Monday, December 29, 2008

Taxing for Health

We've said it for some time now. Once you accept that it is the legitimate role of government to coerce people into healthier living, there's no end to the ways that you can devise in your pursuit of an unobtainable health utopia. So from Bloomberg's green carts (a total failure and waste of government funds) and menu labeling, we proceed now to the obesity tax and the YouTube efforts of the state health commissioner.

Commissioner Daines is now the governor's point man on this purported health intervention. As Liz B tells us: "State Health Commissioner Richard Daines has become the point man for one of the more controversial of Gov. David Paterson's revenue-generating budget proposals: The so-called "fat tax" - an 18 percent levy on sugary drinks like non-diet soda. Daines, a Spitzer administration holdover who generally keeps a fairly low profile, has recorded a YouTube manifesto in defense of the tax, which the administration insists is really more about health care policy than making money off soda-drinking New Yorkers."

And Daines responds to his critics who question why you would pick on soda when there are so many things that are fattening: "Some have suggested that the state is unfairly picking on the soda industry and asked why, if this is indeed a policy initiative, the governor doesn't push things to their logical conclusion by taxing everything that's fattening - from Twinkies to french fries - or perhaps even adopt Assemblyman Felix Ortiz's proposal of cutting to the chase and taxing overweight people themselves. Daines' response was quite Spitzeresque: Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."

Of course, Daines has no evidence that an 18% tax on soda will have the desired result-after all, cigarette taxes that supposedly do work, are as close to confiscatory as you can get. That doesn't daunt Daines, however: "The side benefits, according to Daines, include the fact that cutting down on soda saves money for consumers and whittling the state's collective waistline could save money for taxpayers in the form of fewer obesity-related health problems that need to be treated - particularly for Medicaid recipients."

So what we have here is a classic case of misdirection-with Daines pontificating about health, while Paterson takes your money. Sugar, of course, makes for the best slippery slope.