Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Obama Joins The Soda Tax Brigade

If at first you don't succeed, go the failed New York nanny state route? Following calls by Democrats in the US Senate to impose a soda tax, which followed calls by Mayor Mike Bloomberg and NYS Governor David Paterson, President Obama apparently thinks that a soda tax is the way to raise revenues for his health care proposal.
The President, in an interview with Men's Health magazine released yesterday, said he thought taxing soda and other sugary drinks is worth putting on the table as Congress debates health care reform.

"It's an idea that we should be exploring," the president said. "There's no doubt that our kids drink way too much soda. And every study that's been done about obesity shows that there is as high a correlation between increased soda consumption and obesity as just about anything else."

Obama is floating the idea seven months after a storm of protest forced poll-challenged Gov. Paterson to drop his plans for an 18% tax on soda and other sugary drinks.

Despite that debacle, congressional lawmakers have considered soda taxes as one way to cover the cost of revamping the nation's health care system, estimated to eat up much as $1 trillion over the next decade.

But Obama - who works out six days a week and keeps a bowl of apples in the Oval Office - has been largely mum on the controversial topic, at least until now.
I can't even give the President points for originality on this scheme. He's simply retreading the nanny state proposals of none other than New York State Governor David Paterson. It was silly when Paterson proposed the soda tax, and it's just as silly now.

But let's get down to brass tacks. President Obama needs to raise billions of dollars for his proposals. How much would the soda tax have to be to even be worth talking about? He doesn't say.

In fact, the same issues arise now that President Obama broaches the subject as when the Senators (or Gov. Paterson) did. The money raised would be a paltry sum in comparison to what's needed.

A tax of 3 cents per can would raise only $24 billion over 4 years. Paterson proposed a tax of 18%. Bloomberg offered something similar.

Democratic party nanny staters are running out of sins to tax. They find that sin taxes are far easier to digest because they aren't taxes that everyone incurs. Soda taxes are one area that would hit a wide spectrum of the population, and it would also be a regressive tax since the rich would be not nearly as affected by any such tax as the poor and middle class.

It might make more sense to quit subsidizing the sugar industry in the US, which would save $2 billion annually.

If people are truly concerned about obesity and their health, there's a simple solution that doesn't cost a damned thing - and may actually save you money in the short and long term.

Portion control.

You don't need the government to tax soda for better health care. You just have to take control over your own health and food choices.

It's curious that the media is finally paying attention to the tax provisions within the existing versions of the health care bills floating around Washington. That includes the penalties imposed on people who opt not to buy insurance - a tax that would be a $3,800 hit. My readers would have known about that and other taxing provisions weeks ago (stronger penalty provisions as sought by well known tax cheat Charlie Rangel).

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