Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Governor of New York’s “Obesity Tax” – The Absence of Logic and Freedom

The age of credit, bizarre monetary policy and the power of the Federal Reserve have given way to incredible levels of fiscal irresponsibility in all levels of government. State governments now have huge budget deficits which have led to ridiculous proposals such as Governor David Paterson’s “obesity tax.” Bad economic policy has now allowed the government to broaden its horizon to levy taxes on “goodies.” The governor’s proposals also include higher taxes on gasoline, taxi rides, bridge tolls, cable and satellite TV services, cigars, beer, movie and sports event tickets, music downloads (aka the “Ipod" tax), health clubs and spas and much more.

While all these taxes are outrageous and quite indicative of classic liberal “tax and spend” policies, the focus of this column will be on the “obesity tax” because this type of tax leads to a problem far more perplexing than archetypal liberal fiscal policy.

Nutritionists’ efforts to increase awareness and encourage healthy lifestyles are praiseworthy. However, their efforts become misguided when suggestions of a tax are touted. The result leads to a loss of individual freedom and erroneous taxes, as taxes should not be levied to encourage or discourage certain kinds of behavior.

The governor’s proposal will levy an 18 percent tax on soda and other drinks that contain less than 70 percent of real fruit juice. What is next? A “French fry tax?” How about an overall fast food consumption tax? A processed food tax? Taxes on butter? Taxes on meat that is not 95 percent lean? Taxes on pork (a ham tax perhaps?) to offset “pork” barrel spending? The possibilities are endless.

Advocates of the soft drink tax say soft drinks have empty calories, which means there is no nutritional value. While this is a true statement, is it prudent for the government to remove one’s ability to make their own choices? What role do government bureaucrats have in determining what is considered nutrient dense? Where is that line drawn? These are questions that people who are in favor of a national healthcare system must ask themselves.

Crisis is a friend of the state and always comes at the loss of personal and individual freedoms. The Bush Administration has successfully nationalized the banking industry and has laid the groundwork for the largest artificial economic stimulation in America’s history that will be executed by the Obama Administration. One’s freedom to prosper will be in jeopardy when inflation reaches what could be a record high level and further erosion of the dollar sets in which weakens purchasing power.

We now have what is deemed as an “obesity” crisis which calls for the government to step in and levy taxes on unhealthy food products. If the government is going to provide healthcare, it is going to use taxes to discourage unhealthy behavior; and it will eventually extend far beyond a tax on soft drinks.

In conclusion, the government can take care of you for one small price: your freedom.

“Government never takes freedom in one swift move. It regulates and legislates it away, a little at a time– mostly in the name of 'protecting' you.”
–R. E. Bierce

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