Are high sumptuary and sin taxes liberal or conservative — or both?

Allen St. Pierre of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, speaking of successful initiatives to legalize marijuana, says, “We found both a liberal approach, in Colorado, and a conservative approach, in Washington.  We found two paths that work.”

Colorado’s approach is less restrictive on driving and home growing than Washington’s, but Colorado’s tax burden is much lower.  So is the high-tax approach conservative, and the low-tax approach liberal?  Continue reading “Are high sumptuary and sin taxes liberal or conservative — or both?”


A Federal Marijuana Tax


Update at

Legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington is bringing speculation about what the Administration will do in response.  No obvious answer appears, because the Executive Branch’s options are limited – the kind of situation the Founders intended when they split up power and gave so much to the Legislative Branch.


Congress could address the problem of state-legal marijuana.  (But what Congress is likely to do is  Continue reading “A Federal Marijuana Tax”

NC Tax Reform: Simplicity is the Enemy of Fairness

Two educated, informed liberals in my hearing recently advocated having NC tax all services, even medical services, at a low, say 2.5 percent rate, which would be the new, low sales tax rate for everything, even food and prescription drugs.

That is sacrificing fairness for simplicity.  Utterly.  Wow.  Maybe the Republicans would go for that if the Democrats took the heat on regressivity; Republicans will have the Governor and a supermajority in each legislative house.  But it’s unpopular to tax medicine, and once you start making exceptions, the slope gets slippery fast.

Marijuana Is Not Going Away

Folks who hoped marijuana legalization would go away have had a rude awakening. The victories in Washington and Colorado make the headlines, but the 46 percent yes vote in Oregon for a ridiculous legalization plan is the big shock.  Voters are desperate for change.

Oregon’s Measure 80 had no taxes.  It would have set up a state monopoly, Continue reading “Marijuana Is Not Going Away”

Progressivity in America: 1798

In 1798, the Fifth Congress enacted a progressive wealth tax. Then, for instance, a house worth $300 bore tax of 60 cents; a house worth $30,000 bore tax of $300 — that’s 500 times more tax on property worth 100 times more. Direct Tax Act, 1 Stat. 597, 599, (a huge file also linked here).

But that experiment that didn’t last, maybe in part because it involved a cumbersome direct tax that had to be apportioned among states according to population. North Carolina, for instance, had to pay $193,697.96 – “and five mills.” Tennessee had to pay only $18,806.38 – “and three mills.”  There  was also a tax on slaves – 50 cents each. Folks in the North thought they were paying too much, and started Fries’ Rebellion.

If the tax brought in too much to bring in a state’s apportioned share, rates on houses were to be reduced. If too little, undeveloped land was to be taxed.

Here’s an excerpt: Continue reading “Progressivity in America: 1798”

A new tax base for marijuana — electrical use

In Arcata, California, in the heart of that state’s marijuana growing region, “Measure I on next week’s ballot would impose a 45 percent electricity tax on households — with medical and other exceptions — that use three times the amount of power a typical family home does.”  Jeff Bernard, AP, Continue reading “A new tax base for marijuana — electrical use”

Oops! A Different Fix for Colorado

In Gangs, Ganjapreneurs, or Government: Marijuana Revenue up for Grabs, I say about Colorado’s Amendment 64, “If problems develop, the legislature can override the 15-percent cap and revise the whole scheme even before 2017 – if voters go along.”  Wrong, but there’s a different solution.  Continue reading “Oops! A Different Fix for Colorado”