Pop Quiz time in NY

Ok, this one is in the form of an essay.  Respond to the following:

Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer (D), struggling to close a $4.4 billion budget gap, has proposed making drug dealers pay tax on their stashes of illegal drugs. The new tax would apply to cocaine, heroin and marijuana, and could be paid with pre-bought “tax stamps” affixed to the bags of dope.

To make an easy example of this, I’ll review some responses at random out loud in front of the class.  Here goes, first answer…

“I guess if it moves, he’ll tax it,” said Republican state Sen. Martin J. Golden, who dubbed the proposal “the crack tax.”

Heh, that’s a funny one, Marvin.  Unfortunately, it’s also missing the point.  Next one…

Some opponents said that because cocaine and weed would be subject to the new levies, it should more aptly be called “the crack-pot tax.”

Not only did someone clearly copy Martin’s response, but they didn’t sign their paper.  I’ll be seeing them next year, for sure.  Let’s keep this going, and…oh, wait, Martin wrote something else on the back of his.  Sheesh, sloppy handwriting there.

“How do I explain to my 16-year-old son that we’re giving a certain legitimacy to marijuana, cocaine and heroin?” asked Golden, a former New York City police officer who represents a Brooklyn district. “We are taxing an illegal substance.” He added, “Is prostitution next?”

What legitimacy?  The tax stamps aren’t making the substances legal, if anything it’s making it even less “legitimate”.  No dealer in their right mind is going to bother getting these, and as a result they’re going to be charged with tax evasion on top of the drugs.  Stick with humor, because your logic isn’t working.  Let’s try another one…

On the other side of the aisle, some Democrats, too, were stunned by the plan. “My initial instinct is: I don’t understand it,” said Bill Perkins, a state senator from Harlem. “Most of the dealers I’m familiar with are petty crack dealers — most of them are crackheads. They are broke, to say the least. I just don’t understand how you impose a tax” on broke crackheads, he said.

Good point.  Although, I do wonder how you meet enough crackheads to know that.

Here’s Kevin’s response:

Taxing illegal drugs is more widespread than is generally known. At least 21 states have some form of tax for illicit drugs, although some of those laws have been challenged in courts, and others have fallen into disuse. Almost all the remaining drug-tax laws are used mainly by local law enforcement agencies as a way to seize drug money and fund counter-narcotics operations.

The controversial idea grew out of the efforts to fight bootleggers such as Al Capone during Prohibition — going after the bootleggers for unpaid taxes often required a lighter burden of proof than a criminal prosecution.

The history about it is spot on, I’m surprised.  Good going, Kevin.

One more?  Yeah, sure, since you guys got done so early.  Let’s see, how about…Jeff?

When Robert Megna, the New York tax commissioner, went to push the tax before a hearing at the state assembly, he was grilled by assembly member Jeffrion L. Aubry of Queens.

Aubry said he is concerned about figures compiled by a Queens College sociology professor, showing that between 1997 and 2006, about 360,000 New Yorkers were arrested for marijuana possession — usually small amounts in a single joint, or nickel or dime bags — and 85 percent of those arrested were black or Hispanic. Most of those received probation.

But Aubrey, in an interview, said he is concerned that adding a new tax would create more costs to the city by forcing police to impose a new charge: tax evasion.

“Our prison population has been declining,” Aubry said. “This runs counter to that. . . . The poor, and minorities, are the ones who end up arrested, convicted and sentenced.” Aubry vowed to fight what he called a “boneheaded” proposal. (emphasis mine)

See what Jeff did there, class?  Mr. Spitzer proposed this to supposedly deal with a budget shortfall, Jeff makes the case that it increases costs, both in terms of numbers AND lives potentially ruined, using this idea as example of how a political “solution” is in and of itself part of the problem.  If this critique were taken seriously, then Spitzer would have no choice but to scrap the whole thing, and maybe down the line he could question the entire “war on drugs” itself!

The rest of you will get your scores 1st thing when we next meet.  Also, we’ll be starting the next chapter, which is on the shifting definition of “public” in reference to land, & how it relates to gun laws.  Try not to forget everything on vacation, m’kay?

About b-psycho

Left-libertarian blogger & occasional musician.
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