Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sweet deprivation...

I honestly can't tell you how many decades it's been since I drank a soda. I do, however, remember oh how much I once loved them, even though I knew they were really bad for me. For the longest time, against my best judgment, I just couldn't give them up. Then those blessed folks in Congress---like good parents delivering tough love to their wayward child---came to my rescue and passed the soda tax, forcing up the price of a bottle of pop. Yep, that extra twenty cents was enough incentive to get me off those sugary killers once and for all. Thank goodness the politicians at the time knew better than I what was in my best interest, and had the power to force me to do what I otherwise hadn't the willpower to accomplish on my own.

Okay, you can stop scratching your head, there was no soda tax passed several decades ago. I stopped drinking sodas because I---all by my naive little self---decided that they just weren't good for me.

But, you know, I do other things that just aren't good for me. I seem to never get enough sleep, for example. And if that keeps up, I presume it'll show up in the form of an extended hospital stay at some point in my future. And I bet I'm not the only bloke out there who abuses himself, and ultimately puts pressure on "our" healthcare system, in such a manner. Maybe Congress will pass a law requiring every American to wear a sleep monitor connected to a government agency charged with monitoring our sleep habits and taxing (at, say, a penny per minute) those of us who don't get a full 8 hours a night. Surely that would force me to take better care of myself.

So, back to sodas: Mark Bittman, NY Times OP-Ed writer, lauds "the brave and beloved 12-term congresswoman from New Haven", Rosa DeLauro, for introducing a bill that would require a national sales tax on sugar-sweetened beverages:
The SWEET Act (as she’s calling it) would amend the I.R.S. code and charge a penny per teaspoon of sugar, high-fructose corn syrup or other caloric sweeteners — “to be paid by the manufacturer, producer or importer of such products.” This would mean roughly a dime per can of soda, closer to 20 cents for a 20-ounce bottle or most medium-size soft drinks at restaurants. (Remember 6.5-ounce Cokes? The 20-ounce standard in part explains the obesity crisis.)

And the tax revenue would go to the Prevention and Public Health Fund established by the Affordable Care Act. Just how it would be used can’t be predicted, but DeLauro suggests a variety of smart measures, including subsidies for fruits and vegetables in schools and for SNAP (food stamp) recipients and anti-soda marketing campaigns.

Beyond the insulting paternalism, beyond the gross infringement on our personal liberties, think about that "Prevention and Public Health Fund". Can you imagine a future where such a scheme actually works and eradicates sugary soft drinks. Do you think then that the Prevention and Public Health Fund---that is, the bureaucrats who run the fund, whose livelihoods depend on the perpetual funding of the fund---would celebrate the loss of revenue resulting from the eradication of sugary-drink addiction? Or do you think there's a chance that someday you and I will be forced to wear a government-issued sleep monitor to bed?

I know, that's crazy. I think I drank too much coffee today. Oh, wait a minute! Coffee!!


P.s. This subject matter tends to inspire direct emails from readers who believe that such intrusion is---for the greater good---a legitimate government function. To them I say no worries. It looks as though those who depend on the Prevention and Public Health Fund are investing (in revenue-raising activities) for the long-term.

From Forbes, May 2013:

Congressional investigators point to documents and federal websites, which detail the spending that critics call “illegal lobbying.” A few of the more than 100 examples cited by critics:
In Washington state, the Prevention Alliance, a coalition of health-focused groups, reported in notes of a June 22, 2012 meeting that the funding for its initial work came from a $3.3 million Obamacare grant to the state Department of Health. It listed a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB), “tobacco taxes,” and increasing “types of outdoor venues where tobacco use is prohibited” as among “the areas of greatest interest and potential for progress.”

The Sierra Health Foundation, in Sacramento, which received a $500,000 grant. in March 2013, described its plans to “seek local zoning changes to disallow fast food establishments within 1,000 feet of a school and to limit the number of fast food outlets,” along with restrictions on fast food advertising. A $3 million grant to New York City was used to “educate leaders and decision makers about, and promote the effective implementation of. . . a tax to substantially increase the price of beverages containing caloric sweetener.”

A Cook County, Ill. report says that part of a $16 million grant “educated policymakers on link between SSBs [sugar-sweetened beverages] and obesity, economic impact of an SSB tax, and importance of investing revenue into prevention.” More than $12 million in similar grants went to groups in King County, Wash. to push for changes in “zoning policies to locate fast-food retailers farther from . . . schools.” And Jefferson County, Ala., spent part of a $7 million federal grant promoting the passage of a tobacco excise tax by the state legislature.

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