According to a report on CNN this morning (September 17) and in the Wall Street Journal, Senators are considering a one-cent per ounce tax on soda. This tax happy administration and Congress, I fear, is just getting started.
This will come as a shock to precisely no one: the entire tax code is manipulative. Congress uses tax law to incentivize and punish a broad range of behaviors—home ownership, savings plans, and smoking, to name a few. But taxing soda is a new reach for our government.
The benefits of home ownership may be debatable but it’s difficult to argue that there are significant downsides. Saving money is almost universally accepted as a good thing—who doesn’t benefit from saving and fiscal responsibility? Smoking, while an individual choice, has indisputable negative health consequences for everyone who smokes (and some of those keeping frequent company with smokers).
Of course, I know where Congress is coming from. I understand the (deluded) sense of duty to help Americans address the growing rates of obesity and diabetes in our country. Yet the scope of this tax is such that it extends the burden even to those who do not feel the POTENTIAL negative consequences of soda consumption.
I count myself lucky and blessed that weight issues have yet to affect me. And I still have all my teeth (despite a youth playing hockey and ex wife). Despite my three cans a day coke habit, I remain comfortably svelte. Blessed indeed, but I am hardly a freakish exception. Many Americans don’t grow fat from drinking soda. Most Americans don’t become diabetic. Why then should a significant number of citizens be punished for a behavior that has no negative consequences for them?
Are we now REQUIRED to be our brother’s keeper? Of all people, I will laud the conservative nature of Americans—give us a tragedy and we will rally like no other people to help our neighbors put their lives back together. Despite Hatfield-and-McCoy-like differences, hard times draw sympathetic Americans together with a sense of shared identity and duty.
This, as they say, ain’t that. Obesity is not a national tragedy requiring shared sacrifice and the mobilization of America’s collective compassion. Robin Hood has apparently been elected to the highest office in the land. Many Americans suffer from peanut allergies. Perhaps we ought to put a one-cent per ounce tax on peanut butter to create a financial disincentive to purchasing that which is bad for the health of some people? Such preposterous measures fail to account for the fact that it’s a personal responsibility to avoid that which is bad for you. ([patient] “Doctor, it hurts when I do this.” [Doctor] “Then don’t do that.”).
The very consideration of this tax, is indicative that the Democrats in power don’t trust Americans to be responsible or capable of solving their own problems. (It might well be argued, though, that in this case they’d be right—obese people can often be found in aisle 11 puzzling over the 23 flavors in Dr. Pepper or the limony zest of Sprite). We see this in the healthcare initiatives proposed by the Democrats and the bailouts approved by this administration—government action is apparently the answer; the people don’t know what’s good for them.
There are proper roles for government, one of which is to make it easier for people to do the right thing. But “what’s right” in this case for some doesn’t have the same imperative for everyone.
Ultimately, this is a poorly disguised cash grab. This is government cloaking their propensity to tax the masses behind a thin veil of benevolence. I fail to see how my not pulling a root beer out of a soda machine because I’m three pennies short of 62 cents is going to slim my portly neighbor.