Many of the things I enjoy in life (smoking, drinking, kicking children who speak out of turn) are either illegal or subject to a sin tax. Luckily, most of the laws against my illegal vices are unenforceable if I commit infractions discretely. (“I don’t know what happened to little Jimmy. He must have fallen onto my foot.”) But I can’t avoid sin taxes — and thus I can’t stand them.
First of all, they are regressive. Secondly, they’re anti-business. So we literally have a tax regime that freedom-loving progressives and money-loving conservatives should hate, and yet sin taxes continue to be an acceptable way for the government to shove its morality down our throats.
The Texas Supreme Court is wrestling with just such a question of morality versus freedom and money. Specifically, it’s a battle between morality and the freedom to stuff money into a g-string. The Austin-American Statesman reports:
Is exotic dancing, performed partially clothed or fully nude, a form of free speech protected by the U.S. Constitution?
Strip club owners insist that it is, and on Thursday they asked the Texas Supreme Court to strike down the state’s $5-per-patron tax as an unconstitutional limit on free expression.
Of course, proponents of the tax can’t just come out and say “we hate men who like to look at nude women.” Check out the hook they’re trying to hang their abuse of legislative power on…
According to Texas lawmakers, Texan men just can’t be trusted to be drunk while they look at nude women:
Texas officials defended the tax, arguing that it is an appropriate exercise in state power — promoting public safety by discouraging the “combustible combination” of drinking and live nudity.
State officials say adult businesses that combine alcohol with nudity lead to an increase in sexual assaults and other crimes, and that it is in the state’s interest to minimize that effect.
Nude women + alcohol = rape? What kind of sex crazed sociologist came up with that equation? Just because boobs and beer make your sick ass go out and terrorize females doesn’t mean that other males are incapable of telling the difference between fantasy and cold, lonely reality.
And if this is a serious problem — what the f*** is $5 going to do about it? Texas legislators want us to believe that there is an epidemic of sexual assaults occurring because of the “combustible combination” of alcohol and live nude girls, but they also want us to believe that a $5 surcharge is going to make a difference. What, are guys going to say “You know, I was going to get drunk, head to the club, and then try to rape a stripper while she’s on her smoke break. But now that it costs an extra five dollars, I think I’ll just get off to pay per view.” Or maybe Texas thinks that so long as you pay your five dollar fee you can sexually assault whoever you want.
See, that’s the problem with all sin taxes. Either it is a serious societal problem that the government needs to step up and make illegal — or it isn’t. If it’s not that big a deal, then what is a sin tax other than the government trying to get a taste of a lucrative American business? You know, the freaking mafia does this all the time when they order businessmen to pay protection money.
Luckily, thus far, courts have rejected the Texas “pole tax.” The WSJ Law Blog reports:
The case arrives after rulings from two lower courts, which found the law, which imposes a $5-per-fee visit on strip clubs, unconstitutional. The rationale: that singling out a particular business based on the content of its expression — like “exotic dancing” — violates the First Amendment.
Hold fast, Texas Supreme Court. The Texas legislature just wants to wet its beak. You’ve got to make them an offer they can’t refuse.