Sunday, December 13, 2009

Got Botox? Big Brother Wants You!

Sidebar before the main event: One of the aspects of creeping socialism that's fascinated me for years has been the increasing number of government attempts to demonize products and activities as a way of extracting more income from them. A classic example was the treatment of tobacco products, specifically cigarettes.

Unlike "global warming," the connection of cigarette smoking to lung cancer was proved, beyond a scientific doubt, many years ago. Clearly, the healthy solution would have been either to ban cigarettes, a la the Volstead Act, or treat them as a controlled substance, as has, in fact, recently occurred.

However, the socialists in Congress and the bureaucracy conspired to assemble a Rube Goldberg contraption whereby the tobacco industry was permanently demonized, attacked on the airwaves with relentless regularity, but permitted to sell its products from which were extracted higher and higher taxes, via the consumer. In effect, instead of a tax on the industry (although the many lawsuits against tobacco companies might suffice to serve that function), the government eventually created a direct spigot of income derived from the tobacco companies' profit stream.

Allegedly this money was all to be spent by the states for health purposes. But, as always, once having obtained this endless cash flow, various government entities simply redirected the money to suit their various patronage purposes. This is how socialistic governments work, extracting more and more income from companies and individuals in whatever way they can to reward their friends and constituencies in the name of "fairness."

In the case of the tobacco companies, this new, permanent, endless income stream actually happens via a severely regressive tax--by and large, cigarette smokers come from the lower economic strata. Wealthier individuals tend not to smoke. So we now have a cognitive dissonance here--lefties who never met a "progressive" tax they didn't like (i.e., a tax on "the wealthy," whomever they are),  happily reverse that philosophy when they deem it convenient. In this case, the convenience is the political capital gained by punishing tobacco company miscreants. Intriguingly, however, it's the socialists' own lower class constituents who pay for the punishment. And these constituents, of course, never see the connection and keep voting for the socialists. A strange brew.

Which brings us to our actual topic. The use of botox as a temporary wrinkle fix for women of a certain age (like Nancy Pelosi) is well known. Since it's not permanent, it needs to be re-done from time to time, and it's a bit expensive. Since it's also a cosmetic procedure, it's also not generally covered by health insurance. So, as an out-of-pocket expense, it's really not for Joe the Plumber's wife, shall we say.

Enter the socialists. One item currently included in the Senate version of the Democrats' Health Disaster Plan, would tax botox consumers 5% on top of an already costly procedure. Like tobacco products, botox treatments are easy to demonize, in this case because it's mostly wealthy individuals, primarily females, who can afford it. So on top of what they pay, let's gouge 'em a bit more. After all, if they can afford the botox, they can afford 5% more for it.

This may in fact be the case. But Allergan and other companies who produce and market the treatment are protesting nonetheless, arguing essentially that it's anti-competitive, anti-free-choice, and, of course, discriminatory toward the largely female clientele of botox users. And they're right. The Dems, though, apparently figure that it's another way of sneaking in another tax to punish yet another company they don't like because they dare to make a profit on a bit of female vanity.

Thus, in one bold stroke of the pen, assuming this disaster actually passes in its present form, the Dems will have created yet another corporate income spigot, will have raised the costs of a treatment that might have actually declined in cost over the years (making it available to customers of more modest means), and will have yet another source of initially "targeted" revenue that they'll direct most likely to "social programs" that employ bureaucrats who are members of public employees' unions that support the Democrats.

Whether you endorse botox or not, the Socialists in Congress are trying to impose yet another tobacco-company-like scam. The botox nonsense, like the tobacco nonsense (it's still a legal product, remember), simply increases the discretionary income that permanent incumbent Congressmen can redistribute, while increasing the cost of the product or products involved.

Congressional Democrats and their friends the trial lawyers got away with the tobacco scam by demonizing a product that was easy to demonize. They're now attempting to do the same with botox by using it as a sneaky way to impose a tax on "the rich" (defined, I guess, as anyone who can afford or chooses to afford the treatments.) And if we let them succeed in this, who knows what additional products they'll demonize and tax, raising costs on businesses, pricing consumers out of the market, and limiting, bit by bit, our freedom of choice.

Whether you find my remarks on botox trivial or not, I'd simply ask you to stop and consider: if this sort of thing isn't nipped off early, where will it end? Cap and tax, maybe?

No comments: