Plenty of ‘Sins’ Waiting to Be Taxed

“I resent it,” yelled Slats Grobnik, taking a puff on his cigarette and sipping his Polish vodka.

Calm yourself and tell me what you resent.

“Look at this, ” he said, thumping his newspaper. “It says here that President Hillary is gonna partly finance health care with a sin tax. Get that? Sin tax.”

Yes, but so what? We all know that smoking and boozing are not good for one’s health. So the logic is that those who engage in self-destructive behavior should pay something extra. Maybe it will encourage them to lead cleaner lives.

“Ok, I can’t beef about that. But how come they call it ‘sin’? It’s legal, ain’t it?”

Yes, but smoking is not exemplary behavior. The Clintons, being yuppies influenced by the ‘60s, would like to discourage this vice to reduce health costs.

“Sure. I ain’t gonna be no health club man of the year. But doc will tell you they’re worster than a pop of hooch.”

True. In moderation, a word that is foreign to you, a drink or two discourages heart ailments. But …

“Don’t give me no buts. I’m tired of being the only sinner in America. Why don’t they tax greasy fast food that clogs up the ticker?”

Don’t be silly. Voting for a federal tax on the Big Mac would be the death of any politician.

“OK, then I got some other ideas for a sin tax program.”

Such as?

“Well, like Rostenkowski says, he don’t care if a smoker pays $10 a pack. I think that congressman should pay 100 percent of their graft.”

Graft is a strong word.

“Hey, they take big bucks—millions of dollars—from these outfits called PACs.”

Yes, political action committees.

“Right. Contributions. That’s another word for graft, because those PACs are just buying votes. So if we tax the graft 100 percent, the politicians don’t get nothing, and they won’t have to vote the way those big-buck PACs bribe them. They’ll have ‘conscience‘ for them.”

But without the PAC money, they might not be re-elected. “Then let them go out and get legit jobs like the rest of us. I mean, where does it say in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights that a congressman has the right to be on the take big time?”

You have a point. But that will not raise enough money to finance the Clintons’ health care program.

“Course not. But I got other ‘sin’ taxes. Like my tax for getting married.”

You would tax people for getting married? “Sure. But if they stay married, after 10 years they get one-third back. Twenty years, they get another third. Thirty years, the rest.”

So this is a divorce tax.

“You got it. Big expense, divorce. Ties up the courts. The taxpayers got to pay the judges and shrinks to be mediators and which ma or pa will make the kids most miserable. Let them pay a federal tax.”

An interesting concept. And?

“The lawyer tax. Anything over $99,000, the lawyers pay 100 percent. Let the Clintons explain that one to all their lawyer pals.”

I can’t object to that. What else?

“We ought to have a president tax. No president should get paid more than he ever made as a private citizen. I figure Clinton would make about $8 a week, which is about what he got when he worked in his grandpa’a grocery store, which was the last time he wasn’t living off the taxpayer.”

That seems fair. Of course, when they leave office, they get enormous perks.

“No perks. Let them write dull books like Nixon does. And then I got the dumb sports goof tax.”

Explain that.

“Sure. The worst brain-killer in America is sports. Ask the average American yahoo about the deal between Israel and the PLO and he don’t know zilch. But he knows the spread on all the football games. So there should be a federal sin tax on every sports ticket, every phone call made to a sports call-in show, and every inch of every newspaper’s sports section. This sports stuff sucks out our brains. Pretty soon, we’ll all be as dumb as the athletes, and we’ll all have to hire agents, who ought to be taxed 99 percent. And then there is this rap stuff.”

What about rap?

“Any time they use rotten language, they’re taxed 99 percent. But we’ll give them a write-off if they have their tongues cut off. And you want to hear about my gay tax?”

Careful, I am professionally obligated to be politically correct and not offend.

“Not me. Hey, in San Francisco you can’t smoke in no public buildings and they are thinking of banning smoking in their restaurants and even their baseball park. And in L.A. you can’t smoke in a restaurant.”


“So this: In San Francisco and L.A., they ain’t banned no hanky-panky in those gay bathhouses. And that kind of hanky-panky is a fast way to catch a killer disease. And we’re all paying to find a cure for it. So I would put a $50 hanky-panky tax on everybody who goes into a men’s hanky-panky bathhouse anywhere in the United States. That ought to raise a few bucks for health reform.”

But what if they don’t intend to engage in hanky-panky?

“Then they should take their bath at home.”

I don’t think I can print that. I might be picketed.

“Did I tell you about my idea for a stupid picket tax?”

A native Chicagoan, Mike Royko attended Wright Junior College, the University of Illinois and Northwestern University. The home base of his syndicated column is the Chicago Tribune and it has been provided to the Star by Tribune Media Services.