Tuesday, December 30, 2008


This morning, before I leave tomorrow to return to Leipzig, I paid my quarterly estimated taxes to the feds and to New York State (sound of prolonged moaning goes here). But a question -- is it just me, or are taxes getting weirder?

New York State's governor has proposed an "obesity tax." This doesn't tax overweight people directly (at least not yet), but it does add a 17% tax on sugary drinks that are less than 70% fruit juice. Diet sodas are exempt. The thinking here is that such a tax will both raise money for the state (an estimated $400 million dollars a year) AND improve residents' health.

I can see a new bootlegging operation taking place: "Psst! Want some Pepsi from Pennsylvania?" New York already has tremendous problems with illegal cigarette sales from tribal lands to non-Native Americans. The last time the government tried to mess with tribal tax exemptions, Indians shut down I-90, New York's main east-west thoroughfare, which runs through tribal lands.

I'm waiting for the reaction to the obesity tax -- plus whatever comes next. Henry VIII had a tax on the number of windows in a house. I may paint mine over with Pepsi.


Mike Flynn said...

There is always a problem in the eyes of our would-be masters when people do not behave in ways that the masters believe they dang well ought to. The answer is always behaviorist: carrots and sticks, usually the stick. You will be punished for drinking sodas of which we disapprove. Of course, behaviorism takes us "Beyond Freedom and Dignity."

Personally, I am more than passing fond of freedom and dignity, even if Pinker thinks "dignity" is a meaningless noise, and Skinner regarded "freedom" as "certain behavioral processes characteristic of the human organism, the chief of which is the avoidance or the escape from so-called aversive features of the environment."

(I love that "so-called," don't you?)

The New York Times reports that the incoming administration may hire something called economic psychologists "specifically charged with translating the lessons of the behavioral revolution into real-world policies." I can hardly wait.

Praetorian1001 said...

I guess freedom naturally has to include allowing people to commit slow suicide, if it is their choice (through cigarettes, fat- and sugar-filled foods and drinks, etc.).

Personally, I don't live in New York and I don't drink much soda, so I win either way. :)


James A. Ritchie said...

It isn't an obesity tax, it's just another tax. Period. The sole aim of government seems to be to find the maximum number of things possible to tax.

The fact that this is called an obesity tax is simply another way of saying, "Hey, we found one more way to take your money."

Mike Flynn said...

My son-in-law Basheer says that one day he found a new tax on a restaurant bill in Jordan. It was called "Other." He checked it out and what it meant was that there was a new princess born into the Hashemite family and she needed an income.

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James A. Ritchie said...

Mike, I love that bit about the princess. Right now some politician is probably trying to find a way of working that into the American system.

Mark said...

A fable/story one of my friends told us many years ago:
A man undertook great risk and effort to move himself and his family to the U.S. from Vietnam (or choose any economically/politically rough country). After working hard and saving money they were able to open a restaurant. One day a man with a badge (as in "The Man") comes in and tells the immigrant that he needs to get a business privilege license.
"How much" asks the restaurant owner.
"No problem."
The next day, as the owner was hanging his new license, another man, this time in uniform, entered his establishment and notified him that the eatery didn't meet fire codes. After buying the necessary signage, alarms and equipment, and paying for a re-inspection, the new owner hung another sign up, telling the public that the place was considered by the authorities to be reasonably fire-safe.
This cycle ocurred a few more times, but the restaurant was still financially sound and provided the owner and his family with a living. After the first year they celebrated by hosting a party and the owner made the first toast.
"We suffered and sacrificed to come to America. I'm very glad we did. The bribes here are so cheap!"

bluesman miike Lindner said...

Problem is, we all want wonderful things from the guv'mint...long as somebody else pays.

Solution is, SPEND LESS! As I see it, the government has three legit tasks:
1)Defense (from the Marines to your local cops)
3)Roads ( I include NASA here. But jeez, do we have a NASA anymore?)


James A. Ritchie said...

NASA? That sound sfamiliar. Didn't we used to have something called NASA that actually sent a man to the moon?

Neal Holtschulte said...

Ha! I love it. I want NASA to be under Department of Transportation from now on.