Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Your Tax Dollars Hard at Work

I've been waiting for this inevitable news, and I'm sure it's only a matter of time or research until the same statistics emerge in Pennsylvania in the wake of its helmet repeal law.

Motorcycle fatalities have risen sharply in Florida since the state repealed its mandatory helmet law.

States that repeal such laws run the risk of increased deaths and mounting health care costs for injured bikers, according to two studies released Monday, one by the government, the other by the insurance industry.

So our state government spends its valuable time increasing the burden on taxpayers by entitling as a matter of law people to behave in ridiculously dangerous ways (note, children under twelve are required by Pennsylvania law to wear a helmet on a bicycle, but their skulls at that age are probably far more resilient than the average middle-aged weekend warrior on six hundred pounds of ear-splitting (and environmentally non-compliant, like as not) chrome and steel).

Yet no one says a thing when the very same phenomenon -- health-related burdens on public coffers -- is cited in support of the umpteenth tax increase on cigarettes. Nobody taxes Big Macs or plates of ribs specially, and God forbid anyone charge a fee of some kind from those people who want so badly to feel their hair blow in the breeze astride their Harley and who ought to be willing to shoulder the additional burden their conduct imposes on other more prudent individuals, but cigarettes, so what if the price of a cigarette has doubled in the past eight years or so. They're smokers; they deserve it. (For the record, I've yet to see the clinical study equating riding helmetless with the narcotic power of heroin and cocaine; those studies are there for nicotine, however. Remember, boys and girls, some addictions are diseases; some, evidently, are lifestyle choices, as easily dropped as an annoying verbal tic.)

I hate to get on my soapbox, but this helmet law bullshit has pissed me off from minute one. Don't get me wrong, I stake out fairly libertarian positions on things like this; the difference is, mine are consistent, not responsive to whatever electoral breeze happens to be blowing on a given week. It's popular to hate smokers; it's popular to spend $20K on a bike, another $2K on leather, and then ride around on a Saturday, mid-length freak flag flying, pretending not to be a well-to-do financier with a McMansion in Sewickley.

Sin tax one, sin tax all. That is, if you must sin tax at all.


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