Prop. 29 votes based on logic solid as smoke

jtarica@thetribunenews.comJune 9, 2012 

I guess it should come as no surprise that Big Tobacco apparently will succeed in hornswoggling enough California voters to defeat Proposition 29 and preserve its steady stream of new victims.

This is what happens when you have millions of dollars and no scruples and can flood the market of ideas with lies and subterfuge. R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris threw around more red herrings in this election than a Seattle fishmonger.

If the initiative does fail, it will mean Californians have rejected every statewide ballot-box tax increase since 2004.

And you wonder why we’re in a constant cycle of budget crises.

Apparently we’re headed toward a day where the rallying cry changes from “no taxation without representation,” to simply “no taxation, period.”

A look at the mapped results of the Prop. 29 vote shows balloting followed the typical red vs. blue pattern for California, with support coming from the enlightened coast and Bay Area, and opposition coming from a bunch of money-grubbers in the greater Orange County area along with the scattered but wide forces of backward thinking known as the Central Valley.

Where do we fall in that spectrum?

Almost right in the middle, both geographically and ideologically.

San Luis Obispo County voters rejected Prop. 29 by a margin of 51.3 percent to 48.7 percent, aligning us more with Kern County to our east than with either Monterey or Santa Barbara to our north and south, respectively.

And if you find comfort in that, then I’ve got a shotgun to raffle off for you.

How diverse are the political perspectives in California?

In San Francisco, the cultural capital of the state, 73 percent of voters told Big Tobacco to take this cigarette and snuff it.

In Modoc County, which is about as close to the middle of nowhere as you can get without living in Nevada, 75 percent of voters wanted to make sure their unfiltered Camels stayed as cheap as possible.

While you’re considering this, remember only about 14 percent of Californians actually smoke, which means a great deal of opposition to the buck-a-pack increase came from people who can’t claim addiction as their decision-making motivation.

At least the thinking of an addict makes sense, however detrimental it may be.

One of those nonsmoking, anti-tax voters sits near me in this office, and off and on throughout last week, I have had to expose his errant thinking for the folly it is, before going on to shred each of his arguments into oblivion like so many pieces of confetti, showered over his desk, one handful after another.

It’s not fair, he said, because it targets a limited group of people.

You mean like the taxes on alcohol and fast food and hotel rooms in Pismo Beach?

It’s not fair, he said, because it’s too large of a tax.

You mean like those in the 32 other states that collect more from cigarette sales than we do? California could add 50 cents in tax and still fall short of Texas.


It’s not fair, he said, because a comforting 20 smokes may be the only joy some of these people experience in their day.

Now that’s just sad, but even if it’s true, they could have gotten their joy from 16 instead, kept their financial impact flat, deterred thousands of kids from ever starting and provided millions of dollars in funds for cancer research.

But no.

Yet despite all that misfiring of logic, it appears he’ll be on the winning side.

And if that doesn’t make me want to pick up and move to Wisconsin, I don’t know what will.

Wait, did I say Wisconsin?

On second thought …

Joe Tarica is the presentation editor at The Tribune.

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