State Democrats Universal Health Care Solution: Raising Taxes on Food

Sam T. Harper

June 2007

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Tn --In Tennessee, the Governor is demanding an increase in the cigarette tax consumers pay. It is difficult for conservatives to say no to a tobacco tax increase. We all know smoking is bad for the smoker’s health. (Oddly, liberals insist that marijuana smoking is OK when the evidence is clear that it is more harmful than tobacco smoking.) Smokers cost society more health care than non-smokers, so the Democrats feel somewhat righteous demanding that they pay more taxes (however, they do not want to allow insurance companies to charge smokers higher insurance premiums; all very confusing).

Clearly, the Democrats have done the math; smokers are a declining minority.

The Governor adds another liberal notch to the argument by claiming that he will use the increase tax revenues “for the children.” Of course, none of the additional revenues is earmarked “for the children”; it will be added to the general fund so we have to trust (HA!) our elected official to use it “for the children.”

Besides smoking one of the other big health care issues in our country is obesity. Surgeon General's Call To Action To Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity  states that “Morbidity from obesity may be as great as from poverty, smoking, or problem drinking.” Thomas Sowell makes the point that we are the only country in the world where the biggest health problem for the poor is obesity.
I remember a series of cartoon panels in MAD magazine back in my youth. A mother was sitting in the doctor’s office with her fat son. She told the doctor that she was concerned about her son’s weight and wanted to know what the problem was. The doctor spent several panels of the cartoon examining the boy. In the last panel he faced the mother and said he had a diagnosis: Her son had a severe case of “open mouth”.

I suggest that the Democrats have a great opportunity to cure “open mouth” with their favorite tool: A TAX INCREASE.

Stay with me here. Democrats say that taxing tobacco is OK because tobacco users deserve to pay more taxes for all the health problems they cause. They also say that taxing alcoholic beverages is OK because drinkers deserve to pay more taxes for all the health care problems they cause. (The latter issue may be under pressure as it becomes clearer that some regular alcohol consumption is actually healthy. Then again, who cares about facts?)
So I propose to the Democrats that the real universal health care solution is to raise taxes on all food for all people.

Why all food? Logic would say that lettuce is not a source of obesity. But if certain foods are exempt then we are profiling. Democrats are against profiling, so there needs to be no food discrimination.
Why all people? Logic would say that slim people should not have to pay more food tax but remember Democrats want universal health care; everyone has to pay. So if you are slim, too bad, you need to help the less fortunate, i.e., the obese.

A price increase on anything (for whatever reason, taxes, scarcity …) will reduce consumption. With a food tax increase, food consumption would decline. There would be fewer cases of “open mouth”, therefore, less obesity; therefore, less obesity related health problems; therefore, lower health care costs. Lower health care costs would free up billions of budget monies to apply to other social programs.

With lower food consumption, more grain would be available to produce ethanol; man made global warning would be reduced. Fewer animals would be slaughtered. (PETA would sign on.) More US food would be available for the truly hungry in the world.

This is so easy! Life as we know it would be much more improved with higher food taxes!
There is one problem for the Democrats: unlike smokers, who are a minority, eaters are a majority.
That I will leave to the Democrats to solve for themselves.

I am going to focus my thinking on the next key opportunity for Democrats to provide universal health care: taxing poverty!

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