Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

January 28, 2005

Call it the “Botax”

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:01 pm

Lawmakers in several states are considering imposing a “vanity tax” on cosmetic surgery and botox injections. In Illinois, they want to use the money for stem-cell research. In Washington, they want to use it for childrens’ health insurance.

“We could do Botox-for-babies parties. It might be the new thing,” [Seattle Democrat Karen] Keiser said. “Anyone who can afford the money for cosmetic procedures, I don’t think they would be deterred by a little sales tax. You pay it on your lipstick.”

Apparently, Keiser doesn’t know what happened when Congress imposed the “luxury tax” on yachts back in 1990:

[A]ccording to a Wall Street Journal report, “Congressional Democrats [were] eager to show they were being tough on the rich.” A ten percent tax was added to the cost of luxury yachts. Since a yacht today costs anywhere from $100,000 to $200,000, this means that at least $10,000 had to be paid to the government before a potential buyer could get his first whiff of salt air. With the economy already heading for trouble, this was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Ocean Yachts in Weekstown[, NJ] trimmed its workforce from 350 to 50. Egg Harbor Yachts entered Chapter Eleven bankruptcy, going from 200 employees to five. Viking Yachts dropped from 1,400 to 300 employees. According to a Congressional Joint Economic Committee Study, the boat industry nationwide lost 7,600 employees within one year. As Bob Healy, president of Viking Yachts explained on NBC News, “Every six or seven years, you have a down cycle. You might be off 20 percent, 30 percent, or 40 percent at maximum. Our industry is off 90 percent nationally.”

Apparently, Congressional Democrats figured that anyone who could afford to buy a luxury yacht could afford to pay an extra 10% tax. It turned out that anyone who could afford to buy a luxury yacht could also afford not to buy a luxury yacht. If you have lots of money, there’s always something else you can spend it on, whether it’s a yacht in the Bahamas (assuming they don’t have the tax there) or something else entirely (a bigger house, an airplane, a used yacht). Unfortunately, that other spending doesn’t help the workers who build yachts, because Congressional Democrats apparently forgot that when some rich person spends $100,000 on a yacht, that $100,000 goes to somebody else — usually somebody who’s not rich.

I suspect that anyone who can afford cosmetic surgery in Seattle can also afford not to get cosmetic surgery in Seattle — either by skipping it altogether (remember, it’s a “luxury” because it’s “unnecessary”) or by going to another state to get it.

The above account of the luxury tax is from an article called “Shipwrecked in New Jersey” by Robert A. Peterson. Peterson basically predicted that we would see similar incidents in the future, like the Botax:

The 1993 budget finally repealed the luxury tax, but it was the result of a political deal rather than an acknowledgment of what really makes the economy work. At the same time Congressmen and Senators were voting to repeal the luxury tax, they were voting in new taxes against the rich. Since the repeal of the luxury tax was a political deal rather than an economic one, look for continued attacks against America’s most productive citizens.

Energy Independence?

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:29 pm

There are many potential solutions to the problem of dependence on foreign oil and gas for our energy needs. This one, however, is quite literally a large pile of b—s—. And the amazing thing is, it just might work!

Traffic Tickets Cause Accidents

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:11 am

Many places now have “red-light cameras” that take pictures of cars going through red lights. Tickets are then mailed to car owners. No police are involved (at the time of the incident anyway). In Virginia at least, intersections with such cameras have signs prominently posted announcing the presence of the cameras.

The idea is either (a) to prevent accidents by discouraging drivers from running red lights, or (b) to generate revenue. Or both. Apparently, they do neither. They encourage people to stop short at red lights, causing rear-end accidents — and they don’t prevent enough cross-traffic accidents to make it up. According to a study by the Virginia Department of Transportation, the net result is an increase in crashes, and an increase in injuries. Similar results have been found in Australia and North Carolina.

Furthermore, a legal loophole makes it entirely legal for drivers to ignore tickets mailed to them — because Virginia law required an “in-person summons” to compel a person to appear in court. Apparently, Arizona has the same loophole.

Details are here.

Hat tip: InstaPundit.

Chinese Police Beat Mourners

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:56 am

Remember this the next time someone mentions Abu Ghraib.

Zhao Ziyang was the Secretary-General of the Chinese Communist Party in 1989 when thousands of peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators camped out in Tiananmen Square in downtown Beijing. After several days, after opposing a military crackdown on the unarmed, nonviolent demonstrators, Zhao went to visit to protesters, implicitly showing support for their cause. He was of course, immediately deposed as head of the Party, but unlike thousands of demonstrators, he was not killed but was rather placed under house arrest. Where he remained for more than 15 years, until his death January 17 at the age of 85.

AFP reports:

BEIJING (AFP) – China has detained dozens of people, some of whom have been severely beaten, for trying to mark the death of former leader Zhao Ziyang, witnesses said.

“A man from Henan province was beaten badly. His left eyeball looked like it was beaten out of its socket and he had a one inch cut to his right eye,” said the man who requested anonymity.

“An elderly woman from Shandong province was beaten to a point where she couldn’t move and a man from Hunan province was also beaten,” he said.

This is for trying to attend a funeral. What a crime.

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