Taxpayers and consumers won an important victory as the fifth session of the Conference of the Parties to the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) [COP5] finished their meeting without raising tobacco taxes. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) has long been critical and concerned about tobacco taxes pushed by the WHO and led an international effort to stop these taxes. The WHO, an agency of the United Nations, proposed a $.05, $.03, or $.01 cent tax on tobacco products, depending on the wealth of the country where the products are being sold. This tax increase was aggressively pursued with no regard to the potential economic impacts of such a policy. According to the WHO, “Do not allow concerns about employment impact to prevent tobacco tax increases,” and “Do not allow concerns about the inflationary impact of higher tobacco taxes to deter tax increases.” Click here to see TPA’s work and read the petition that was circulated. TPA Senior Fellow Drew Johnson has been in Seoul, South Korea, reporting on the meeting. The following is an account of Drew’s work (click here for a previous blog posting from Drew on the meeting).
On Tuesday, the United Nations gave Americans yet another reason not to trust their tax dollars, policy decisions or military forces with the increasingly outlandish international organization. The World Health Organization – the UN’s public health policy arm – kicked the public and the media out of a discussion of a proposed international tobacco tax during its biennial tobacco control meeting. The WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which is meeting this week in the South Korean capital of Seoul, began on a high note. The convention’s member countries on Monday ratified an agreement to fight smuggled and pirated tobacco products. That goodwill was quickly destroyed when delegates of the member countries of the conference stripped the media of the ability to cover the meeting and escorted public onlookers from the premises. The decision to meet behind closed doors occurred when a discussion began about efforts to decrease tobacco use by increasing the price of tobacco products. As the session began, the session’s chairwoman expressed concern that there was a “large presence” of tobacco growers and industry representatives in the public gallery. That would be unsurprising since the discussion has a significant impact on the livelihood of the tens of millions of people employed by tobacco farming and production. The countries then agreed to make the rest of the meeting private.
Every Halloween children and adults alike get their fair share of tricks and treats. The government doesn’t wait until the end of October to shower taxpayers with tricks or treats; it shares these treats or tricks all year long. Let’s take a closer look at some of the tricks and treats from this past year. This year’s tricks include: non-profit environmental organizations receiving tax dollars, The Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS), government funded broadband, and a tax increase proposed by the World Health Organization. Treats include: the selling of wireless spectrum, The Department of Treasury trying to recoup money from a failed energy company, and the passage of enhanced whistleblower protection in the House of Representatives. These are not the only tricks or treats by the government, but the folks at TPA were concerned that if we showed you too many tricks you may not be able to sleep at night, and it was really difficult finding many treats with a debt of $16 trillion and a Congress (especially the Senate) that refuses to cut spending.
Last week the internet was abuzz with the idea that some countries were proposing that the U.N. should take over management of the Internet. Later this year in Dubai, at a meeting of the International Telecommunications Union, the technology arm of the U.N., a plan will be debated that would allow this international body to take over some control of the Internet. According to the Associated Press on June 23, 2102, “Secret negotiations among dozens of countries preparing for a United Nations summit could lead to changes in a global treaty that would diminish the Internet's role in economic growth and restrict the free flow of information.” Allowing the U.N. or some member countries to manage the Internet could result in a myriad of problems. As people often quip, if something is not broken, there is no need to fix it. As Ariel Rabkin told The Weekly Standard in 2009, “The management of the Domain Name System has been largely apolitical, and most of the disputes that have arisen have been of interest only to insiders and the technology industry. IANA [Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, operated on behalf of the Commerce Department] has concerned itself with fairly narrow questions like ‘Should we allow names ending in .info?"’ Commercial questions about ownership of names, like other property disputes, are settled in national courts.’” Rabkin as noted that allowing international government bodies to manage the internet could result in more problems like such as “Domain names presenting political questions. Which side in a civil war should control Pakistan's Internet domain. . . ” and the “Control of Internet names could become a lever to impose restrictions on Internet content.”
This week, taxpayer groups from around the world are meeting in Kiev, Ukraine at the 2012 World Taxpayers Associations Members' Conference to share experiences and discuss ways to make the taxpayer movement stronger around the globe. One of the many topics of discussion will be international taxation and how international bodies such as the United Nations and the European Union (EU) are trying to institute global tax regimes and the destructive nature of these tax regimes to a country’s sovereignty. Increasing taxes threatens any potential economic recovery, and, let’s not forget, when any elected or non-elected body collects taxes, there is a propensity to waste that money through bloated, inefficient, and unaccountable bureaucracies. In an effort to heighten awareness and stop these tax increases, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance will be on a panel discussing these issues and circulating a petition to try and stop these international tax regimes (see petition here).
The United Nations has been very busy these days with talk of taking over the Internet and the World Health Organization (WHO) moving at lightning speed to implement new tobacco taxes. According to The Daily Caller, “On Feb. 27, a diplomatic process will begin in Geneva that could result in a new treaty giving the United Nations unprecedented powers over the Internet. Dozens of countries, including Russia and China, are pushing hard to reach this goal by year’s end. As Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said last June, his goal and that of his allies is to establish ‘international control over the Internet’ through the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a treaty-based organization under U.N. auspices.” The WHO describes its new tax regime, The Solidarity Tobacco Contribution (STC) as "a novel approach developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) in response to the recommendation made by the High-Level Taskforce on Innovative Financing for Health Systems to ‘expand the mandatory solidarity levy on airline tickets and explore the technical viability of other solidarity levies on tobacco and currency transactions.’” Both actions could mean bad news for consumers and taxpayers.