Want to raise revenue? Tax really stupid things

MIKE ROYKO

February 22, 1993|By MIKE ROYKO

If it's not too late, President Clinton should give thought to some new taxes that would raise considerable revenue and help Americans share the burden of patriotic sacrifice more evenly.

This tax program is the creation of Dr. I.M. Kookie, the renowned expert on lots of stuff.

During a recent interview, Dr. Kookie outlined some of the major points of his economic plan.

"I call this the Stupidity Tax Program," Dr. Kookie said, "because it would impose a special tax on a lot of things that are really stupid."

For example?

"Well, start with any athletic shoes that glow in the dark, have an air pump built in and cost more than $49.95, which is what I pay for mine. If you pay any more than that, you are stupid and should pay a stupid tax."

But aren't you singling out a particular group of consumers with such a tax?

"So what? We already do that when we put extra taxes on liquor and cigarettes. We call them 'sin taxes,' even though smoking and drinking, while potentially harmful, are not sins. So why not tax products or services that are stupid?"

You have a point. What other products or services do you have in mind?

"Nose jobs."

A tax on cosmetic surgery to reshape one's nose?

"Absolutely. Look at Barbra Streisand. She became a superstar and is still a sex object at 50, and she has a honker as big as yours. As my mother always said: 'If the good Lord didn't want us to have noses, he wouldn't have given us Kleenex.' And there should be a tax on breast implants. They are not only a potential health hazard, but they violate the truth-in-packaging laws."

Aren't those both sexist taxes?

"No, because we will have the same tax on men's hairpieces. And there will be a double tax on pierced ears."

But millions of women have pierced ears.

"I'm talking about pierced ears for men. Then there will be the 'Oh, s---' tax, which will be very big."

The what?

"Don't you watch movies? In 90 percent of all movies made today, somebody says: 'Oh, s---' In some movies, that's almost the only dialogue. They say it when somebody shoots at them, or a car explodes, or somebody falls off a roof, or a helicopter goes into a tailspin, or the soup boils over. The idiots who write movie scripts never have anybody say, 'Holy smoke' or 'I'll be darned.' It is always, 'Oh, s---.' So we will have entire generations growing up with the belief that in any moment of stress, it is appropriate to say, 'Oh, s---.' Is that the kind of future we want, when a doctor will look at your EKG and say, 'Oh, s---,' when you go to confession and the priest says, 'Oh, s---,' when 100,000 people at a football game all shout, 'Oh, s---'? So let us tax the source of this linguistic plague."

That sounds reasonable.

"Yes, but let us go on to the really big ticket items that will bring in billions in revenue. Tell me, what is the single biggest source of stupidity, banality, misinformation and disgusting behavior in our entire society?"

Me?

"No, you are just a minor blight. The biggest source of stupidity is television. It shrinks the brain and bloats the body. Under my plan, there will be a heavy sales tax on every new TV set, with a 10 percent surcharge on those sold to sports bars. And speaking of sports, my plan calls for a tax on every phone call made to radio sports shows. And the tax will be doubled for any caller who describes himself as a 'die-hard' fan, a phrase that is prima facie evidence of dippiness, as well as an insult to the deceased. Now, let me move on to my next tax. Since handguns are the single biggest source of stupid violence in this country, I will place a tax on every handgun, new or old."

But that will enrage the millions of law-abiding gun owners, who own weapons to protect hearth, home and family in violent society.

"True, but that's why my plan provides a tax credit for any law-abiding gun owner who shoots a murderer, robber, rapist, vampire, werewolf or other fiend. And the tax credit would apply to the ammunition, too."

That sounds fair. Anything else?

"Oh, yes, there will be a substantial Stupidity Tax levied on anyone whose name appears in a newspaper gossip column more than once in a calendar year; any singer, dancer, rapper or guitar thumper who grabs his or her crotch during a performance; and any professional athlete who holds a press conference to announce that the terms of his contract cause him gloom."

You seemed to have covered just about everyone.

"Not quite. There will be a double surtax on any politician who makes a speech about raising taxes and uses any of the following words or phrases: 'fundamental change . . . enormity of this crisis . . . chart a course . . . fair share . . . secure a better future . . . strength and support . . . enlist you in the cause . . . putting the people first . . . invest in the future . . . not going it alone . . . new investments . . . our economic destiny . . . architects of the future . . . a call to arms . . . a better, stronger nation . . . honesty and fairness . . . restore the American dream.'

"And there would be a triple surcharge for those who ever say 'jump-start the economy.' "

But if you did that, it would wipe out President Clinton's entire salary.

"Hillary Rodham Clinton can always go back to work. Of course, I'll get her, too."

How?

"The name-switching tax."

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