Friday, February 16, 2007

Everything is taxed and subsidized.

The bureaucrats in Brussels, the headquarters of the European Union, are just as anxious to micromanage the lives of others, and to dictate to them, as those in Washington. In other words the people in Brussels are just another version of George Bush -- that ought to upset both Bush and the EU-acrates. Admittedly the Europeans aren’t as likely to torture you but sometimes you’d wish they would as that might be an improvement over the constant Nannying and harassment.

EU bureaucrats spend millions per year to “educate” people. Now I think there is very little doubt that smoking is bad you. You really ought not do it.

The EU claims that “some 80,000 people a year in the EU” are killed by “passive smoking”. No source for that is listed. And from what I’ve seen it is very tenuous to claim that passive smoking is this dangerous. Suffice to say the EU is intent on making Europe smoking free.

Oddly the EU benefits from people smoking. Most EU countries are welfare states that are in deep trouble. They promise pensions to their citizens along with health care and can’t deliver on the promises without constantly raising taxes higher and higher. But by doing that they destroy jobs and create high unemployment requiring massive welfare benefits. And they end up on this downward spiral. Smokers actually offer them some relief. One is that they pay massive taxes for the “privilege” of being allowed, by their political masters, to smoke. The other is that smoking does, on average, shorten their lives and that benefits the welfare state’s bottom line. While there are increased health costs due to smoking the reduced life expectancy means they collect pensions for a shorter time than non smokers. The result tends to be a net gain for the welfare state.

While the EU spends train loads of money to make Europe smoke free it then spends more train loads of money to subsidize tobacco production.

In an exchange in the British parliament one House member asked the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs “what subsidies are available at (a) EU and (b) national levels to producers of tobacco in the European Union?”

The answer was that: “The European Union adopted budget for tobacco premiums in 2006 was € 920 million...” That’s a lot of cash folks. But we are assured that these subsidies are tied to “a quota system” and that “any tobacco grown beyond quota will only fetch market prices and no premium.” Now don’t you feel better?

The first 350,600 tons of tobacco produced fetches the farmer market value plus extra money from the European Union. And then anything over that will “only fetch” market prices. Oh, those poor farmers! They only get paid above market prices for their tobacco on 350,600 tons. The subsidy to grow tobacco is about 20 times higher than the subsidy to grow grain. There are something like 135,000 people, in Europe, paid by the EU to grow tobacco. You’d think with all these subsidies they could grow decent farm produce in Europe -- but from what I see they can’t. Vegetables are awful in Europe and the meat quality is pretty low. I’ve concluded that one reason the French use so many sauces is to cover up the quality of the meat.

But then subsidies tend to lower the quality of one’s goods and ultimately make one less competititve and more likely to fail.

The EU-acrates will note that a good deal of the tobacco is exported, much of it to poor nations. So the EU subsidizes cancer for the world’s poor. How nice of them! Of course, because of the higher death rates, they also send foreign aid to these countries to try and reverse some of the effects of smoking. It appears that the EU subsidizes everything! But to even things out they also tax everything! And Europeans like to think Americans are stupid?

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