Pubdate: Fri, 20 Sep 2013
Source: Philadelphia Daily News (PA)
Copyright: 2013 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.
Author: Stu Bykofsky


IN RECENT WEEKS, I have written about our educational crisis, taking 
the side of the teachers. I did that for several reasons - gratitude 
to them for holding steady the ladder of education I climbed; 
sympathy for their plight, enduring the attack on all working people 
that a sluggish economy brings, and offense at how teachers are 
scapegoated for the ineptitude of too many parents, administrators 
and politicians.

What I haven't said is who should get the bill for education.

A society pays for what it values. We value freedom and democracy, so 
we pay a lot for defense. Too much, some say. Many of us are less 
willing to pay for another basic, education.

Without education, we are doomed to fall behind other parts of the 
world. We're already behind populous countries such as Korea and 
Japan, but we also have fallen behind tiny states, such as Finland 
and Singapore.

Well-paid teachers is not the whole answer, but it is part of the 
answer. But who gets the bill?

The "easiest" solution is to increase current taxes, but taxpayers 
are stressed out and wealthier earners can be chased out, to the suburbs.

We shouldn't victimize a class of people with additional "sin" taxes, 
such as the mayor's ill-advised idea to add $2 to the cost of a pack 
of cigarettes. That falls hardest on the poor, among whom smoking 
rates are the highest, and it is self-defeating. If high cost forces 
smokers to quit (a desirable goal) it also reduces the money that 
comes from taxing cigarettes. Pretty soon, we are back where we started.

We need a new stream of revenue, one that will expand rather than shrink.

As much as I don't like the idea, the time has come for Pennsylvania 
to legalize marijuana. Since it will become legal eventually, we can 
harvest a major benefit from this crop.

Weed is a growth industry. It'll make what we can get from fracking 
look like McNuggets.

The enabling method is to legalize "medical" marijuana, then expand 
it, as Washington and Colorado have done.

As the potheads have been saying for decades (when not giggling and 
stuffing their faces with Cheetos) pot's less harmful than cigarettes 
and alcohol, and will yield billions once it's government regulated and taxed.

The Philadelphia D.A. has declined to go after tokers, so pro-pot can 
start in Philadelphia. The U.S. government, while waggling a finger 
at Washington and Colorado, does not prosecute. Since grass is the 
(nonalcoholic) drug of choice of most Americans, legalization will 
deliver a huge blow to criminal drug gangs.

As much as I don't like it - because we don't need any more mentally 
fogged Cheeches and Chongs - America is moving toward accepting 
legalized pot just as it is toward gay marriage.

Politically, Democrats favor it because, well, Democrats always 
embrace "change." That's how they're built. Libertarians will like it 
because it's less government in their private practices. Republicans 
(from tea party to moderate) ought to like it because it doesn't 
affect them, because none of them toke. (Yeah, right.)

If you can envision state stores that sell booze, now envision state 
stores that sell pot for "medicinal purposes." Medical marijuana is 
already legal in 20 states.

Unlike tobacco sales, which are declining, the use of grass will 
climb once legalized. Receipts should be earmarked for education, and 
maybe infrastructure.

As I said, I don't like it, but sometimes the cold breath of harsh 
reality forces you to change your cherished beliefs.

So, roll 'em and smoke 'em - after you've been taxed for 'em. Enjoy 
your high. It's all for the kids.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom