Big Tobacco’s Bridge to Nowhere

Ahh, summertime. Hot with thunderstorms in the afternoon and sweltering humidity. You almost feel sorry for folks who have to wear sport coats and ties in that kind of heat. But, it’s okay. Those are members of Congress and they’re used to pressure cooker conditions! See Congressman John Mica in the photo? He’s wearing the black and gray tie. He was in Volusia County, Florida yesterday, braving the heat to celebrate the ground breaking for a new commuter rail line.

What can we make of the fact that Congressman Mica, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and lead Republican for the highway bill negotiations, is not in Washington negotiating a final highway bill? Not much. Staff are still reportedly working behind the scenes to try and cut a deal, but everyone watching says there’s not a lot of trust between the House Republicans and Senate Democrats (imagine) and even less progress toward a final bill. As far as I’m concerned, the less chance the Senate-passed highway bill has of moving anywhere, the better for all of us who like the freedom to roll our own smokes.

Hello and happy Tuesday, June 12, 2012! Without a doubt, highways, bridges and other transportation projects are important for commerce, but Congress must NOT sell out the free enterprise system while passing bills for these things. After all, free enterprise via our small businesses is the job-creating backbone of our country! Did you know small businesses represent 99.7 percent of ALL employers in our country, employing about half of all private sector employees? AND small businesses have generated 65 percent of new jobs over the past 17 years? (Thank you Small Business Administration for those stats). It’s true. Small business entrepreneurs are keeping the economy moving, employing people, paying good wages and (too many) taxes. Even in the current economy, small businesses are hanging on because the entrepreneurial spirit knows better times are ahead.

Enter Big Tobacco and the Federal government.

Big Tobacco wants ZERO competition and they’re using Congress to get their way.

Who would have thought with ALL THE TALK about creating jobs for our economy that Congress would entertain the idea of using unnecessary taxes and regulations to shut down more than 1,000 small businesses across the U.S.? But that’s EXACTLY what’s happening. Tucked into a corner of the Senate’s highway bill is a provision to “reclassify” small tobacco retail shops as “tobacco manufacturing facilities” if that shop happens to have a place where you can roll your own smokes. In the eyes of U.S. Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana), Rep. Diane Black (R-Tennessee) and others: Allow roll your own smokes = you ARE a manufacturer. Don’t allow roll your own smokes = you are NOT a manufacturer.

This is as ridiculous as it is wrong, and Congress knows it.

Why do we call this a Big Tobacco bailout? Because, according to the lobbyist disclosures filed with the U.S. House and Senate, Altria, R.J.Reynolds and other Big Tobacco interests spent more than $3 million dollars on an intense, 20-day lobbying effort for H.R.4134, Rep. Black’s version of the Big Tobacco bailout. THREE MILLION DOLLARS IN TWENTY DAYS! Why does Big Tobacco want H.R.4134 so badly? Because they’re greedy jackasses.

Big Tobacco’s mascot is a greedy jackass. No offense intended for the animals used in this production.

If the Big Tobacco bailout is allowed to become law, think about the impact on a small business. If you’re a run-of-the-mill retail establishment, you really don’t have a lot of Federal paperwork except for taxes and maybe some OSHA stuff. But think about all the new paperwork and regulations falling down on you like rain if you’re reclassified as a manufacturer. Are you in an area locally ZONED for manufacturing? Is your establishment in compliance with Federal regulations applied to manufacturers for worker safety and the environment? If you could even comply with the new regulations, could you afford the huge new taxes and permit fees associated with the manufacturing sector?

The answer is no. You wouldn’t be able to afford the new taxes and regulations, and everybody knows it. That’s why they wrote the Big Tobacco bailout provision the way they did. Big Tobacco wanted a provision that would SHUT DOWN their competition, once and for all. That’s forcible assault on free enterprise and that’s why we’re fighting it.

The usual suspects, including U.S. Rep Diane Black (R-Tennessee) who is sponsor of H.R.4134, the Big Tobacco bailout that will eliminate jobs at more than 1,000 small businesses across the United States.

Today’s Message: @LawmakerXYZ I’m not a manufacturer, I’m #smallbiz! STOP the #BigTobacco bailout HR4134 http://bit.ly/NewTax

OUR MISSION: Continue talking with all your members of Congress on Facebook, Twitter, online news story comment areas, town hall meetings, email, sign language, and shortwave radio. Lawmakers don’t often do slimy stuff when they know the public is watching, so alert them that we ARE watching and we KNOW what they’re up to! Keep up the pressure, don’t relent. Recruit, recruit, recruit! Fresh meat for our campaign is essential!

– GR

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