Eager to find ways to finance health care legislation that, according to some estimates, will cost roughly $1.5 trillion over 10 years, Congress is mulling taxes on alcohol, tobacco, and even soda. To proponents, such moves are a win-win situation, because they raise revenue and make people more healthy. For now, let’s set aside the debate over how effective they are, or the fact that they are regressive taxes, because I think there’s something more fundamentally important here. This is another indication of how more government begets more government, and specifically, how increasing the role of government in health care adds a societal dimension to individual behavior, and thus gives the state an opening to regulate people’s consumption of sugary beverages in the name of fiscal prudence.
Sadly, states have increasingly leaned on such taxes to fill budget shortfalls because smokers and obese people have been villanized by the media. Congress already hiked the cigarette tax to finance S-CHIP earlier this year, and down in Florida, Charlie Crist is poised to sign a $1 a pack increase in the cigarette tax, though we’ll see if he buckles under pressure from conservatives.
Meanwhile, it would be really nice to hear from some of those libertarian Obama voters given the prospect of federal nanny state taxes to pay for national health care.
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