Argh. Can our debate on health care and taxes get any worse at this point?
After New York tried – and failed – to tax sugary soft drinks as part of a so-called “fat tax”, you’d think the matter would be put to rest. But that’s far from how our Senate works. If it doesn’t work, let’s, er, try it?
It should come as no surprise, then, that the Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Senate is considering such a tax at the national level to help pay for health care reform. You’ve got to be kidding.
First of all, I believe that we need health care reform. No child, no family should be without proper medical services in the richest country in the world. I don’t think we do it through taxes. How about, oh, I don’t know, revoking the tax exempt status of insurers instead? But I digress.
The party line is that a tax on these beverages might suppress usage and suddenly make us all incredibly healthy. But really, what makes sugary sodas any worse than chocolate? Or potato chips? Or any of that fairly questionable food that you can get at a fast food restaurant?
And it’s not just soda that might be taxed. The Senate is considering proposals to tax all “sugary beverages” which would include traditional sodas like Coca Cola but also drinks like Gatorade and Capri Sun.
You and I know that it’s all about money. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that a tax on these drinks could raise about $24 billion over four years. A lot of money. But only a drop in the giant bucket that is our deficit.
Of course, the American Beverage Association is fighting the proposed tax. Studies have shown that increasing the tax will likely decrease consumption – something that the industry doesn’t want. It’s a fairly powerful lobby so passing such a tax won’t be a small feat.
And I’ll come clean: I don’t drink sugary drinks. I’m a coffee (black, no cream, what are you – nuts?) and Diet Coke kind of girl. My kids do not drink soft drinks of any kind or Kool Aid. They drink milk, water and juice (yes, sugary but not added sugar). So such a tax wouldn’t affect me. But man, is it a slippery slope. When does the Senate decide that taxing sugary soft drinks aren’t enough? When do we slap a national tax on coffee or orange juice? Or milk?
Tax has always been used to modify behavior (think about why you own your home, rather than rent). But these days, it feels like it’s going too far. What do you think?