Should We Tax Sodas and Junk Food to Pay for Health Care?

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Mr. Johnson
weighed nearly a ton.
And drank pop ’til his health came undone.
His kidneys turned blue
But he said, "I’ve got two."
"So I’ll drink ’til I only lose one."

The debate
over health care reform has run smack into a brick wall of economic
reality. There’s just not enough money to pay for all the disease
in America, it seems, and now lawmakers are desperately searching
for new sources that might bridge the financial gaps. Their latest
scheme involves taxing sodas with a three-cent tax to raise an extra
$24 billion over the next four years.

At first, taxing
soda might seem
like a good idea. Sodas, after all, promote diabetes,
obesity, bone loss and many other costly health
conditions. It only stands to reason that people who drink soda
should pay a little more towards a national health

But there are
problems with this idea of a soda tax. For starters, it’s a highly
regressive tax that ultimately gets paid mostly by low-income, low-education
people (the kind of people who drink a lot of soda). It’s a tax,
in other words, on those who can least afford it.

Another problem
with such a tax is that if the U.S. government is going to use taxes
to modify consumer behavior, it would seem prudent to first end
the government subsidies on sugar
that have existed since World War II. Why are we still using taxpayer
dollars to lower the price of sugar when refined white sugar contributes
so much to our nation’s health problems?

the rest of the article

6, 2009

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