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The soda pop tax

Although President Barack Obama “expressed interest” last summer in a punitive tax on sugared soft drinks, the Chicago Tribune reports, a key congressional committee, “after initially seeming receptive, ended up refusing to consider it.”

Why? A handful of black and Hispanic groups protested, arguing it would hit minorities the hardest. And just when the tax seemed like such a natural to the nanny-staters!

“We are on the moral high ground here,” proclaimed the sponsor, Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., a member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. “We can improve health outcomes and get more revenue.”

Analysts at Yale recently calculated that a penny an ounce tax on sugary soda pop would induce a 23 percent drop in soda consumption. But the Congressional Budget Office estimated a smaller tax could raise $50 billion over 10 years.

“While the extent to which such a tax might drive down obesity rates is scientifically unclear, nutrition experts argue that it would, at the least, improve health by discouraging consumption of sodas, which have no nutritional value but are packed with calories,” the Tribune reports.

The “industry,” though, wanted no part of “a full-scale national debate on sweetened soft drinks and their effect on health — and the nation’s ever-higher medical bill.”

But if private consumers of soda pop, beer, cigarettes, or anything else face higher medical bills because of their habits, how does that become “the nation’s” medical bill? If socialized medicine justifies the government attempting to manipulate the healthiness of our lifestyles through punitive taxes on anything of which the government disapproves, isn’t that simply an argument against socialized medicine?

When do we ban motorcycles?

What’s pathetic is that such battles must be fought, at all.

When do-gooders such as Rep. Sanchez seek to use taxation to target and manipulate the behavior of specific minorities, that’s not “the moral high ground.” To the contrary, they are morally wrong, and almost certainly in violation of their oaths to “protect and defend the Constitution” of a limited government.

In addition to which, it rarely works.

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