Guns vs. McDonald’s

There are more than 129,817 federally licensed firearms dealers in the United States, according to the latest Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives numbers as of Aug. 1.

Of those, 51,438 are retail gun stores, 7,356 are pawn shops and 61,562 are collectors, with the balance of the licenses belonging mostly to manufacturers and importers of firearms and destructive devices. For comparison, here are some numbers of other ubiquitous elements of American life:

• Gas Stations in the U.S. 2011: 143,839
• Grocery Stores in the U.S. 2011 36,569
• McDonald’s restaurants in the U.S. 2011: 14,098

Yes, there are more stores selling guns than groceries.

But unlike burgers, gas and groceries, firearms are not a perishable or consumable product. They don’t go away. A rifle used in the 2009 Holocaust Museum shooting was nearly 100 years old, but was still an effective murder weapon.

via ABC News.

Interesting right?  But get this:

  • About 600,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year–that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.
  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. More than half of the deaths due to heart disease in 2009 were in men.
  • Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease, killing more than 385,000 people annually.
  • Every year about 935,000 Americans have a heart attack. Of these, 610,000 are a first heart attack. 325,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack.
  • Coronary heart disease alone costs the United States $108.9 billion each year. This total includes the cost of health care services, medications, and lost productivity.

via Center for Disease Control & Prevention.

Heart disease kills 15 times more people than guns annually.  Where’s the campaign to ban tobacco and trans-fats?

According to Pew Research there are around 160, 000 fast food restaurants in the U.S.  That’s about 30,000 more fast food places than licensed FFL’s.  But it’s actually 2.7 times the number of gun stores and pawn shops with licenses to sell guns. But these fast food places and gas stations (number one source of cigarettes) that are killing 15 times as many people.

What we really need is to be shutting down these merchants of death… the fast food restaurants and stores that sell cigarettes. Kinda like in Clerk’s when Dante gets attacked.

Gotta Love American Ingenuity (& Tax Avoidance)

So I’m reading two stories (here and here) about a new law that will effectively outlaw Roll-Your-Own tobacco stores.  It’s something I kinda follow because I always thought it was a decent business model (until the government outlaws your business) and another fine example of what steps people will go through to avoid taxes.

In short:

A tiny amendment buried in the federal transportation bill to be signed today by President Barack Obama will put operators of roll-your-own cigarette operations in Las Vegas and nationwide out of business at midnight.  …

The machines are used by customers who buy loose tobacco and paper tubes from the shop and then turn out a carton of finished cigarettes in as little as 10 minutes, often varying the blend to suit their taste. Savings are substantial – at $23 per carton, half the cost of a name-brand smoke – in part because loose tobacco is taxed at a lower rate.


And I was thinking about how sad this was for all the people who work in this industry: the store owners, their employees, the folks who manufacture the RYO machines, their families, the companies who make the cigarette tubes, and the loose pipe tobacco makers, and all of the folks who work in packaging all of these things.

And then… in the comment section of the Law Vegas article I read this:

James Fliess Jul. 6, 2012 | 2:47 p.m.

Just a thought. My understanding, and maybe I’m wrong, is that cigarettes manufactured by these machines must cost (via taxes) as much as other cigarettes. How about this arrangement. The store sells the tobacco and supplies as they always have, but they do not have a rolling machine. A buisness next door does not sell tobacco or supplies, but it rents time on their rolling machine. Does it work?

Kudos to you Mr. James Fliess!!

Raise Taxes — Lose Revenue

The current taxes on a pack of cigarettes in Chicago include $2 from Cook County, 98 cents from Illinois and 68 cents from the city. If Quinn signs the latest increase, the taxes in Chicago will be $4.66 per pack, compared with 99 cents in East Chicago.

On Monday, a pack of Marlboros at a 7-Eleven on North Wells Street in downtown Chicago ran $9.69, before the state tax increase. At a 7-Eleven on Hohman Avenue in Hammond, the same smokes went for $6.20.  …

“The cigarette tax increase passed the Senate last week. Quinn has said the hike is necessary to generate about $350 million for the Medicaid program.  …

In 2006, the Cook County tax doubled to $2 per pack.  …

But even as taxes on cigarettes climbed, the revenue in Cook County dropped. In 2006, the county garnered more than $200 million in cigarette taxes. That number plummeted to $131 million in 2010, according to annual reports.

Let’s stop here for a second and think about that.  In 2006 the Cook County Government DOUBLED the cigarette tax in order to RAISE REVENUE.  What was the result?  Revenue fell by a third!!

Legislators and experts agree some drop-off can be expected as tax increases price people out of the market or alter smoker behavior. The percentage of U.S. adults who smoke declined from nearly 21 percent to 19.3 percent between 2005 and 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  …

So during roughly the same period smokers (albeit nationally) kicked the habit to the tune of 8%.  But Cook County revenue off by 34.5%.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has said he thought most of the revenue dip was due to fraud.

Dart and County Board President Toni Preckwinkle joined forces in September to add more staff to the county’s Revenue Department to investigate fraud claims. Within three weeks, investigators seized more than $353,000 in unstamped cigarettes and imposed more than $400,000 in fines, Dart said.  …

Well Mr. Dart, if your own statement is true then you completely suck at your job.  Your missing $69 million and you find $400,000.  You’ve located 0.58% of the missing money.  Less that one percent.

So what’s really happening here?  We know that the double the tax, yet revenues off by a third, only 8% quit, and Tom Dart can’t find the missing money.  So where’s the money?

Larry DeBoer, professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University, noted that Indiana benefits as taxes spike in neighboring states.”There’s no doubt that commerce goes back and forth across the borders,” DeBoer said. “If Illinois increases its tax by $1, we’ll realize about $10 million more in cigarette tax revenue.”

via Chicago Tribune.

Aaaah.  There’s the money!

In Illinois we’re governed by complete morons.  The Laffer Curve is a real thing.  People will change their behavior to engage in tax avoidance.  In this case is primarily involves not buying cigarettes in the City and County but in the collar counties and in Indiana.

More to the point, wouldn’t you think that when you double the tax and see revenue falling and falling and falling that someone would have stood-up and said, “Maybe we should roll-back that tax before we lose any more money?”  But not in this county.

Stupid Quinn and his ilk are going to keep raising taxes until there’s no one left to tax.

New Zealand Mulls $100 for Pack of Cigarettes

New Zealand’s Health Ministry has reportedly considered boosting the price of a pack of cigarettes as high as $100 ($81 U.S.) in a bid to make the country smoke free by 2025.

An internal government working paper raised the possibility of upping the cost of a 20-cigarette pack by 30 to 60 percent and tacking on yearly increases of 30 percent, Sky News reported.

With cigarettes now priced at about $16 to $17, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said the $100 suggestion seemed like “an awful lot” and could encourage a black market, Fairfax NZ News reported.

via NBC New York.


Can you say Black Market?