Politics & Other Mistakes: Payin’ for my sins

7 mins read

I don’t like the way you’re looking at me.

That’ll be 50 cents to cover Maine’s new hostile-stare tax.

Planning to punch me out? It’ll hurt you more in the wallet than it will me in the kisser, because this state will soon have a hefty surcharge on surliness.

Spreading nasty rumors about me?

The lowdown is that you’ll have to cough up a buck for the official gossip tax.

Wasting time? There’s a stiff levy on loitering.

Napping? If you snooze, you lose – financially.

Messing around on your spouse or significant other? Illicit sex can be taxing – in more ways than one.

Al Diamon

That’s the way it’s going to be under my bold and innovative tax-reform plan. You’ll be making a substantial payment to the public coffers every time you engage in bad behavior. This will result not only a state in which a majority of the population is polite, accommodating, faithful and industrious, but also one in which the substantial minority of angry, adulterous, lazy and generally unpleasant slobs guarantees that the books will be balanced even in the worst recessions.

Damn. I should have known real tax reform couldn’t be that simple. I just got a letter from the Maine Revenue Service informing me I owe unreasonable-expectations tax.

But even if it’s not possible to tax every sin (that tooth-gnashing sound seems to be coming from Michael Heath of the Maine Family Policy Council), it ought to be within our power to put a heavy financial burden on at least a few of them, beyond the usual scapegoats of liquor and tobacco.

Take, for instance, legislation introduced by Democratic state Rep. David Webster of Freeport, which calls for a statewide ban on trans fats. Webster told the Bangor Daily News he believes the tasty-but-unhealthful glop should be outlawed because of its financial impact on the health-care system.

“The fact is that it costs us because of MaineCare,” he said, “it costs us because of high rates of disease in this state, and it costs us as taxpayers.”

Well then, why not make those gourmands who insist on the traditional greasy methods of making French fries, doughnuts and corn dogs pay for their plebian palates? All it would take is a Maine trans-fat tax to settle their stomachs and the government’s debts.

Republican state Sen. Walter Gooley of Farmington wants to legalize fireworks, because this state is running behind the national average for people with only one eye or less than 10 fingers. But there’s also a monetary aspect.

“I see this generating several hundred thousand dollars [in sales taxes],”Gooley told the Morning Sentinel.

I think he’s underestimating the potential. As a big fan of blowing things up, I’d be more than willing to pay an explosive tax rate to get my hands (so far, with all fingers intact) on some serious rocketry. And imagine what we could make selling this stuff to the North Koreans.

This same approach could be applied to taxing any number of bottom-feeding activities, from mixed-martial arts – a bill to legalize beating the crap out of people for fun and profit is up for debate in the Legislature, so why not soak the proto-sport’s brain-damaged fans for a few extra bucks on every ticket they buy – to canned hunting – a measure to ban enclosed game-shooting farms was shot down (ouch!) this session, but could be revived and amended to include an unsportsmanlike-conduct tax, an levy on displaying an undeserved trophy (would that be a taxidermy tax?) and an entirely voluntary contribution to the state treasury in return for our pledge not to have all your pals back in New York City receive an official letter from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife explaining how you really got that buck.

Also, I could see some advantages to combining the two bills just mentioned into one bloodthirsty – and taxable – event, and that’s even before we start negotiating our share of the take from pay-per-view.

Unfortunately, none of my ideas has been included in the only tax-reform bill with any chance of passing this year. This anemic product of compromise, caution and cowardice is sponsored by Democratic House Majority Leader John Piotti of Unity. It would lower the income tax – although not enough – broaden the sales tax – although not enough – and raise the meals and lodging taxes – just enough to cause lots of whining from restaurant and hotel owners.

For all its faults (and if Maine had a fault tax, this bill would balance the budget all by itself), Piotti’s plan is still superior to that put forward by Republican legislators, which calls for a cap on the annual increase in state spending (state spending is actually declining) and requires all excess sales tax revenue be used to lower the income tax (excess revenues are about as common in Maine at the moment as politically savvy Republicans).

What this state needs is to impose a substantial penalty on bills that promise relief they can’t deliver.

We could call it the tax-reform tax.

You can e-mail me at aldiamon@herniahill.net but it’ll cost you.

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