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Soda tax debate reveals fundamental progressive assertions about your lack of individual rights and the "responsiblities" of the State

I thought it would be at least amusing to use the Delawareliberal comments as sub-headings regarding each category of what is wrong with the proposed tax on sodas and juice drinks. But there are so many different little strands of each comment that it would be impossible to pull them all out. So, instead, I'm going to let you read them in more or less the order they appeared, and note the assumptions.

pandora: I’m perfectly okay with taxing sodas and juice drinks. Mainly because they’re total crap, and one of the main reasons our country’s children are overweight. They are also dirt cheap.


Assumptions here: (1) Because "I" am perfectly okay with a new tax it should be imposed on everybody; (2) it is the government's responsibility to keep children from being obese; (3) the cheapness of the product to be taxed justifies charging people more for it.

John Manifold: Soda fattens your kids [and you and your husband], shortens their lives, costs more than water [and tastes worse]. Soda is a luxury item that is bad for you. It’s a liquid cigarette....

BTW, don’t you love how insecure males toss the term “nanny state” at random? They did it for seat belts, indoor cigs, warning labels, occupational safety, too.


Assumptions here: (1) luxury items are universally acceptable to tax; (2) I get to define what is a luxury item (used to be yachts; now it is $1.35 two-liter soda bottles; (3) anybody who thinks differently than me is insecure...

Unstable Isotope: Most people don’t have a problem with sin taxes. I find Republican rhetoric on obesity & health very strange. They complain about paying for health care for people’s “choices” but are against doing anything to influence people’s choices for the better. I guess they want to go with their tactic of shaming.... I’m OK with taxing – I like libraries, roads, public parks, police departments, fire departments…


Assumptions here: (1) consuming a potentially fattening product constitutes a sin and therefore should be taxable: (2) the word influence has now become a synonym for taxation; (3) government is the appropriate decider of what is better or worse for all individuals and should use the coercive power of taxation to enforce its standards on personal choices

Scott P.: I have no problem with taxing, either, if it raises money for useful ends in a fair manner. Even better if it encourages good, healthy behavior and helps to lower other related costs. The only relevant question here is whether a soda tax will actually accomplish this....

The talk is about placing a small tax, not outlawing them.... You can still drink all you want. And the point is not so much about stopping you from doing something that’s bad for you. The point is about believing that society has a responsibility to try to prevent people from doing things that are bad for others. The downside to excess sugar consumption is not that you get fat — I don’t give a damn how fat and disgusting you get. The downside is that being obese makes you much more likely to develop major (read: expensive) health issues that I and everyone else will have to pay for.


Assumptions here: (1) a small tax should not be a source for argument; (2) government (which is a synonym for society here) is supposed to stop people from doing anything that might be bad for others, no matter how indirect that connection might be; (3) regressive taxes that target poor people [who buy a disproportionate amount of soda] are fair; (4) government should be responsible for paying for the health care of people who make poor lifestyle choices

cassandra: We’re currently subsidizing this behavior now. We control sugar prices and we subsidize corn which is used to make high fructose corn syrup. I see that as government encouraging the wrong behavior. Consumers aren’t stupid – they definitely know they get more bang for their bucks with high calorie food, and fruits and vegetables are more expensive. Plus, we add lots of fats and things to make junk taste good – the food industry is way out in front in the science.

Remember though, I think humans are short term thinkers rather than long term thinkers. It’s not that people don’t recognize that junk food makes them fat, it’s just that they have to make decisions in the now and junk food is cheaper. If we want to encourage people to eat more healthy we need a way to make healthy eating more cost effective and not so much like swimming upstream....

Soda and juice drinks are luxury items — you don’t pay taxes on what you don’t consume in this case, so what you pay for is still under your control.

But cigarettes are luxury items too — and the lesson from taxing them is one of diminishing returns. As cigs got more expensive, people started quitting meaning that tax revenues started not meeting expectations. I don’t think it will be the end of the world to tax sugared sodas and juice drinks, but counting on these taxes as a persistent source of revenue to pay for health care seems short-sighted.


Assumptions here: (1) encourage is a new synonym for taxation; (2) all luxury items [and the government will define what is a luxury] are fair game to tax; (3) it is clearly OK to tax in order to coerce people into changing behaviors rather than to raise revenue

a. price: I dont mind these types of taxes, and long as there is a plan for the revenues. I, for example, with my just scrappin’ by lifestyle wouldn’t mind a 2 dollar a gallon gas tax… $2 extra per gallon whatever the regular price is, as long as all that money went to developing alternative energy sources. First of all, it would raise a ton of money because people need gas, but it would cause the market to demand private companies also use their 11 billion quarterly profits to fix the oil dependency.

By taxing things like sodas, and sugary juices we have the opportunity to use that money to…. help pay for health care maybe? People who buy soda all the time will be buying into to their long term diabeties treatment.

There is nothing wrong with a vice tax. We are allowed to do things that are bad for us.. sugar, smoking, alcohol… if in Vegas.. other things etc. But, if they are going to negatively effect our health, and that will later have to be paid for, why not start building that coffer now?


Assumptions here: (1) Any tax I personally favor is good for the country as long as the money is used for causes I support; (2) the government has the direct ability to make the market perform specific actions through taxation; (3) we do not have a right to our "vices," they are only allowed to us by a benevolent government; (4) but government should tax us to protect us from the negative consequences of our own actions

Thus the three most prevalent liberal/progressive assumptions about the soda tax and the State in general:

1. The government has the responsibility to save us from ourselves, down to the choices we make in the foods and beverages we purchase to put on our tables, either because (a) we are too stupid to choose for ourselves, or (b) any action we ever take might conceivably indirectly raise a cost to somebody else years from now, which effectively justifies anything the government ever chooses to do.

2. Words can be redefined to suit today's political needs. I'm talking basic nouns and verbs here. Taxes are encouragement or influence; there is no coercion involved because you can just decide to give up whatever we are trying to tax. Anything the State does not approve of, in terms of personal conduct, is either a sin, a vice, or a luxury, none of which we have any rights to partake in; instead, we are conditionally allowed under State supervision.

3. Regressive taxes are fair as long as we are proposing them for causes that we declare to be socially acceptable.

Ironically, there is only conflicting rather than conclusive evidence that such a tax would even work to reduce consumption, a sophisticated examination of the market suggests that it would adapt and work around such a tax, and even the Center for Science in the Public Interest admits that the primary result of such a tax would be raising revenue rather than significantly curbing consumption.

There is, of course, the larger issue here that our friends who advocate an increasingly intrusive State never want to talk about straight up: Where is the line that they will not cross? At what point, for those individuals, should the power of the State be reined in by the rights of the individual?

You won't get a straight answer to that question ... ever.

Because just as badly as the religious right wants to police my bedroom and my libraries in the name of saving my soul, the progressive left wants to restrict my food choices and my recreational activities in the name of saving from myself.

Comments

Miko said…
We’re currently subsidizing this behavior now. We control sugar prices and we subsidize corn which is used to make high fructose corn syrup.

Government control of sugar prices (via tarrifs etc.) makes sugar prices higher by approx. 50-60%. Making something more expensive isn't a subsidy. As for HFC, no one would be using it if the government wasn't boosting the cost of sugar already. Seeing as HFC is much worse for us healthwise, chalk this one up in the negative unintended consequences column.
Delaware Watch said…
Oh, please, Steve, give us a break. You are opposed to these kind of taxes as a matter of dogma. Your "arguments" (often caricatures) against these stray comments on DL amount to little more than special pleading. You are opposed to these kinds of taxes even when they work: e.g., it has been incontrovertibly demonstrated that tobacco taxes have significantly cut tobacco use.

Moreover, if your position remains instantiated, instead of doing us any kind of favor, you would actually cost us money in increased health care costs that result from a high incidence of obesity in our nation. You have your head in the sand if you actually believe that the costs of health problems like obesity don't get passed on to everyone. And don't give me any crap about how these taxes wouldn't keep many from consuming as much soda because the soda industry wouldn't be running TV ads against the proposed soda tax if it weren't true.

The benefits of a soda tax are a no brainer to many except those who dogmatically oppose all federal tax increases.
Delaware Watch said…
"There is, of course, the larger issue here that our friends who advocate an increasingly intrusive State never want to talk about straight up: Where is the line that they will not cross? At what point, for those individuals, should the power of the State be reined in by the rights of the individual?"

Slippery slope fallacy.

I doubt very seriously that just because our friends at DL believe it's OK to levy a soda tax that they, say, also believe (or even must believe)it's OK for the state to search and seize property w/o a warrant.

Really, Steve, you sound hysterical here.
keydet aka Townie 76 said…
Steve, there was a great article in Slate earlier this week on this subject. Take a look at it, not all liberals are comfortable with big brother!
Libertarian in Colorado said…
I could make a whole post out of this... but I'll start by saying: Us smokers told you fatties that the government was coming for you guys next.

Want to see the biggest government powergrab since the Great Depression? It'll be government health care... and it'll be for the good of the people and for noble causes such as balancing the budget.

But let's look at Exhibit A:

it has been incontrovertibly demonstrated that tobacco taxes have significantly cut tobacco use.

Holy crap! You mean to tell me that if you tax something you get less of it? Go on crazy guy... next you'll be telling me that if you subsidize something you'll get more of it. That's just crazy talk.

Wait... it gets good....

you would actually cost us money in increased health care costs that result from a high incidence of obesity in our nation

Oh man... this is totally true. The solution is to make sure that EVERYONE'S problems are taken care of. Since then we'll be providing more services, it'll cost us less, magically. The only way to accomplish this is through coercion with the power of state. And the power would be (is) granted by society propping up those that do not wish to take care of and/or insure themselves.

Of course, in the real world with the rest of us, we know that the only way to enforce "good behavior" by the majority is to tax unwanted behavior. There's a term for this: tyranny of the majority.

I don't even drink soda. I don't like it. It's too sweet for me. But I'll be damned if you're gonna get me to agree with a tax on some fatass that likes to have a soda every once in a while.

Why? Because that tax will invariably hit that guy that likes to have a soda once a month. Is that guy a drain on society's coffers?

It'll also hit me every once in a while when i grab a Dr. Pepper when filling up my car (I weight 155 pounds and I'm 6'2".... total fatass... really).

Are you seriously suggesting punishing me for being fat?
Bowly said…
You are opposed to these kind of taxes as a matter of dogma.

I prefer the term "principle"; as in, I have them and you apparently don't. Like any good tyrant, you'll do whatever you feel is necessary at any point in time.

Your "arguments" (often caricatures) against these stray comments on DL amount to little more than special pleading.

He quoted them directly. Their words are right there. You aren't seriously denying that these commenters are attempting to control behavior they don't like via taxation? Oh, of course you aren't, because...

You are opposed to these kinds of taxes even when they work

YES! That's what having principles does for you. Besides, you are question-begging there. You are assuming that what you want (people to stop smoking) is a desirable goal. But we view that as suppression of freedom. People are free to make bad choices. We prefer to get people to do things by asking them to, rather than by using force. Liberals are like conservatives without backbones: at least conservatives have the cojones to ban the stuff they don't like, rather than tax it. If you truly believed in your principles (obesity is bad and it is my job to stop it), then you would just ban soda. Instead, you compromise.

You have also proven that, like most leftists, your irony meter is completely broken. "Steve, those are 'stray comments', they're not representative of our thinking! And by the way, I agree with everything they said."

The benefits of a soda tax are a no brainer to many except those who dogmatically oppose all federal tax increases.

Possibly true, which is why I never disengage my brain.

Slippery slope fallacy.

No, it wasn't. You should probably learn the correct application of that phrase. It was a question, which Steve correctly predicted that you would not answer directly.

All of these comments (and unstable isotope's is probably the most concise example) are further evidence that many leftists understand neither the term "freedom" nor the concept of "personal responsibility". We're all part of the collective, now; all they're arguing about is how much of ourselves we get to keep.

LiC: It'll also hit me every once in a while when i grab a Dr. Pepper when filling up my car (I weight 155 pounds and I'm 6'2".... total fatass... really).

Are you seriously suggesting punishing me for being fat?


I'm fat, and don't even drink soda (and mostly quit drinking beer). Wonder what part of my life will be next on their radar...
Hube said…
A thoroughly superb dissection of the encroaching nanny state mentality, Steve.

In my boredom last night, while channel surfing I came across Hannity interviewing two G20 summit protestors. One said that "no one needs to make over $500K per year." Hannity asked "what's a fair salary, then? Who decides?"

The ensuing silence and "um's" and "uh's" were, of course, quite telling.
Tyler Nixon said…
Tyranny through leftist fad rule. Do they ever stop for a milli-second to sincerely question any of their latest greatest intrusions, no matter how petty, into people's lives.. always to the end of fattening their fatty fat fatass state coffers?
Tyler Nixon said…
Oh and...once they get their fatass noses under the tent, that is only the beginning.

The tax always starts out as "small", but up up and away is their despicable open-ended confiscatory end game.
Bowly said…
The absurdity of the leftist position continues to amaze me.

When they raise taxes on the poor and the obese so that they pay for more of their own health care, it's fine.

But when libertarians suggest a free market solution so that the poor and the obese pay for more of their own health care, it's because we're meanies.
Delaware Watch said…
"But when libertarians suggest a free market solution so that the poor and the obese pay for more of their own health care, it's because we're meanies."

No, it's because it won't work.
Anonymous said…
While putting this together did you even consider putting peoples words into context, or did you just feel the need to have something to argue about? If people don't want to pay taxes on items such as soda, first consider the fact that it is already taxed, and also why not think of moving to another country where the taxes more fit your personal needs. I say we are taxed on a great many things that A: Should have lower taxes, B: The money doesn't go anywhere near where it said that it would have/should have gone. Now that being said I'm willing to bet that most of you reading this are libritarians, well you should have voted that way, instead of saying "there was no chance anyway so I voted for "name your own theif"... Well fairwell, and start listening to other opinions and keep them in context instead of just bitching when you wouldn't do anything in the first place.
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