Thanks to the Courier-Journal for giving me permission to print this in its entirety. I chose this topic because it gives people who are not necessarily political -- young women -- a chance to consider the impact of tax policy on their day to day lives. mI was therefore pleased to see that this column was widely-shared on FaceBook. We conservatives need to be on the look-out for issues that appeal to people who don't think of themselves as conservative. That's how we grow the party.
Here's the column;
Democrats could not figure out a way to tax the sunshine, thank God. So they taxed the man-made equivalent: indoor tanning. That tax just turned 5 years old. It has burned consumers and small businesses across the country, including here.
The 10 percent federal tax on indoor tanning was one of the more bizarre inclusions in Obamacare. It generated lots of laughs at the time. Some called it the “Snooki tax” in homage to Jersey Shore. Some speculated that it was a passive-aggressive attack on House Speaker John Boehner’s tawny complexion. One congressman called it “racist” because of its disparate impact on the fair-skinned.
This tax was one of 21 in Obamacare, and one of the first to take effect. It was supposed to do two things: help fund healthcare for the previously uninsured, and reduce skin cancer by deterring indoor tanning. Both of those goals were problematic from the outset.
First, the tanning tax was projected to raise only a fraction of the revenue necessary to pay for Obamacare — pennies on the dollar. Obamacare will cost approximately $2trillion over 10 years. The tanning tax, according to the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, was projected to raise $2.7 billion over that period.
It would never have been enough, even if the projected numbers had been accurate. They were not. Indeed, according to Forbes, the tax has generated only one-third of the revenue projected. Whoops! Look for big premium increases to make up for that shortfall.
Second, the goal of deterring people from indoor tanning smacks of paternalism, as do all sin taxes. Anyone who worries that tanning beds or outdoor tanning will cause skin cancer — which the industry disputes — has the freedom to not tan. Those adults who choose to tan have the same liberty interest. Whatever happened to that Democrat mantra: “my body, my choice”? Surely it applies more here than to the recently exposed atrocities of Planned-Parenthood doctors.
Then there is the issue of the government picking winners and losers. This tax was directed against a specific industry that the elite in power at the time disfavored. This tax replaced one that would have taxed Botox injections and breast augmentations. The only reason that indoor sun tanning is subject to a federal excise tax but Botox and breast augmentations are not is that the latter industries won the lobbying battle. That is, access to power rather than sound public policy dictated the tax imposed.
What bothers me most about the tanning bed tax is its disproportionate effect on women. Tanning customers stuck with the tax are overwhelmingly women: 75 percent. Seventy percent of tanning salons are owned by women. These are small business owners. Their employers, too, are overwhelmingly women: ninety-five percent. (Why, why do the Democrats keep waging a war on women?)
As was predicted at the time of its inclusion into Obamacare, the tax is rapidly killing the indoor tanning industry. Since Obamacare’s enactment, more than 9,000 tanning salons have closed nationwide. As a consequence, 76,000 jobs have been eliminated, according to the American Suntanning Association.
The numbers in Kentucky reflect that trend. Nearly 200 salons have closed here; 1,600 jobs have been lost as a result.
Those who oppose indoor tanning as supposed a way to reduce skin cancer must be delighted with the closing of all these tanning salons.
However, that cannot be squared with the stated rationale of the tax as a means to fund Obamacare for the uninsured. The tax is killing the very industry that it was designed to tap as a source of funds. Obamacare’s goals with respect to the tax are mutually exclusive and contradictory.
Congress is considering a one-page bill to repeal the tanning tax. One page: Nancy Pelosi won’t have to pass it to find out what’s in it, provided she’s willing to read the one page. Maybe someone can read it to her.
The bill has bipartisan support. It’s something that all members of the Kentucky delegation should support (and co-sponsor), because a homegrown Louisville-based company, Sun Tan City, needs it to maintain and expand its franchises.
This is no different than recent legislative efforts to help the hemp industry, or the bourbon industry or the coal industry. Our congressional delegation should look out for Kentucky companies and jobs.
Republicans do not have a veto-proof majority. That means we are stuck with Obamacare for the time being. It cannot be repealed anytime soon. What we can do in the meantime, however, is chip away at it. Let’s fix what we can fix now.
Even some Democrats recognize that the tanning tax was a bad idea that has not lived up to expectations. Kentucky jobs are at stake. Incremental improvement is better than nothing.