Healthy living

Politics and other mistakes
By AL DIAMON  |  May 14, 2008

I love beer.

I hate taxes.

Guess how I feel about that big increase in the state beer tax approved by the Legislature in last month’s weasel-infested, eleventh-hour, back-room deal to help pay for the struggling Dirigo Health program.

I’m all in favor, of course.

Surprised? Actually, so am I. I’d expect me to be supporting the People’s Veto effort to repeal the new Dirigo taxes, not only on beer, but on wine, soda, and health-insurance claim payments. In all, that’s more than $40 million extra that Mainers will have to pay, at a time when we can barely afford a cheap pinot noir, let alone a whole case of Chateau Disgusta ’08. If you’d asked me a few months ago how I’d have reacted to that sort of money grab, I’d have bet more than I’ll be paying in new taxes that I’d be out in the streets — and bars — collecting some of the 55,000 signatures needed to block the imposition of this burdensome levy, and put its fate in the hands of the voters in November.

But, in good conscience, I can’t do that.

That’s because I’ve heard the reasoned arguments of Dirigo’s supporters. These new taxes, they point out, are being placed on products that are driving up the costs of health care and reducing our quality of life.

Beer, for instance, causes the beer gut. Which is a major health-care concern, because guys with beer guts are unlikely to find suitable mates, thereby contributing to the state’s declining birth rate and the increasing couch potato crop.

According to a study by the Centers For Unease Control, wine makes women whiny. Who wants to have kids with a whiny woman? And even if you do — probably because you’re so fat and desperate — the kids will grow up to drink soda, which makes the little brats burpy. And burping, as Al Gore has informed us, releases greenhouse gases.

That covers the reasons for all the tax hikes except the one on insurance payments. Maybe legislators approved that measure because they knew you’d just spend the cash you got from the insurance company on beer, wine, and soda, thereby creating more health problems, which, in turn, would require more medical care, which would lead to more health-insurance payments. The only way to halt that vicious cycle was for the government to seize some of that money as it went spinning around.

If you can follow that logic, the tax hike sort of makes sense.

My only disappointment is that the Legislature didn’t go far enough. There are other serious health threats in this state that escaped new or expanded taxation. Here are just a few:

SKIING AND SNOWBOARDING Every winter the state is beset with a plague of broken arms, legs, and heads as a direct result of a small-but-determined population of outdoor enthusiasts who start the day by challenging the law of gravity and finish by challenging the law governing the operation of motor vehicles while under the influence of alcohol. Yet the reckless endeavor of purchasing lift tickets remains untaxed.

OLD ORCHARD BEACH Fried dough isn’t tofu. Jell-O shots aren’t fresh fruit. Pier fries lure germ-ridden sea gulls. Sun tanning causes skin cancer. Swimming in the ocean attracts sharks. And don’t get me started on Skee-Ball and the chances of repetitive-motion injury. Why visitors to this seaside resort aren’t forced to pay a toll to enter (after signing waivers of their rights to make insurance claims) is a mystery.

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