Several possible “remedies” have been suggested to help fund healthcare reform. Proposals include a tax on soft drinks and other high-carbohydrate foodstuffs. Wouldn’t this have the added benefit of curbing the American habit of consuming the junk that leads to obesity and diabetes? At first glance, that may seem like a reasonable proposal, but there are some very big issues beneath such a tactic.
Why not move a step closer to the source and impose that tax on sugar and corn syrups when they are manufactured (or when sold to the ‘junk’ food manufacturers)? This would be more efficient to administer and easier to collect. But how would we be assured that the funds created by such a move go directly to lowering health insurance costs? Generally speaking, funds generated by such plans are easily diverted.
However, the deeper question is that of a “sin” tax. Ours is a free market system. Taxing things we don’t “like” or “immoral” goods and activities is a slippery slope. And Constitutional scholars would argue that isn’t the government’s job.
Few would argue that soft drinks and junk food don’t contribute to our society’s obesity and diabetes problems. Nevertheless, the problem isn’t in the foods. It is within us, the people who consume these products like there is no consequence or tomorrow. Should the triathlon athlete be forced to pay a tax on his Snickers bar? Shall we tax chemicals which can be used to make dangerous non-food items as well? Let’s start with fertilizer, then. And since extreme sports can be dangerous (and add wear and tear to joints which will cost to repair later) perhaps there should be a tax on products like skis and snowboards, surfboards, skateboards, mountain bikes and on and on? After all, those activities aren’t necessary either.
Better eating and exercise practices must be taught and learned. Using force of law may seem like a quick and convenient solution, but it’s just a bandage. Consuming junk is a problem, but levying taxes against certain types of things might not be the best answer. Both the disease and cure both lie within us, as a nation.