NY Governor Paterson Proposes Soft Drink “Obesity Tax”

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As if there aren’t enough taxes, you could soon be paying more for soda.

In an effort to close the $15 billion state budget gap, New York Governor David Paterson is calling for a 15 percent tax on soft drinks.

If you drink diet, you’re okay. The tax would only be imposed on regular, non-diet soft drinks.

The logic: it could generate more than $400 million while helping to curve obesity.

For that reason some public health advocates support the soda tax, hoping it will lead to healthier choices.

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The first thing I thought when I heard this story, was why just non diet soda? Aren’t there many different things that could be deemed unhealthy in excess? Why not non-lean meat, non low-sodium corn or soups, or non whole wheat bread? The list could be endless. Of course what people consider healthy is debatable. I live a mostly low carb lifestyle… however, there are many that believe in the low-fat lifestyle. Then if you are highly athletic you are able to consume a lot more carbs and fats than non athletic people. Perhaps a tax on non-athletic people is in order.

As a Libertarian, I obviously don’t support any tax on people specifically to modify their behavior. The real reason for the proposed tax is to help the city’s budget. Cigarette smokers have been targeted by government mandated taxes for years with the reasoning that cigarette smokers cause a higher level of burdens on the healthcare system. However, why aren’t these funds set aside to provide healthcare just for cigarette smokers if this is the case? Are they planning on setting aside the non diet soda taxes for just non diet soda drinkers? Of course not. The funds would most likely go into a general fund to fund whatever the government chooses.

I think the real issue too is people who consume healthcare services, but don’t pay for them. This group of people is often usually on some form of government assistance for food. Wouldn’t it be easier and fairer to simply not allow taxpayer money to be spent on unhealthy foods? I know that a good portion of the food provided by food shelves are fairly nutritious… why not have all people on assistance get their food there if they want the assistance, then they would be eating healthier.

Also, health insurance should be based on lifestyle choices. For example, here in Vermont we have community rating, which means that everyone pays the same rate as others without any increases or decreases in premiums for lifestyle choices. That doesn’t seem right to me. Why does someone who does nothing to try to moderate their diet or does no exercise and is 100 pounds overweight pay the same premium as someone who monitors their weight daily and does 30 mins of exercise a day… or why should someone who engages in risky sports such as down-hill skiing pay the same rate as someone that doesn’t do any risky sports? My wife and I don’t currently have health insurance… when we did, we didn’t think much about our health, as it wasn’t a concern when you have full health coverage. However, since we lost our insurance, it became a major factor. Since losing our insurance we have significantly modified our diets, exercised almost everyday and reduced my weight from 250 pounds to 180 pounds. I’m not sure if this would have happened if we hadn’t lost our insurance. I would imagine I would done the same if the health insurance premium would be cut in half… it would be a huge incentive. The point is that offering a significant incentive (that is voluntary), is a much better, fairer way to get people to modify their behavior rather than through forced taxes, which don’t usually even directly benefit the person being taxed.

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