NY Times Advocates Taxing Food Behavior

Here’s one from the Times’ Sunday Review by Mark Bittman, who “writes about food for the opinion section.” Wait, what? There’s a need to write opinion pieces about food? Only in extreme Liberal World. And that’s why we get Bad Food? Tax It, and Subsidize Vegetables

WHAT will it take to get Americans to change our eating habits? The need is indisputable, since heart disease, diabetes and cancer are all in large part caused by the Standard American Diet. (Yes, it’s SAD.)

Though experts increasingly recommend a diet high in plants and low in animal products and processed foods, ours is quite the opposite, and there’s little disagreement that changing it could improve our health and save tens of millions of lives.

And – not inconsequential during the current struggle over deficits and spending – a sane diet could save tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars in health care costs.

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Now, he does have a point. This country is so rich that we eat foods that aren’t particularly the best for us quite a bit. Tasty, bad foods. So, how to change that? Well, really, it’s no one else’s business how we eat. And Democrat spending is taking us down a road where we won’t be so rich and able to eat like we want. Obviously, though, Liberal Mark has an idea on how to do this a different way

Rather than subsidizing the production of unhealthful foods, we should turn the tables and tax things like soda, French fries, doughnuts and hyperprocessed snacks. The resulting income should be earmarked for a program that encourages a sound diet for Americans by making healthy food more affordable and widely available.

Simply put: taxes would reduce consumption of unhealthful foods and generate billions of dollars annually. That money could be used to subsidize the purchase of staple foods like seasonal greens, vegetables, whole grains, dried legumes and fruit.

We could sell those staples cheap – let’s say for 50 cents a pound – and almost everywhere: drugstores, street corners, convenience stores, bodegas, supermarkets, liquor stores, even schools, libraries and other community centers.

And therein lies a big problem: taxation being used for behavior modification. I’m not going to blame this solely on people on the Left, as most elected officials institute taxes that involve behavior modification. The point of the Constitutional provision on taxes was to simply provide operating revenue for the Federal government. The Framers were not happy campers when it came to taxation. Unfortunately, government uses taxes not simply to garner operating revenue, but to get people and companies to modify their behavior. This includes “positive” ones like tax breaks to get a company to move to a state, build a wind farm, and purchase a more fuel efficient vehicle. This also includes negative ones like higher taxation on certain foods, subsidizing corn based ethanol, breaks for not growing food on land, being taxed on selling your personal property, and being able to deduct gambling losses. And the lists go on and on.

And here we have Bittman advocating yet another. Not to raise revenue, but to control behavior. On one hand, Obama is actually correct in saying we need to do away with many subsidies and tax breaks. I say we need to do away with all of them. Taxation should be used neither as an incentive nor as a punishment.

Crossed at Pirate’s Cove. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach.

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