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Posted by on Oct 30, 2007 in Health, Politics | 10 comments

Tobacco Tax Increase Bush Sticking Point On Revised Children’s Health Care


Have we now come down to the “nitty gritty” on why President George Bush is so absolutely adamant on nixing the expanded or even the REVISED expanded children’s health care…even though it has wide bipartisan support?

It turns out he is adamant on one fact. He will not support any bill that includes a tobacco tax increase:

President Bush told Republican lawmakers on Tuesday he will not agree to legislation expanding children’s health insurance if it includes a tobacco tax increase, a decision that virtually ensures a renewed veto struggle with the Democratic-controlled Congress.

And there you have it
. These are the days when educators, schools and presenters who go into elementary, junior and high schools try to warn kids about the dangers of tobacco. On a more personal note — something I seldom do on this weblog — I have been doing just that in October in my anti-drug program in schools which also includes a vigorous warning to kids about tobacco usage.

I’ve been doing this for many years — way before May 27th when my World War II veteran father Richard Gandelman who had survived the Great Depression, the war, raising three baby boomer kids, a host of illnesses including a cancer in remission, died after waging a courageous but futile battle against lung cancer. He had been a smoker all of his life until he quit some years ago via hypnosis. But he quit too late…

The last time I saw him in Connecticut he had lost 25 lbs. and gifted me a ring of his because he had already lost his wedding ring which slipped off his finger due to his weight loss. He sat at the kitchen table and joked about being able to eat seconds and even thirds of ice cream without gaining weight. He was on bottled oxygen the last six months of his life and when he breathed, he gurgled. He died two weeks after I last saw him. He was within a hair of dying of cancer when pneumonia finally took him.

So at a time in the United States when health officials, school officials, teachers and cancer victims are warning youngsters not to smoke, the President is clearly putting himself on the side of tobacco…and he has a long history of being there.

But will up-until-now loyal Republicans go along with THIS? Perhaps not this time:

The president also suggested he would not be willing to sign other types of tax increases that Democrats have attached to major legislation, including an energy bill, according to numerous officials who attended a closed-door meeting at the White House.

Bush’s remarks represented a hardening of the administration’s public position in a running veto showdown over Democratic-led attempts to enact legislation that provides coverage for 6 million children who now lack it. The officials who disclosed his comments did so on condition of anonymity, saying they were made in a closed-door meeting.

The president vetoed one children’s health bill, and Democrats failed to override him in the House.

His threat to veto a replacement measure that cleared the House last week has led to a hurried round of negotiations among lawmakers in both parties and both houses.

Their goal is to reach a compromise that can command enough votes to gain the two-thirds majority needed in both houses to override the president’s veto, if necessary.

The negotiations were private, but in an ominous sign for the White House, Republican leaders said during the day they might defy a White House veto.

Bush can couch this in the lofty rhetoric of him opposing tax increases. And he has already made it clear that his ideology takes precedence over allowing the original version of children’s health care from going through.

But in this instance he is making it abundantly clear what his values appear to be: to prevent a tax increase on his longtime big tobacco buddies that would help raise money and perhaps continue the trend towards making tobacco products more costly to those who make the unhealthy decision to use them — and make it increasingly inconvenient for young people to get started on an often tragic and ill-fated path.


Bush veto gives victory to tobacco industry
George Bush and Tobacco
Bush Administration Tobacco Industry Ties
Prosecutor Says Bush Appointees Interfered With Tobacco Case
Bush’s Budget Underfunds Tobacco Lawsuit
Tobacco Companies Expect ‘Bush Dividend’ (2000)
Texas Seeks Sanctions Against Gov. Bush Over Tobacco Deal
Bush Accused of Catering to Big Tobacco on Global Treaty
George W. Bush: Putting Tobacco Companies Before Kids
Former government lawyer describes Bush administration meddling in landmark tobacco suit
The Tobacco Presidency
Bush Reportedly Tobacco Industry Favorite (2000)
Tobacco Money Flows Both Ways
Tobacco Money Shifts To Republican (1997)
Tobacco-Free Schools Fact Sheet (American Lung Association)
Tobacco education in the primary school: Paradoxes for the teacher
Guidelines for School Health Programs to Prevent Tobacco Use and Addiction (CDC)
Secondary School Tobacco Education Pack
Tobacco Education Posters

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  • hanginjohnny

    If we can’t at least reap a positive outcome out of these death merchants, then those who profit from them should face karmic justice.

  • krit

    The Democrats and their GOP allies need to emphasize Bush’s ties to big tobacco to galvanize public opinion. Talk radio, as usual is backing Bush all the way, saying that the tobacco tax unfairly affects the poor- who smoke at a greater rate than the middle and upper classes. Its sad to see so many who support Bush’s position choosing this priority over families struggling to provide healthcare to children.

  • krit

    BTW, Joe, great post and background information. I haven’t seen anything like it in the MSM coverage- which pretty much indicates the sad state of journalism. So much has been written about this issue- but who has really pinpointed Bush’s real motivation by looking at his history of unqualified support of and by the tobacco industry?

  • George Sorwell

    Great post!! Thanks for all the info!

  • domajot

    Great post!

    Ridiculous argumentation by Bush and his suppoeters!

    A concern for the poor would make sense if there was a proposed tax on milk, bread or meat. But tobacco?!?
    Why not start a campaign to increase lard consumption among the poor, or, better yet, alcohol consumption?

    BTW, I workded it out, and in NYC, a tax increase of 10% would be the equivalent of having to decrease cigarette consumption by about 3 cigarettes a week.
    What a sacrifice the poor would be making.

    The logic here is on the same level as what led to the fake FEMA news conference. There is no logic and no excuse. There is only shabby pandering to special interests.

  • krit

    I’m sorry but to me the entire Bush administration agenda has been about pandering to big donors and special interests. Taking it to the extreme of denying children healthcare and interfering in ongoing litigation so that your big donor doesn’t have to pay a big penalty really is as low as they go.

  • DLS

    Why not start a campaign to increase lard consumption among the poor, or, better yet, alcohol consumption?

    In addition to the fear of junk lawsuits, it’s commonly anticipated that increased taxes on alcohol and a tax someday on fat are taxes the Democrats would be happy to levy.

    Y’all can behave as children and be successful at your typical appeals to emotion (rather than to reason) all you want, but the tax is a bad idea, and what happens if consumption and tax revenue decline?

    The tax, in fact, is one defect in the new bill as well as in the old bill. It is impossible for you to argue the fact away. (Well, maybe you can convince yourselves you can, but you cannot and will not.)

    A valid scheme for sumptuary (“sin”) taxes on tobacco and alcohol would be to pay specifically for diseases attributable to the use of these substances, and would be ideally at the level that matches the costs the use of these substances to society. It’s not at all a suitable revenue source for a general program like this (which still, as has always been true, has never been only about children).

    The new bill deserves a veto, one reason for which is this tax. Let’s see a real compromise from the Democrats next time.

    (the latest on S-CHIP here and here)

  • bob in fla

    Thank you Mr. Bush. Now it’s my turn. I am one of those low income smokers you are talking about who also has no health coverage & can’t get it. If this bill passes, it will cost me 61c _+ the state sales tax on that of about 4c = 65c. a pack, or a price increase of about 30%.

    Guess what. In spite of this, I support the bill because IT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO. Why is that so hard for you to understand?

  • childrens health care is very important then other health care because they are important

  • small business web design
    You look great now…
    I also thought about posting a shot of myself…but will wait, because now I realize that my weight and stress of it has caused a medical condition I have to take care of…you have been inspiring to me with the post and all!

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