Monday, February 8, 2010
Are We Taxing the Right Things?
I was reading an article in today's newspaper about a proposed tax on soft drinks that doesn't seem to be going anywhere now, mostly because of those pesky special interest groups and industry lobbyists. And I just heard on the news that there may be a link between sweetened soft drinks and pancreatic cancer. With increased soft drink consumption being linked to increased obesity, a claim that of course the industry refutes, doesn't it make sense to tax these items? The other day on CNN, a Cafferty File question asked if food should be taxed to raise money to help out cities that are having trouble with their finances in these troubled times. Now here in Chicago, we have a 2.25% tax on food right now -- some other places have a higher tax, some have a lower tax, and some have no tax at all on food. But doesn't it make sense to tax things that are "bad" for us? Is there really anything wrong with taxing a six pack of Coke, or Pepsi, or Mountain Dew? And what about a lot of other items that have been deemed unhealthy? A while back I read an article about a special tax on candy that I think was going into effect on January 1st. But it was a complicated formula to figure out what was candy and what wasn't. If I remember correctly, something like a KitKat wouldn't be considered candy, because it contains a cookie. There was a whole complicated system that said if something contained flour it didn't need to be taxed as candy, but the whole system was putting more work on grocery stores and other places that sell candy to figure out which pieces gets charged and which ones don't. The whole situation doesn't seem to make much sense. They (those unknown, unseen entities) tell us to eat fruits and vegetables, and whole grains, yet those items are taxed in many places. Wouldn't it be better not to tax those things we all should be eating to maintain a healthy body and instead tax those items that aren't so good, like candy and processed foods? I know it's a confuzzled mess, so tell me what you think. Are we taxing the right things? Or can we do better?