Taxing Coca-Cola While Exempting Broccoli Is Bad Policy

Mar 7 2014, 8:48am CST | by

The Navajo Nation is trying to use its tax code (I didn’t know the Navajos had a tax code) to promote healthier living. The Navajos recently voted to impose higher taxes on “junk food” and reduce taxes on healthier alternatives. I abhor government attempts to get people to do things for their own benefit. It isn’t the government’s job to make sure I will live to 100 or that I’ll go to heaven. Of course, the Navajo Nation has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, hovering near 50 percent. Nothing says we care about you like imposing excise taxes on poor people. I know that raising taxes on poor people to get them to follow orders plays well in Knob Hill, and Brookline, and the Upper East Side. But I’m not sure how well it plays in rural Arizona or New Mexico.

Basically, under the proposal soda and fatty snacks would be taxed at 7 percent (up from the current 5 percent), But “fresh” fruits, vegetables, and nuts wouldn’t be taxed at all. I would remind proponents that most people won’t eat Brussels sprouts no matter what the tax rate is. I don’t know how the Navajos will define fatty snacks. Some are obvious — deep-fried Snickers bars would probably qualify. How about snacks that have no fat, like my personal favorite, cherry Twizzlers? Would they be taxed at 7 percent? I hope not. Would a Big Mac be a taxable snack? What happens if someone eats Twinkies for dinner? Would they still be taxed as a snack? The one upside is that this law may give Rick Pomp a lot of fun anecdotes for the next edition of his casebook.

Apparently, the tribe’s leaders are trying to combat an obesity problem. And the reservations in the Southwest have a problem. I’ve seen reports saying that up to 50 percent of the population is obese. Maybe little Navajo kids are spending too much time in front of the PlayStation instead of running around outside. Maybe Navajos have a fondness for bread and pasta, neither of which will be subject to the higher tax. Yet bread and pasta (as all low-carb dieters know) will mysteriously make you fat.

But whether I’m obese or not, why do you get to decide whether I should be punished for drinking a Coke? What gives you that right? Democracy? In any event, several newspapers reported that a sponsor of the proposal was himself obese before deciding to change his life and losing 100 pounds. And he did it without any tax increases or help from the government.

Source: Forbes Business

 
 

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