Up Front


What could happen if California makes recreational pot-smoking legal?

"Border patrol agents not only have to secure the Mexican border but also the Arizona, Nevada, and Oregon borders."

-- Negin Farsad, Laughing Liberally

"Weight gain from munchies puts critical strain on the San Andreas fault; the state starts to slide into the ocean."

-- Eric Rauchway, U.C. Davis

"Arthur Delaney drops his career and moves to California."

Arthur Delaney, Huffington Post

PARODY by T.A. Frank

"The Confederate History Month proclamation issued was solely intended
to promote the study of our history, encourage tourism in our state ? and recognize Virginia's unique role in the story of America."
-- Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia, defending a Confederate History Month proclamation

of misunderstood, if lesser-known, Virginian commemorations:

St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre Week

Clarification: My statement celebrating the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre was not meant to be supportive of the 1572 mass killing of Huguenots in France. It was intended only to promote the study of Catholicism and Protestantism, two wonderful strains of Christianity in our wonderful state, to recognize and enjoy Virginia's religious diversity and to stir up deep and sometimes long-suppressed sectarian feelings.

Pol Potluck

Clarification: : The proclamation was intended solely to pay tribute to the everybody-pitch-in, BYO spirit that permeated Cambodia in the 1970s when it operated without a currency. We celebrate the tasty variety of foods that Cambodians have concocted for Virginians and the Year Zero gusto that they bring to everything they do.

Ike Turner Week

Clarification: : This commemorative week was intended to celebrate only the formidable musical and managerial skills of a great performer. Inexplicably, it seems to have riled up my critics even more. Some people will never be satisfied.

Goombah Tuesday

Clarification: : This proclamation was intended solely to celebrate the sort of mentoring that any good boss provides in an organization or family. It was in no way meant to be disrespectful to the thousands of Virginians of Italian extraction, most of whom are seemingly gentle and law-abiding. It will also, we hope, encourage further study of Italian history and culture in this great state.

Mao Zedong Month

Clarification: : My proclamation of Mao Zedong commemoration was intended solely to celebrate the 70 percent of Mao?s legacy that was deemed "good" by the leadership of the Communist Party of the People's Republic of China and not the 30 percent deemed "bad." We should be guided in this by the wisdom of the late comrade Deng Xiaoping, who correctly resolved these difficult contradictions.

Hug-a-Lesbo Day

Clarification: : What?do you have some problem with gay people?

DIALOGUE: Sin-tax Error

Are morality taxes a good fix for budget woes?

Ann Friedman: In these tough economic times, all sorts of taxes are making a comeback as states try to plug holes in their budgets. Vanity taxes, morality taxes -- you name it.

Tim Fernholz: I find morality very taxing.

Ann: Now it can also be revenue-generating!

Tim: But is it the right way to raise revenue?

Ann: If it means more states legalize marijuana, the answer is undoubtedly yes.

Tim: Legalizing marijuana -- and the attendant tax
revenue -- is a good idea, but it goes to show you that a sin tax doesn't stop "sinning."

Ann: Look, I don't think it makes sense to tax, say, soda or strip clubs as a means of trying to change behavior. But if the goal is short-term revenue generation, then it seems like a decent enough strategy.

Tim: The problem is this hodge-podge of taxes is a way of avoiding smarter, broader taxes that are fairer. Like a sales tax, it can get a bit regressive. A sin tax is a way of raising taxes on luxury spending without coming out and saying you want to target people who spend on luxuries.

Ann: Since when is soda a luxury?! But I take your point.

Tim: Soda became a luxury when public officials needed to tax something, but there isn't evidence that those taxes have stopped anyone from drinking Coke. Folks keep buying soda and take an extra hit to their pocketbook.

Ann: Right. If only there were evidence that taxes like these changed behavior. I would immediately implement a tax on Crocs and ill-fitting khakis.

Tim: America would be a far more attractive place.

Ann: It's fascinating how far this vanity-tax idea has gone. States are talking about taxing everything from haircuts to bowling.

Tim: It sort of puts the lie to the idea that these are anything other than attempts to avoid raising money by other means. Who wants people to get fewer haircuts or avoid hitting the lanes?

Ann: Certainly not me. Maybe states should just lump all of these things together and consider a package of Lebowski Tariffs, which would apply to bathrobes, bowling-lane rentals, and Kahlua.

Tim: Not to mention the legalized marijuana?

Ann: ? which California voters actually are considering, bless their hearts.

Tim: The exception that proves the rule. It's easy to tax sin when states and cities are facing budget crunches, but it's merely a stopgap solution.

Ann: Ah, but a stopgap is better than nothing, yes?

Tim: Other states should do like Oregon did and come up with a real tax reform, raising tax rates on the wealthy and businesses by a reasonable amount. Now that's a tax that really tied the room together.

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