Posts tagged ‘Las Vegas’

Do People Want Regulation?

Advocates of the statist web of regulation in California argue that this mass of government control makes California a more desirable place to live.  Andy Roth asks, does it?

Some high income earners are
California because of its punitive tax rates. Could low- and
middle-income workers be leaving as well? One crude measure is to examine the
one-way rental rates for U-Haul vans. Using U-Haul's website, I queried a one-way rental for a 10-foot van
for October 1st, 2005.


One-Way Trip Price
Los Angeles to Las Vegas $454.00
Las Vegas to Los Angeles $119.00

The ACLU is a Little Late to the Party

Reason reports that the ACLU is jumping into the fray to try to prevent Las Vegas from levying a special sales tax on strippers (emphasis added)

A Nevada bill that would impose a
10 percent tax on strip club dancing will be struck down in
court if lawmakers pass it, an American Civil Liberties Union
lawyer said on Wednesday.

"You can not have a special tax aimed at First Amendment
activity based on content," said Allen Lichtenstein, general
counsel of the ACLU of Nevada.

"Adult entertainment, which is protected by the First
Amendment, is being targeted to bear the burden of taxes where
other businesses are not," Lichtenstein said, referring to the
bill. "To single out a particular business based on content and
tax it with a special tax is unconstitutional

Don't get me wrong, I am certainly happy that the ACLU has suddenly discovered the rights of taxpayers, but they seem a bit late to the party.  I mean, states that charge the same tax to every business, especially the same sales tax rate, are the exception.  States all charge special hotel rates, rent car taxes, airport fees, long distance surcharges, etc etc.  For example, here are just a few of the special unique industry-specific taxes on the California BOE site (by the way, you know you live in a socialist state when your tax department is called the "Board of Equalization"):

This is far from a complete list, but you get the idea. This article from the Tax Policy Center explains that narrow industry specific excise taxes have a very long history in this country.  And this completely leaves off the issues of subsidies that are targeted at particular industries, such as the billions in direct subsidies received by farmers, not to mention the additional billions in price supports they get as well.  (Reason, by the way, has done some entertaining research on the millions of dollars of farm subsidies received by the family of Farm-aid founder John Cougar Mellancamp).  I am eager to see the ACLU begin tackling these other "special taxes" on "particular businesses".

I am not sure what motivated the ACLU to finally join the taxpayer cause, other than perhaps a personal financial interest their leadership team might have in this particular tax, but I for one am happy to welcome them to the cause.

Update: I am still having fun trying to imagine how the ACLU, the supposed protector of individual rights that has never had a problem up 'till now with our class warfare tax rates that are zero on some Americans and 40+% on others, suddenly had an epiphany about unequal levels of taxation when it comes to taxing strippers.  I have this visual picture in my head of the local head of the ACLU slipping a five into an entertainers g-string but getting mad when he couldn't get the two extra quarters in there to pay the tax.

Update #2: By the way, for all the flippancy in my post about the ACLU, they are absolutely right in this case, if way too narrowly focused.  I criticize the ACLU often because of the 21 policy areas it considers critical to individual rights, none have anything to do with property rights or economic freedom.  However, the ACLU is a strong and consistent defender of free political speech during a time when speech is under attack from all sides of the political spectrum.  The ACLU realized early on something the left still won't acknowledge, that it is impossible to separate regulation on spending for speech from restrictions on speech itself

Unfortunately, what the ACLU refuses to recognize is that all commerce, not just purchasing political ads or buying couch dances, is a form of communication and free expression.  The economy is nothing more than individuals, millions of times a day, communicating and reaching agreements to trade for mutual benefit.   Why is it any less of a restriction of free speech when the government places restrictions on this communication, say by restricting the range of wages I can offer an employee?  Or, more obviously, how can the government place regulations on what I can say about my company in an advertisement, but not on what I say about a political candidate?

The ACLU in this case seeks to evade sanctioning free speech in that dirty commercial world by apparently arguing that stripping is not commerce but artistic expression.  But by that logic, the government shouldn't be allowed to tax building and construction, for surely buildings are a strong and lasting form of art and expression.  Or how about cars - I certainly consider a Ferrari a much higher form of expression than a couch dance.  How can the government tax cars?  Or what about T-shirts with a political message -- can governments charge sales taxes on those?  What about the lawn service I pay to have a beautiful green lawn, which is the ultimate form of suburban expression?

At the end of the day, it is impossible to separate money and commerce and property from speech and expression.  Commerce is the most ubiquitous and important form of free expression we have in this country.  So far, the ACLU seems to acknowledge this fact only for topless dancers and politicians.  I wish they would extend their efforts to protect both free speech and free commerce to the rest of us.

My Favorite Howard Hughes Story

Given the recent fascination with the upcoming Howard Hughes biopic, as well as any number of other articles on his life (this article covers some of the more eccentric parts left out of the movie)  I remembered my favorite Hughes story. 

Howard Hughes loved watching movies at night.  Now, this won't seem too odd to most of us, since many people, myself included, have spent a few late nights watching an old movie on cable or on the DVD player.  However, Hughes had a problem.  He liked to watch movies of his choosing in his own room on top of the Desert Inn in Las Vegas before anyone had dreamed up HBO or the VCR. 

Hughes was not daunted by this small problem.  This is the man that bought the Desert Inn when they threatened to evict him.  So, Hughes bought a local TV station.  Each week, the TV station would publish its weekly schedule, including the movies it planned to show each evening;  however, it seldom followed this schedule, because each evening Howard Hughes would call his station and tell them what movie he wanted to see, and that would be what they broadcast.  So, in a sense, Howard Hughes invented pay per view TV, though his version was kind of expensive.  Also, the TV station apparently got a lot of complaints for never showing the movie listed in the TV guide.

Quick Convention Scorecard

Here is a quick scorecard of the Convenience Store convention today.

Scope: B decent mix of vendors but repetitious in some odd categories

Relevance to me: C- unfortunately, not many vendors of the type I was looking for

Venue: C Las Vegas convention hall, been there, done that. Positive of new Star Trek show next door offset by the fact the monorail was broken and traffic, as usual, sucked.

Food and Bev: A+ Awesome. This is basically 60% a snack food show and everyone had samples. Plus, all the beer manufacturers there in the middle pouring cold ones

Booth Babes: B- Kind of disappointing -- couldn't hold a candle to the consumer electronics or even better, the auto shows. Would have been a C+ but presence of vendor booths for Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler staffed, uh, how you might think they would be staffed, brought up the score.

Other: B+ Got two good autographs, one from Raleigh Fingers (sp?) and one from Ed McCaffery. Skipped on the centerfold and Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader autograph lines (which, interestingly enough, were filled with women waiting for autgraphs).

Feet are killing me.

Blogging in Las Vegas

I am blogging today from Las Vegas, here for the convenience store convention. We run a number of small stores in our campgrounds and marinas, and I am trying to figure out how to make these operations more sophisticated.

I don't know if anyone else feels this way, but I am always a bit self-conscious at a convention. The whole thing is so stereotypical from TV and movies and so predictable from past experience, it somehow becomes kind of a caricature of itself. I always feels like a bit of a schmuck walking around with my little badge and doing that predictable little dance with vendors.

Thank God, though, that I am not working the convention tables as an exhibitor any more. "Have you seen the new model T-1000?" Uggh. And the stodgy companies I worked for never even had booth babes.