I’ve occasionally commented to Mrs. Dude about how there must be a secret gland located on the ring finger of women that becomes active the moment it comes into contact with a wedding ring, at which time it begins secreting a hormone that infuses one with the ability to induce guilt in their mate and offspring. There must be something similar in being an elected official. The moment the acceptance speech is made, in kicks the insatiable, addictive desire to spend. It runs parallel to the unshakable belief that holding said office, whatever it may be, infuses its holder with the unique gift of not only knowing what is best for one and all but the mandate to do whatever is necessary for the purpose of dictating what is best must be performed by one and all. It’s for your own good. Honest. Trust me. I’m a politician. I’m here to serve you!
Since said dictation invariably involves spending money, unless you’re a member of the executive branch and believe you can simply conjure up the green stuff from sheer force of will the need to bring in sufficient revenue to pay for whatever project is this week’s pet arises. Given how raising taxes is seldom welcomed with open arms by the general populace — ingrates! — one of the popular methods of getting around this is the sin tax. Find something looked upon askance by an element of society that involves purchase through normal retail channels. Tax it or smother it with fees. There! See? We didn’t really raise taxes. We’re just making people who insist on doing this disgusting thing pay for something that’ll benefit everyone! Aren’t we great? We’re providing this to you at no cost! Don’t you love us? Don’t forget to vote for us this coming Tuesday!
Usually it’s tobacco and liquor targeted by such taxes. Occasionally suggestions are run up the flagpole about doing the same with at least marijuana if not all drugs, this being suggestion under the apparent notion that the moment said (ahem) “medicinal” products become legal the growers in Humboldt County and elsewhere will instantly seize the opportunity to go legit by willingly flocking en masse to their local tax assesors office out of a sense of patriotic duty to dutifully pay their fair share. After all, if they’re getting clobbered on price point by the sale on Maui Wowie this week at Wal-Mart, what choice will they have but getting in the game? But I digress.
The latest legal item to be targeted for a sin tax is soda, or pop depending on what part of the country you’re from. Since talk of this is taking place in the Senate, let’s call it the soda pop tax so everyone will be equally inconvenienced. The rationale behind this, as breathlessly proposed by its proponents, is how slapping a three cent surcharge on carbonated sugar would generate a billion dollars a year — please don’t question the math, okay? — that could be applied to the bill for President Obama’s universal health care proposal, coming soon to a legislative body near you. Given how the estimated cost of this proposal is $1.5 trillion over ten years, some fast math concludes that should one spread the estimated cost evenly over ten years, then subtract the estimated revenue from the soda tax, the amount of the bill for the health care plan still needing to be paid somehow would come out to… one hundred and forty-nine billion dollars a year, or given the current estimated population of the United States $486.25 per person per year. Wonder to whom we should make out the check.
The problem with such sin taxes is by their nature they are self-defeating. Don’t want to pay the extra for a regular soda? Drink diet, since at least thus far it would be left alone. There’s also the nanny state aspect of such legislation. As Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom noted the other day:
Bad as all that is, though, let’s not lose sight of what I’ve long suggested is the natural endpoint of such thinking: that government, once it controls healthcare and is confronted with the fact that it needs to find ways to cut benefits to stay solvent and continue to overpay “management” bureaucrats, will have every motivation to tell you what to eat, how much to sleep, and when and for how long to exercise.
So really. Can national morning calisthenics be far behind?
Life could get even more expensive for us sinnerboys.