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July 30, 2007 - Too many cooks spoil the broth

I think I remember the old-time saying correctly...”Too many cooks spoil the broth”. This week I would apply the saying to the world of politics. Too often, it seems, too many people get involved in writing legislation to the point where the left-hand doesn’t know what the right-hand is doing (another old-time saying). The result is that the legislation contains contradictions and the original goal is sometimes lost.

Let me give you a case in point. Recently, the Governor in my home state signed a bill making Illinois a smoke-free state; no smoking in public places anywhere in the state. After the signing he was discussing another of his legislative goals, universal health insurance for the citizens of Illinois. When a reporter asked how he would pay the cost of that program, he said one of the ways would be to raise the tax on cigarettes in the state, perhaps by as much as a dollar a pack.

Now wait a minute; how does that work?...smoke-free on the one hand; higher cigarette taxes on the other hand to discourage smoking, but at the same time raising money to pay for health insurance. Are there too many cooks here?

One other point on the smoking issue in America where we do a great deal to discourage the use of tobacco. Two questions I frequently hear...if tobacco is so bad, why doesn’t the federal government make it illegal? Simple answer...Congress is not going to kill the goose that lays the golden egg; tobacco taxes generate a lot of money at the federal, state and local level. Besides, we tried that once with Prohibition, making alcohol illegal, and that simply didn’t work, but it did create a new cottage industry, home stills and bootlegging.

Second often-asked question...why do we use taxpayer dollars to support tobacco growers? Simple answer is...we don’t. The federal tobacco program ended with a grower buyout several years ago and many of those growers have found other ways to make a living.
The lesson here is that we, as voters, must pay closer attention to what happens in the halls of Congress and State Legislatures. If the people writing the bills don’t catch the contradictions, then we need to be more vigilant and help them read the fine print. For example, did you know the 2007 Farm Bill passed by the House last month contains a provision aimed at recovering billions of dollars in oil and gas royalties because of faulty federal leases. Why is that contained in a Farm Bill? Read the fine print!

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.