Texas Taxes Tassled Titties

The Texas legislature needs a lesson in American government 101.

On January 1, the state will start taxing strip clubs $5 for every customer who shows up to watch some bare flesh. That’s bad enough, but the state plans to use most of the money it raises to help rape victims.

This is a shocking abuse of power, and a repulsive attempt to link two completely unrelated activities—strip club attendance and rape. There is no data anywhere that people who do one are more likely to do the other. Members of the legislature should be ashamed at their obvious pandering to the public’s emotions. Who’s going to say “I’m against helping rape victims”?

The 2007 bill was sponsored by State Representative Ellen Cohen (D-Houston). She is also the president of a women’s center that could receive financing from the new law. Her bizarre “reasoning” insults the intelligence of anyone within earshot: “This is an industry that largely employs women, and [the tax] gives them an opportunity to raise funds for a crime that affects women,” Cohen said.

Other industries that routinely employ mostly women include supermarkets, hospitals, and nail salons. Why not tax them extra, giving them the same “opportunity”?

The strip clubs are protesting based on a technicality of Texas’ tax structure rather than as an infringement of their right to free expression. Legal strategies that emphasize free expression are, sadly, not always popular with prudish juries or prejudiced judges.

But according to American law, legislators can’t single out activities they don’t like—such as nude dancing—and burden them with special taxes. Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law expert at George Washington University notes that “Laws like this would expose any unpopular industry to punitive taxes. It could be abortion clinics.” Or stores selling Western shirts to overweight non-cowboys.

While the Texans who want to tell everyone else how to live fume over the rights of those evil club owners, and everyone ignores the rights of the dancers who will lose their jobs because smaller clubs can’t pay the tax, what about the consumers?

Consumers of foreign cars yell loudly when the government tries to raise import duties, and consumers of Chinese products yell loudly when it’s revealed that they’re made with near-slave labor. What about strip club consumers? Where is their voice, as their recreation is smeared as a precursor to rape, and their clubs are slapped with vicious million-dollar tax bills?

Increasingly, if you want a lap dance, you have to be willing to stand up and demand your right to buy one. Of course, if you’re hiding your hobby from your wife, or your employer thinks your periodic private pleasure makes you unfit to work, you’ll be pretty slow to identify yourself and air your grievance.

And there’s the failure of democracy when it comes to sexual rights. The marketplace of ideas only works effectively when people can discuss things on a level playing field. The decency police who want to dictate the way everyone lives are counting on their victims feeling intimidated and silently bending over as their rights are removed.

Anatomically, you lose your lap when you stand up. Ironically, Texans will lose their lap dance if they don’t stand up.

Deluded puritans like Ellen Cohen expect that discouraging men from going to strip clubs will somehow discourage them from raping women. And what will men do with all that extra time? Undoubtedly, they’ll take up knitting and share their feelings more.


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One Response to “Texas Taxes Tassled Titties”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    […] has passed law after law attempting to rid the internet of pornography. Texas recently passed a law requiring strip clubs to pay a special tax of $5 per head (no jokes, […]

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