Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Soda Tax Lacks Fizz

The proposal by Governor Paterson to tax regular soft drinks-and leave the diet sodas alone-is a direct tax on those New Yorkers that can least afford it; and, of course, it is all done in the name of health-forcing the folks to be healthy whether they like it or not. Here's the point-counterpoint from health experts in the take from the NY Times this morning: "Nutrition experts expressed mixed views on the proposal. “It’s an interesting experiment and one that’s worth trying,” said Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. “The theory behind this approach is that it worked for cigarettes, and that soft drinks are demonstrably related to obesity in children.” Connie B. Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis and a past president of the American Dietetic Association, was skeptical. “Generally, taxing food doesn’t change long-term behaviors with respect to appropriate food choices,” she said. Combating obesity requires a broader approach, with lifestyle changes and better education, she said."

The reactions from the folks themselves is more direct and to the point: "“There’s plenty of ways to raise money without hurting people who drink soda,” said Nelson Cross, 31, who emerged from Papa’s Fried Chicken in East New York, Brooklyn, with a box of takeout and a bottle of Pepsi." And the class nature of the tax wasn't lost on some: "But Javier Fuertes, 43, general manager of the Fine Fare supermarket, said the soda tax would have a strong impact, “especially in this neighborhood,” because of its low incomes. “It’s a very poor neighborhood,” he said. “Maybe in the rich neighborhoods, it doesn’t affect them as much."

These kinds of taxes are designed to obfuscate just how much the governor is looking to extract from all of us-and how little he's doing to restructure how government does its expensive governing. As Jacob Gershman writes in the NY Post: "PATERSON PUNTS BUDGET DODGES TOUGH DECISIONS." And, as he goes on to say: "Anticipating a tough Republican challenge in 2010, he's trying to position himself as a fiscally responsible Democrat in the mold of Hugh Carey. Thus, he yesterday called his spending plan a bold model of "disciplined and cost-effective state government." Yet Paterson's $121 billion budget reminds Albany veterans of the ones favored by then-Gov. Mario Cuomo amid the early '90s recession: an even-handed spreading of pain, an astonishing array of taxes - and an absence of large-scale change."

We're gonna need for boldness and creativity in Albany-half measures are pretty lame. Paterson is talking like Clint Eastwood, and governing more like Pee Wee Herman, he needs to be even more forceful in reducing the state's tax burden-while simultaneously reducing the size of state government.