I don’t usually address local or statewide issues on this site, but indulge me if you will for a moment. I live, as I’ve said many times before in Syracuse, New York. I am also, unfortunately, still a smoker. Patches, hypnosis, Wellbutrin, acupuncture, cold turkey…doesn’t matter, I can’t shake it. I know a guy who was a heroin addict for over twenty years and he’s been clean for a decade at least, yet he still can’t quit smoking. Just too hard. Be that as it may, I still buy cigarettes; being by necessity thrifty, I go to the local Indian reservation to buy them. Now, this piece is not about cigarettes per se, it’s about Tribal Sovereignty.
You see, Native American smoke shops can buy and sell cigarettes without paying state or federal sales tax…same with gasoline. Now, aside from cool stuff like the fact that the Onondaga Nation, where I buy my cigarettes, is in the middle of a lawsuit involving the environmental clean-up of around 4,000 square miles of their ancestral lands…they’re suing for ownership, but they don’t want money or the land, they just want Whites to clean up the mess they made… one of the major perks of living near the reservation is tax free cigarettes, which are about $2.00 less than I pay in a local store. Of course, non-Native cigarette shops and gas stations near the various Reservations in New York see this as a huge disadvantage to their businesses, and rightly so. New York State, always looking for a some extra cash, also wants the Native smoke shops and gas stations to pay tax for selling goods to Whites like everyone else. But is putting local White businesses at an economic disadvantage or denying the state extra tax revenue illegal, or even morally wrong? I don’t thinks so, and here’s why:
Let’s say you live in Vermont near the New Hampshire border. You can drive across that border and buy anything…gas, clothes, food, whatever…and not pay state sales tax. New Hampshire just doesn’t collect it. Or say you live near the Canadian border and cross over to buy your medications or pretty much anything there for less than you can get them in the States. Until recently at least, New Yorkers could go to New Jersey and get gas a whole lot cheaper because while Jersey charges taxes, they’re a lot less than New York’s. None of that is illegal (except technically the Canadian medication thing, but that’s just the drug lobby), nor should it be. Why? Because each state and country involved is a sovereign entity and can do what they want. So why should the Indian Nations, who are by treaty with both their individual states and the federal government sovereign nations, be treated any differently?
Yes, it puts local White businesses at a disadvantage. But ask any hardware store if Lowes or Home Depot puts them at a disadvantage, sales tax or no. Or WalMart or Sam’s Clubs. For that matter, ask any American manufacturer, farmer or supplier of goods from autos to oranges if overseas seller’s put them at a disadvantage. Like it or not, that’s the way capitalism works. Now, add to this the several centuries of Whites regularly screwing Native Americans out of pretty much whatever they felt like, from their land to their language and traditions to their very lives. Were we as Americans all that concerned about the disadvantages, economic or otherwise that we put Native Americans at? Not really; it was easier to sell reproductions of paintings and bronze statues mourning the “Vanishing Noble Savage” than it was to give them schools where they could teach their children their own languages and traditions along with math and science, give them their lands back, or even just pay them a fair wage for their work.
But as soon as Native Americans figured out some ways to make a buck or two (or in the case of casinos, a couple of million bucks) we Whites want a piece of it. Casinos and cigarettes are bad for White people, but they’re working out pretty well for Native Americans, a group that since we hit these shores haven’t had much luck with anything. Should we punish them for their minor successes? Suddenly we cry foul and want the playing field leveled. Bear in mind, every business who suffers from having an Indian Reservation smoke shop nearby is located on land that was once owned free and clear by the very Indians they accuse of hurting those businesses.
A better idea may be for all Whites to stop smoking and gambling. Or revive that old “BUY AMERICAN” slogan and fly to Vegas, Tahoe and Atlantic City to throw away their money like true patriots in White owned casinos. Of course, New York would still lose that revenue, especially if those gamblers picked up a few cartons of smokes wherever they found a lower price, like Nevada.
Native Americans aren’t holding a gun to our heads and forcing us to buy their gas and cigarettes or gamble in their casinos…if they did we’d no doubt start shooting them again. And while I’m doing my best to quit smoking, until I do I’m going to search out the cheapest prices I can find for cigarettes, like I try to find the cheapest prices for everything else I buy. I pay income tax, property tax and sales taxes on 99.5% of everything I buy to the state of New York; they can get along without my cigarette tax. Or, if they really want honest competition, they can lower it. That would show those Indians.