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New York Cigarette Taxes Killed Eric Garner

BEGIN TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: It just keeps happening.  We go from the Michael Brown case to the Eric Garner case in New York, and once again it becomes necessary to sort through all of the disinformation that's out there and try to make sense of it. At the end of the process here, once again, we have a grand jury decision, which, in many sectors of the culture and society, is unacceptable and is thought to have been rigged and is thought to have been unfair. 

So the president of the United States has said that we are not gonna let up, he and Eric Holder, are not gonna let up.  I thought, by the way, it was very, very telling, quite fitting, in fact, that Obama made his remarks at a White House Tribal Nations Conference.  Because, you know, Obama is trying his best to eliminate all of the warring and discord going on between all the tribes, right? 

So what do we know about this and what remains confusing?  And there's something about this -- this is just me.  Or maybe it isn't just me.  Snerdley was mentioning this to me earlier today, so maybe a lot of people.  Do you realize what this was about?  How many times a day do you think the New York PD walks by a shop or a property of some kind or is driving by, sees somebody blowing a joint, and just keeps going? 

How often do you think that happens?  Probably happens so many times a day, you can't count it.  Somebody blowing a weed, don't stop. Maybe even wave at 'em, say, "Hey, dude." See 'em selling, it's a different thing, but you see somebody blowing a weed and even if they're selling just a single joint, the cops don't stop for this anymore.  And yet this guy ends up dead because the city of New York is hell-bent on driving out the black market cigarette industry from Manhattan.  And why is there a black market cigarette industry? 

Do you know what a pack of cigarettes costs in New York City today?  I thought it was 10 bucks.  I mentioned that to Snerdley.  Snerdley said no, it's 11.  (interruption)  Wait a second.  Thirteen?  Someone just told me $13.  Okay, 13 dollars a pack.  Back in the late 60's and 70's, a carton of cigarettes in Missouri was barely five bucks.  Now, that $13 a pack in New York City, what percentage of that price is taxes?  You know that cigarettes and tobacco are not that expensive.  You know that transportation's not that expensive.  Stocking and all of the "bring it to market" aspects of that price are minimal.  The vast majority of the price, 13 bucks a pack, is taxes. 

Now, as a side note -- and I've made a big deal about this over the years.  Smokers in our culture are hated and despised.  Smokers, people look down on 'em, don't want anything to do with them.  Smokers are really the modern incarnation of evil, and yet smokers, because of all the taxes they are paying, are funding most of the children's health care programs the federal government has. 

You may not be aware of that, but the primary funding source for children's health care programs -- now, this was prior to Obamacare.  I don't know what kind of changes have taken place since Obamacare, but prior to Obamacare the primary funding source for federal children's health care programs was the taxes on cigarettes. 

It's always amazed me, the federal government is deriving all of this revenue without producing a thing.  The federal government's just sticking their hands in everybody's pocket.  And at the same time they're collecting all this revenue, they're out there demonizing these people. I've always thought, and I've said this not intending it to be flippant.  I've tried to make a point with this. 

Smokers, in my mind, in some cases deserve a medal. Because, look, you have a product, and everybody from government officials on down to the lowest life civilian thinks that smokers are reprobates and that nobody ought to be able to smoke, but nobody bans it.  Everybody stops short at banning the product.  We hear what a killer product it is. We hear what it does to insurance rates. We hear what it does to life expectancy.  I mean, it's horrible stuff and it's been banned usage-wise, you can't use the stuff.  You can buy it.  They'll sell it to you.  They'll tax the heck out of it, but you can't use it. 

It's gotten to the point now in certain parts of the country, if you want to smoke in your home and some busybody half a block down the street can smell it, they're gonna call the cops on you and you're gonna get hit up for polluting the neighborhood and causing secondhand smoke and promoting the cause and creation and coming down with cancer.  It's just absurd.  All the while the tax revenue from this product is used to fund children health care programs and a number of other things.  It's not just children's health. 

The federal government, state governments will not do without that tax revenue no matter what.  I've always thought it was one of the most contradictory setups that we have, because everything said publicly about the product is intended to besmirch it, impugn it, and do the same thing to the people that use it.  And yet here's the government scoring, I mean, you want to talk about obscene profits, the government doesn't do a damn thing but stick its hand in.  The government taxes tobacco at every stage.  It taxes tobacco when the farmer's thinking about planting it. 

Okay, so now the price of a pack of cigarettes in New York City is $13, almost $13.  I got that data from a smoker.  So, this has created, understandably so, and it's not new, this has created a black market.  There are black market cigarette smugglers, and they endeavor to get cigarettes from the states where they are manufactured, North Carolina being a prominent one, South Carolina as well.  They smuggle them to high-price cities and states like New York and then they openly sell them.  The word spreads that if you know this guy or that guy you can go out and buy cigarettes at much, much less than the retail price. 

This guy -- now, stop and think of this -- this guy Eric Garner, for his job, the way he created his living, the way he made his living, sold loosies, single individual cigarettes.  And if you're poor that's all you can afford, one cigarette at a time.  He's out there selling loosies.  Now, if you want to buy a pack I'm sure he'd sell you the whole pack, but he's out there selling loosies, meaning loose individual cigarettes.  This is beyond my ability to comprehend. 

And the sole reason for it, the sole reason why a guy like Eric Garner even has a job selling loosies is that the City of New York is hell-bent on collecting its precious taxes from $13 a pack.  So here come all these black market guys trying to take advantage of the fact that people will pay much less than that if they're given the chance.  This is what the left, liberals never understand about their idiotic tax policies.  They do not understand the dynamics attached to it. 

Here's a group of people -- this is how the liberals think -- a group of people, smokers, we hate 'em. They're yuk, they're filthy, they're dirty, they spread disease, yuk, but we need their money because we're funding children's health care programs.  So we'll gladly get 'em addicted to the product, then we won't let 'em smoke 'em anywhere legally.  We're gonna be pursuing these people every which way can but, by God, we're gonna make 'em pay for it.  Well, you can't afford 13 bucks a pack if you are addicted to cigarettes, and nicotine is the most addictive drug out there.  There is no more addictive drug.

You might say, "Well, Rush, they're juicing crack and they're juicing crystal meth and all that."  Maybe.  Maybe.  But have you ever seen anybody have a pleasant first experience with tobacco?  I'm talking about inhaling your first puff of a cigarette, you ever seen somebody do that?  (coughing)  Some of them make the mad dash to the toilet bowl.  And within minutes, they light the second one. 

It's understandable becoming addicted to a drug that creates euphoria or a big high, but tobacco doesn't do that.  The psychological, psychosomatic effect of tobacco, it's hardly even noticeable, but yet it is the most addictive drug that's known.  And of course it's spiked as well at various levels of manufacture.  So the state of New York's got this group of people called smokers, and they know they're addicted, and despite all the efforts to make 'em quit, they know they can't. 

So they just see a pile of money when they see these people.  And they think because they're addicted, they can't not buy the product, so they just keep raising taxes and raising taxes, and they expect people just to come up with the money from somewhere and pay it.  They do not appreciate the dynamics of it, that if there is a black market available it's gonna grow and people are gonna find it because nobody in their right mind is gonna pay 13 bucks a pack for cigarettes unless they have a net worth of at least a hundred million bucks. 

Who in their right mind is gonna do that?  Ergo, gives birth to guys like Eric Garner, who can try to make a living selling loosies!  This is the most incredible thing to me.  So the City of New York is all out of shape that its 13-dollar-per-pack taxes are not being collected due to the black market for cigarettes that's sprung up due to all of these taxes.  So what do they then do?  They mandate.  They mandate.  They call the police commissioner, and they tell him, "You get your members of the force locked and loaded on this.  I want people arrested. I want examples made. I want to get these black market cigarettes off the street. I want to get 'em out of town, and anybody selling 'em I want dealt with." 

So the cops hit the streets with their marching orders, and on the way to catching the guy selling loosies they have to probably pass by some people, you know, who knows doing what with whatever it is, crack or marijuana or what have, 'cause they're hell-bent on getting these black market guys out, because that is our precious tax revenue.  So Eric Garner, with everything else that's involved here, whatever else happened here, we have a guy who died over a tax collection issue, but nobody will say that out loud.  We have a poor guy who died because of a tax collection issue. 

By the way, over here is Al Sharpton who somehow still owes the Feds over $4 million in back taxes and nobody's making a mad dash to collect from him. But this poor guy trying to eke out a living in Manhattan -- well, he's Staten Island -- selling loosies, single cigarettes.  Did you see the number of cops that descended on this guy?  Five or six cops on a guy selling loosies?  On a guy selling cigarettes?  What kind of orders must these cops be under? 

I guarantee you, I don't care what, human nature, you see somebody smoking a cigarette, come on, you keep driving, you keep walking, it isn't a big deal.  You have to be told, you have to be under some kind of really concentrated, concerted order to focus so much energy and so much attention on some poor guy selling individual cigarettes. 

Now, Garner left his job, if you can believe it, as a horticulturalist for New York City.  He left that job because of his asthma.  So I guarantee you this guy is on disability of some kind.  That has to be a factor.  So he was doing something so that he could collect money off the books so as not to damage whatever benefit plan or series of benefit plans that he was on. 

New York state, back to the taxes here, New York state imposes a tax of $4.35 a pack.  That's the highest of any state.  That's on top of the local New York City tax of a buck sixty, which is also the highest of any city.  The mayor, de Blasio, had just ordered the police to crack down on illegal cigarettes a few weeks before the Garner incident.  He did that. 

De Blasio is running around (imitating de Blasio), "What happened? This is outrageous. Look at all this excessive force."  Well, yeah, that's what you tax collectors -- somebody had to mandate.  I'm not suggesting somebody told the cops go out and kill these people, but it's just so out of proportion.  It is so out of proportion.  And I'm telling you, everywhere you look where some of this stuff is happening, inexplicable stuff, who's running the show?  It turns out wherever you turn, liberals are running the show.  

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH:  You know, this New York City and state and tobacco and taxes, this is a bigger factor in this than anybody wants to really stop and consider.  You remember the big tobacco settlement from years ago in which lawyers ended up earning $200 million fees? The states collected massive amounts of money in this massive suit 'cause the tobacco CEOs had gone before Congress and lied about testing and dangers and all that.  The states, including New York, after these big settlements, went out and bonded -- by that I mean they borrowed and spent, budget-wise, a big chunk of the revenue that they were due, because the settlement gave the states an ongoing piece of future cigarette sales. 

So New York was one of many states that went out and borrowed and spent based on what they expected to be an income stream, is the simplest way to explain this.  And so if, after doing that, the tobacco sales did not continue at the same high levels into the next decade, which would be required for the tobacco companies to meet their obligations under the settlement, 'cause they borrowed and spent based on what they thought the income stream was gonna be from the settlement. 

So guess what?  Tobacco sales didn't keep up 'cause, again, these guys failed to calculate the dynamics of all these tax increases.  So the states had to come up with debt service to repay the bonds from other revenue, i.e., new taxes or spending cuts, because they had borrowed and spent far more than they actually ended up getting.  And that's why taxes are what they are and the price is 13 bucks a pack.  It's just obscene here that something like this happens because governments can't get enough money.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH:  I don't want anybody to misunderstand me here.  There's a lot of nuance here and a lot of ancillary points that I'm focusing on.  I'm not saying that Eric Garner was killed for selling cigarettes.  He didn't die because he was selling cigarettes, untaxed or otherwise.  He died because he resisted arrest and the cops -- I still can't believe the number of them.  And you know something else that amazed me?  This just an observation. 

I know Eric Garner's a big guy, but what amazed me was how small the cops look compared to him.  I know he's a big guy, but it took a lot of cops to subdue this guy, apparently.  The whole thing here is just -- I don't know -- weird.  The grand jury decision is what it is.  And legal beagle friends of mine, some of them say that they have no problem with it; others are concerned with it.  There's a lot of confusion about this.  There's an earlier part of the audio where it is made clear that he will not be arrested.  There was no reason for him to continue to resist as he was. 

He was being told he wasn't gonna be arrested, yet he continued, Garner continued to resist.  So what do you do?  Pepper spray, Taser.  Given officer training, I don't know what you do at that point.  They're telling him he's not gonna be arrested, but he continues to fight 'em and resist and all this, and then he gets descended on by an increasing number of cops.  The cops can't walk away.  Remember, the cops had been summoned by a minority-owned business complaining this guy was hurting his business. 

You had a minority-owned business owner call the cops and say, "Hey, look, I got a guy selling illegal black market cigarettes out in front of my store.  You gotta come do something about it."  The cops showed up, because it's a focal point for the city and its tax collection efforts.  It was more than one local business.  A bunch of them were saying that Garner and people like him were hurting their businesses with cheap cigarettes. He was driving business away. 

Now, this man, Garner, had been arrested at least 31 times before.  He was on parole from a previous charge of selling cigarettes.  He should have known the drill, but he kept fighting back.  He told the cops, "This ends now."  Apparently he'd been fed up with what he thought was police harassment, and he had had enough of it, and he said, "This ends now." I remember what Chuck Barkley said, Charles Barkley said when the cops are trying to arrest you and you fight back, things go wrong, especially if you happen to be obese and have asthma and heart disease and diabetes. 

Now, the media has skipped over some details about Garner's arrest.  The police were sent to arrest Garner because local minority-owned businesses were complaining he was driving business away and that he was competing with businesses that sold cigarettes by selling illegal, untaxed cigarettes one at a time, loosies, so the cops were called.  A second fact that the media is conveniently ignoring is it was a black precinct chief who ordered the police to arrest Garner, and a third fact is the arresting police team was under the supervision of a black female police sergeant. 

Now, I don't know why the news media would leave all that information out, but they did.  It totally amazes me why none of that information ended up in the media.  A lot of people are saying, "See, Rush, see, no matter what you do, no matter what happens, no matter what you tell us, this is a perfect example of out-of-control cops."  Well, is it? 

From the New York Post today: "There were 228,000 misdemeanor arrests in New York City in 2013, the last year for which there are audited figures, and every one of them had at least the potential to turn into an Eric Garner-like case."  Not one of them did.  So 228,000 misdemeanor arrests in New York City last year, and not one of them ended up anywhere near as what happened in the Eric Garner case.  So the idea that the cops are out of control is a bit of a stretch as well. 

And then there's this little tidbit.  Do you know that if you go to the New York State Department of taxation and finance, you can find a section on confiscated cigarettes.  And you know what happens to them?  New York state resells them.  "We have listed below current opportunities to buy cigarettes that were confiscated by the New York state tax department."  And then it says, "Who may bid?  Bidders must have a current New York state Stamping Agent License."  And then they give their authority to sell: "Under Tax Law Section 1846, we're allowed to sell cigarettes confiscated in accordance with judicial law."

And then it goes on to tell you as a potential buyer how you might be qualified and how you might not be qualified in order to bid on confiscated cigarettes.  So there's no question here that every effort is made to earn as much money off this product as possible.  At the same time, the same people who are doing everything they can to get every penny out of this product, are condemning its use, are bludgeoning and impugning its users, and denying them every day more and more places where they can legally use the product.  In the process, they have been the architects of the black market. 

The people in charge of all this have themselves set the stage for black market circumstances to prosper and thrive.  And hello Eric Garner selling loosies.  I still can't get over that.  Individual illegal cigarettes.  It's just stunning.  I haven't even gotten to the details of whether it was a chokehold or not, and it's very confusing.  The New York Police Department, NYPD, has a policy against the usage of chokeholds.  However, they're not illegal in the state.  The state of New York permits them. 

So while it's New York police policy that chokeholds are not to be used, there is no violation of law in doing so.  And then there are stories about how there are different kinds of chokeholds and that the cop in this case did not use a chokehold that results in fatality, at least not by design, that this is a chokehold taught in training by the New York PD that incapacitates but does not kill. 

Now, none of this matters a whit to the race industry.  

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH:  And we go to Denver next.  This is Tia, and welcome to the EIB Network.  Hello.

CALLER:  Oh, Rush, this is such an honor.  Thank you for taking my call.

RUSH:  You bet.  It's great to have you here.

CALLER:  Well, when you opened the program, you touched on the taxation that's applied to cigarettes. And I kind of perked up because I used to work for arguably the biggest tobacco company, and I can speak to some more finite numbers about what you cited as a percentage that goes to the government.

RUSH:  Okay.

CALLER:  So, ultimately when I was working there a couple years ago, it was about 59 cents on the dollar that went to the government, and that's just an estimate.  So if you're talking about the New York prices, it's probably arguably much higher.

RUSH:  Right.  And even that, back then, it was not enough.

CALLER:  Right. Another thing that I thought of that I shared with Snerdley, I saw it all the time when I was working for the company, you know, ultimately, the government really exploits the lower income Americans with taxation on these cigarettes. And simultaneously they lead them to believe that tobacco companies are evil and government is good.  And you made the point that if they wanted to just outlaw them and ban them, they would certainly do that if they really cared about people's health.

RUSH:  That has been my point all along.  I hear all of these liberals so concerned with people's health and so critical of tobacco cause it kills, it's deadly, and secondhand and third, and they've created a bunch of insane people out there.  I'm telling you, liberalism has created literally deranged people afraid of everything.  I mean it makes no sense to be afraid of secondhand smoke a hundred yards away from it.  They have created this.  They have created this inordinate fear of ordinary, everyday life. 

And then these people that get afraid start demanding all kinds of action against the perpetrators who are trying to kill 'em, and right there at the top is Big Tobacco, even though Big Tobacco, if you become an addict, it takes decades for it to kill you if it does.  But that isn't the point.  They talk about how evil it is, and they talk about how deadly it is.  They won't ban it.  If it's so bad, if it's so deadly, if it's so dangerous, if it's so harmful, if it's so mean, why don't they ban it?  Just ban the product.  "Well, no, Mr. Limbaugh, you don't understand, the tax base just --"  What do you mean, the tax base?  I thought it was a deadly product, and I thought you cared about the little guy. 

I thought you liberals cared about people, but here you're perfectly content to get them addicted and make them pay taxes through the nose and continue to pay taxes through the nose and raise their taxes.  And then you try to make 'em think you care about 'em by running PSAs telling them how they shouldn't smoke and how they should quit.  You're exactly right.  If they really cared, they would ban the product, but they can't, because the revenue from tobacco taxes -- I'm not kidding you -- funds children's health care programs, and a number of other things as well.  They won't do without the revenue.  That's great, Tia, I'm glad you called.  I really appreciate it.  

END TRANSCRIPT

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