Friday, December 19, 2008

Punishing Bad Behavior

Clyde Haberman expounds on the governor's proposed soda tax-as well as some other tax measures that rely on human weaknesses: "Here they go again, the politicians, looking to capitalize on human frailty. With his tax proposals this week, Gov. David A. Paterson joined a long line of New York leaders who have counted on self-wounding, even self-destructive, behavior to help them dig out of budget holes. Mr. Paterson called for a huge tax, 18 percent, on sugary sodas and juice drinks. It’s a public health measure, his lieutenants said — you know, to counter the obesity epidemic."

Haberman's not buying it however: "Sure. The $404 million tax haul that the governor expects next year is merely incidental, right? State budget planners are so confident that New Yorkers will keep guzzling sugar-laden soda that they figure the tax will pull in even more money, $539 million, the following year."

How this accounts for the statement from the governor's office that the tax will reduce soda consumption by 5% is beyond us-but we never bought that argument in the first place; the tax is simply too small to dramatically alter consumption patterns. All it will do is reduce the disposable income of a lot of low income consumers.

And what about the government's own addiction to the revenues? As Haberman underscores: "Make no mistake, the last thing that government wants is for everyone, right this minute, to stop smoking, boozing, gambling and downing those nutritionally empty supersweet sodas. Too much money is at stake." But that won't stop the hypocrites from shrieking about Big Tobacco, or the nefarious mega food corporations; screaming all the way to the bank in this case.