Despite opposition from two-thirds of Americans, President Obama has latched onto exploring one proposal to raise billions of dollars for health care reform through so-called “lifestyle taxes” on soft drinks.
Not only would a tax on pop (or food, or alcohol) generate big bucks, supporters claim, but it would also supposedly drive down medical costs by reducing rates of obesity.
That sounds good in theory, but is flat in reality. Evidence demonstrates that arbitrary taxes will not reduce health care costs. Rather, lifestyle taxes represent another “get rich quick” scheme by Congress, which doesn’t approve of many of its constituents’ lifestyles.
The sudden rise of beverage tax endorsements is rooted in a “for your own good” social engineering dogma that injects the government further into vending machines, liquor cabinets, and ultimately our private lives. It’s the kind of politics that thinks that your decisions about what to eat and drink are better left to a few self-appointed activist groups in Washington.
The tax code shouldn’t be a tool for punishing companies who make beverages that some people choose to consume. Nor should it be an instrument for penalizing individuals who make “bad” food choices.
Here’s what proponents of these lifestyle taxes aren’t telling you: Taxing soft drinks isn’t going to cure America’s obesity “epidemic.”
There’s not a single compelling study that suggests taxing sodas at the level being discussed affects levels of obesity. An analysis this year concluded that, to actually make a dent in the obesity rate, Congress would need a 1,200 percent tax on soda. That means a 75 cent can of soda would be taxed $9. (Better hope the vending machine takes $10 bills.)
Taxes on food and drinks will hurt low-income Americans the most. That’s because poorer Americans spend a greater percentage of their income on food and drink than high-income consumers.
One group leading the soda tax crusade is the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), champions of the government-knows-best attitude. CSPI’s leader, Food Police Chief Michael Jacobson, testified in front of a U.S. Senate committee in May in favor of soda taxes.
CSPI is looking to the government to raid your fridge, and not in a good way. Consider that in the past Jacobson has endorsed taxes on meat, butter, cheeses, and whole milk.
Today it’s taxes on soda; tomorrow it’s the rest of your pantry (or beer fridge).
The invasive philosophy behind lifestyle taxes is nothing new to the administration. Cass Sunstein, who was confirmed last week to lead the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, demonstrates another example of the government butting into Americans’ personal choices. Sunstein co-wrote the book “Nudge,” which argues that government regulations should intervene and nudge us toward making government-approved lifestyle choices — namely, what Sunstein and his bullies decide is best for us.
And while Sunstein suggests incremental nudges, it would seem the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) new director Thomas Frieden supports knockdown, drag-out fights in the name of turning private choices into a matter of public health.
Frieden was widely known as New York City’s command-and-control Health Commissioner until he took the helm at the CDC in June. And at the CDC Frieden hasn’t wasted any time in his new, national position, calling for a soda tax in July.
Americans know a scam when they see one. Along with widespread opposition to a soda tax, over 70 percent oppose such taxes on high-calorie foods, with half of the respondents strongly disapproving.
It’s time to slam the door on the food cops before they get their foot in it. These taxes need to be stopped before they begin, or the only barrier between the government and our personal choices will be a politician’s imagination.