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Free Liberal: Coordinating towards higher values

Free Liberal

Coordinating towards higher values

Chewing Through Big Tobacco

By Paul Jacob

It's hard to be a party man these days. They often don't stand for anything. Not firmly. Or rather, the political parties all too often seem to stand for one thing above all: grabbing whatever they can from the most deep-pocketed, easy-to-bash targets. Robert Levy - a policy analyst with the Cato Institute who has written prolifically about taxation through litigation - says Republicans can be just as bad as Democrats on this score. They may criticize so- called "judicial shakedowns" that redistribute wealth from decadent defendants to plaintive plaintiffs. Yet they "have embraced the mother of all baseless lawsuits - the Justice Department's crusade against tobacco."

"If ever there were a poster child for civil justice reform," says Levy, "if ever there were an appalling example of government's addiction to litigation, if ever there were a waste of $136 million in taxpayer money . . . this lawsuit is it."

Levy notes that after five years of investigating, the government has secured no indictments against tobacco firms. But now that the criminal charges have failed, the charade is being repeated through civil litigation, what Levy calls "double-dipping." The Bush administration, just like the Clinton administration, is using the courts to go after tobacco wealth as an alternative to asking for high tobacco taxes from Congress.

Career politicians of all parties enjoy nothing so much as a good chaw of tobacco. And looks like they plan to keep chewing and chewing and chewing, until there's nothing left. Then it's on to the next fat and easy target.

This is Common Sense. I'm Paul Jacob.

Common Sense is published by Americans for Limited Government. Their website can be visited at

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