Although the so-called Gang of Six's proposal for averting debt-ceiling catastrophe is getting the lion's share of attention right now, Representative Jared Polis has floated some revenue-raising ideas of his own, which the media has largely winnowed down to this: Legalizing marijuana would help close the budget gap. But if that shortchanges some of his other notions, Polis's spokesman isn't complaining.
"You can't really blame the media for focusing on a controversial issue when you raise a controversial issue," says Polis communications director Chris Fitzgerald. "If it brings attention to 'outside the box' deficit reduction solutions that help avoid cuts to Medicare or income tax increase on middle class families, so be it."
The generator of this PR was "Raise Revenue, Not Taxes," a piece Polis penned for the Wall Street Journal. After complaining about Republicans who "risk taking 'no new taxes' to entirely new heights, labeling any attempt to increase federal revenues as a tax increase," and Democrats guilty of making "even minor entitlement adjustments off-limits," he offers a series of proposals to increase the flow of dollars into federal coffers.
First up -- requiring the ten million immigrants living in America illegally to "get right with the law and pay back-taxes and fees," generating an estimated $5.4 billion, and probably more. Secondly, he suggests legalizing and regulating online gaming -- a move that could produce another $42 billion in revenue.
Then, and only then, does Polis get around to marijuana. He argues that "by reducing the current 100% confiscatory tax on marijuana to more reasonable levels, we can make revenues increase. If we were to nationally legalize, regulate and reduce federal taxes on marijuana, we could receive as much as $2.4 billion in additional revenue annually, according to a 2005 study conducted by Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron."
In addition, Polis advocates "a one-year amnesty program for federal taxpayers" that could "provide $800 billion to $1 trillion in additional revenues over 10 years" -- a sum derived from an estimate by economist Arthur Laffer.
That's four proposals, with marijuana not mentioned until two-thirds of the way through the piece -- and of the quartet, Polis's suggested weed change would result in the second-least amount of dough. Nonetheless, Fox News' online piece spurred by the editorial is headlined "Could Reducing Tax on Marijuana Help Solve Budget Battle?," and the topic dominates an interview with the net. Here's the clip, in which Polis is interviewed by Chris Cotter, subbing for Neil Cavuto.
Fitzgerald has no complaints about this piece, in part because it might bring more notice to his proposals as a whole. "Obviously, we would hope all the ideas he's putting forward would be seriously considered," he says. "He raised a series of proposals he feels can increase revenue without raising taxes, and without making deep and serious cuts to initiatives like Medicare. And when people hear about them, they seem very excited that he's willing to raise 'outside the box' solutions."
Regarding the current economic crisis, be it real or manufactured, Fitzgerald points out that "Congressman Polis said early on he wants a clean up or down vote on the debt limit. We need to get this done in order to protect the full faith and credit of the United States."
And if marijuana legalization can help, more power to it.
More from our Politics archive: "Jared Polis and partner Marlin Reis having baby -- but not sharing any details yet."