the costs of daily living? I’m hardly poor-meing here… what I’m expressing is called empathy. Small word, apparently difficult concept.

    So can I assume you’ll be turning down your Medicare/Social Security support when it comes time? “Too poor and too old, leave ’em out in the cold,” right?

  13. The Guilty Carnivore (unregistered) on June 14th, 2007 @ 9:54 am

    Redmolly, your protests are most likely fall on deaf ears, as the “I Would So Let Ayn Rand Fingerbang Me” crowd believes empathy is for the weak-minded. As a matter of principal they excoriate any person who soil themselves with the belief that there might be a baseline standard of societal altruism worth striving for. Until, of course, they themselves contract a form of terminal cancer and are forced to deal with bureaucratic dictums decreed by profit-driven insurance industries, whereupon they point fingers at those who failed to enact their wet dream of free market jihadism which would have cured their cancer by now, and if only we had listened to Milton Friedman they wouldn’t have had cancer in the first place.

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