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Posts Tagged ‘food nazi’

The title of this post sounds like the beginning of a strange joke, but it’s actually because we’re covering three issues today.

Our first topic is corporate taxation. More specifically, we’re looking at a nation that seems to be learning that it’s foolish the have a punitive corporate tax system.

By way of background, the United States used to have the second-highest corporate tax rate in the developed world.

But then the Japanese came to their senses and reduced their tax rate on companies, leaving America with the dubious honor of having the world’s highest rate.

So did the United States respond with a tax cut in order to improve competitiveness? Nope, our rate is still high and the United States arguably now has the world’s worst tax system for businesses.

But the Japanese learned if a step in the right direction is good, then another step in the right direction must be even better.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Japan will be lowering its corporate tax rate again.

Japan’s ruling party on Tuesday cleared the way for a corporate tax cut to take effect next year… Reducing the corporate tax rate, currently about 35%, is a long-standing demand of large corporations. They say they bear an unfair share of the burden and have an incentive to move plants overseas to where taxes are lower. …Business leaders want the rate to fall below 30% within the next few years and eventually to 25%… The Japan Business Federation, known as Keidanren, says tax cuts could partly pay for themselves by spurring investment. Japan’s current corporate tax rate is higher than most European and Asian countries, although it is lower than the U.S. level of roughly 40%.

If only American politicians could be equally sensible.

The Japanese (at least some of them) even understand that a lower corporate rate will generate revenue feedback because of the Laffer Curve.

I’ve tried to make the same point to American policymakers, but that’s like teaching budget calculus to kids from the fiscal policy short bus.

Let’s switch gears to our second topic and look at what one veteran wrote about handouts from Uncle Sam.

Here are excerpts from his column in the Washington Post.

Though I spent more than five years on active duty during the 1970s as an Army infantry officer and an additional 23 years in the Reserves, I never fired a weapon other than in training, and I spent no time in a combat zone. …nearly half of the 4.5 million active-duty service members and reservists over the past decade were never deployed overseas. Among those who were, many never experienced combat. …support jobs aren’t particularly hazardous. Police officers, firefighters and construction workers face more danger than Army public affairs specialists, Air Force mechanics, Marine Corps legal assistants, Navy finance clerks or headquarters staff officers.

So what’s the point? Well, this former soldier thinks that benefits are too generous.

And yet, the benefits flow lavishly. …Even though I spent 80 percent of my time in uniform as a reservist, I received an annual pension in 2013 of $24,990, to which I contributed no money while serving. …My family and I have access to U.S. military bases worldwide, where we can use the fitness facilities at no charge and take advantage of the tax-free prices at the commissaries and post exchanges. The most generous benefit of all is Tricare. This year I paid just $550 for family medical insurance. In the civilian sector, the average family contribution for health care in 2013 was $4,565… Simply put, I’m getting more than I gave. Tricare for military retirees and their families is so underpriced that it’s more of a gift than a benefit. …budget deficits are tilting America toward financial malaise. Our elected representatives will have to summon the courage to confront the costs of benefits and entitlements and make hard choices. Some “no” votes when it comes to our service members and, in particular, military retirees will be necessary.

The entire column is informative and thoughtful. My only quibble is that it would be more accurate to say “an expanding burden of government is tilting America toward financial malaise.”

But I shouldn’t nitpick, even though I think it’s important to focus on the underlying problem of spending rather than the symptom of red ink.

Simply stated, it’s refreshing to read someone who writes that his group should get fewer taxpayer-financed goodies. And I like the idea of reserving generous benefits for those who put their lives at risk, or actually got injured.

Last but not least, I periodically share stories that highlight challenging public policy issues, even for principled libertarians.

You can check out some of my prior examples of “you be the judge” by clicking here.

Today, we have another installment.

The New York Times has reported that a mom and dad in the United Kingdom were arrested because their kid was too fat.

The parents of an 11-year-old boy were arrested in Britain on suspicion of neglect and child cruelty after authorities grew alarmed about the child’s weight. The boy, who like his parents was not identified, weighed 210 pounds. …In a statement, the police said that “obesity and neglect of children” were sensitive issues, but that its child abuse investigation unit worked with health care and social service agencies to ensure a “proportionate and necessary” response. The police said in the statement that “intervention at this level is very rare and will only occur where other attempts to protect the child have been unsuccessful.”

So was this a proper example of state intervention?

My instinct is to say no. After all, even bad parents presumably care about their kids. And they’ll almost certainly do a better job of taking care of them than a government bureaucracy.

But there are limits. Even strict libertarians, for instance, will accept government intervention if parents are sadistically beating a child.

And if bad parents were giving multiple shots of whiskey to 7-year olds every single night, that also would justify intervention in the minds of almost everybody.

On the other hand, would any of us want the state to intervene simply because parents don’t do a good job overseeing homework? Or because they let their kids play outside without supervision (a real issue in the United States, I’m embarrassed to admit)?

The answer hopefully is no.

But how do we decide when we have parents who are over-feeding a kid?

My take, for what it’s worth, is that the size of kids is not a legitimate function of government. My heart might want there to be intervention, but my head tells me that bureaucrats can’t be trusted to exercise this power prudently.

P.S. I guess “bye bye burger boy” in the United Kingdom didn’t work very well.

P.P.S. But the U.K. government does fund foreign sex travel, and that has to burn some calories.

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Back in 2009, I wrote about various schemes to impose taxes on unhealthy food. At the time, I was primarily concerned about the risks of giving politicians a new source of revenue that would be used to increase the burden of government spending.

The folks at Reason TV look at the issue from a different angle and explain how government anti-obesity efforts won’t achieve their supposed goals.

One of the frustrating aspects of this debate is that failure will be used to justify even more intervention (aka, Mitchell’s Law). Politicians in New York City have already banned bake sales, for instance, yet that didn’t stop Mayor Bloomberg from unleashing a nutty new plan to prohibit large sodas.

And as explained in the video, the statists will respond to the failure of current anti-obesity efforts by arguing they need even more power to control and tax. And when those new efforts fail, they’ll argue for additional authority. Lather, rinse, repeat.

P.S. I assume this cartoon was designed to show why a value-added tax is a bad idea, but it’s very appropriate for this topic as well.

P.P.S. This issue helps explain the dangers of government-subsidized healthcare. Politicians make taxpayers pick up the tab for other people’s medical expenses and then claim that they should have the power to regulate private behavior in order to reduce costs.

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Mayor Bloomberg is a wretched human being. He’s an ultra-rich limousine liberal who wants to impose his views on ordinary people.

I’ve previously written about his statist efforts to ban bake sales, and I’ve noted with mixed feelings his proposal to tell food stamp recipients what they’re allowed to buy.

Now he wants to criminalize large sodas. Holman Jenkins writes about this silly idea in the Wall Street Journal.

Mike Bloomberg’s move to regulate the size of sodas sold in his city illustrates why it’s a good thing he is a mayor of New York and not the czar of all the Russias. American big cities tend to be one-party states to begin with, but at least their totalitarian impulses end up being merely cute because they’re so easy to evade. Under the Bloomberg plan, any cup or bottle of sugary drink larger than 16 ounces at a public venue would be verboten, beginning early next year. You’ll still be able to buy as much Coke as you want in a supermarket. Go home and pour yourself a bucketful. As Mr. Bloomberg himself was the first to note, you’ll also still be free to buy two medium drinks in place of today’s Big Gulp at ballgames, theaters, delis and other venues where the ban would be in effect.

But Mr. Jenkins doesn’t just mock Bloomberg for being a food nanny. He also makes an important point about public policy.

Here is the ultimate justification for the Bloomberg soft-drink ban, not to mention his smoking ban, his transfat ban, and his unsuccessful efforts to enact a soda tax and prohibit buying high-calorie drinks with food stamps: The taxpayer is picking up the bill. Call it the growing chattelization of the beneficiary class under government health-care programs. Bloombergism is a secular trend. Los Angeles has sought to ban new fast-food shops in neighborhoods disproportionately populated by Medicaid recipients, Utah to increase Medicaid copays for smokers, Arizona to impose a special tax on Medicaid recipients who smoke or are overweight. …So perhaps the famous “broccoli” hypothetical during the Supreme Court ObamaCare debate was not so fanciful after all. It flows naturally from the state’s fiscal responsibility for your health that it will try to regulate your behavior, even mandating vegetable consumption.

Or, to summarize, the view of politicians is that the government can tell you how to live because it is paying for your healthcare. This is Mitchell’s Law on steroids! One bad government policy leading to another awful government policy.

And it’s not just Mayor Bloomberg pushing these policies. Other politicians have similar proposals, though it’s quite likely that their main motive is to collect more tax revenue since they are focused on how to tax various “bad” foods.

But let’s try not to be overly depressed. Here’s an amusing cartoon on the topic.

I’m glad that people are mocking Mayor Bloomberg and the rest of the Food Nazis. And it’s good to see that the soft drink industry is fighting back, as seen by this Super Bowl commercial.

Maybe some day we’ll get to the point where people have to smuggle food past government agents. This may sound absurd, but it’s already happening in Norway.

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I don’t know if this commercial was broadcast nationally, but I saw it in northern Virginia. A very smart, anti-politician message.

The worst commercial (this is a no-brainer) was from Chrysler. Not because the advertising was bad, but because the company is mooching from the taxpayers.

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I can’t believe I missed this stary from last October. The food Nazis in New York City have banned bake sales. This cripples fundraising for student groups, but that presumably is a small price to pay so that politicians get an opportunity for a few hollow sound bites about childhood obesity. Of course, if the politicians really want to do something about overweight kids, they could arrest the parents and destroy all televisions sets, video games, and computers in private homes. But maybe I shouldn’t give them any ideas. The New York Times has the odious details:

There shall be no cupcakes. No chocolate cake and no carrot cake. According to New York City’s latest regulations, not even zucchini bread makes the cut. …the Education Department has effectively banned most bake sales, the lucrative if not quite healthy fund-raising tool for generations of teams and clubs. The change is part of a new wellness policy that also limits what can be sold in vending machines and student-run stores, which use profits to help finance activities like pep rallies and proms. …Unsurprisingly, the rationale is getting a cool reception among students. At Fiorello H. La Guardia High School on the Upper West Side, students are used to having bake sales several times a month. Now, Yardain Amron, a sophomore basketball player, laments that his team will not be able to raise money for a new scoreboard. Another La Guardia student, Eli Salamon-Abrams, 14, said that when the soccer team held a bake sale in May, his blueberry muffins sold out in 15 minutes. He said of the ban: “I think it’s kind of pointless. I mean, why can’t we have bake sales?” The new policy also requires that vending machines, which generate millions of dollars for school sports, be supplied with snacks such as reduced-fat Baked Doritos and low-sugar granola bars. A new vending machine contract is expected to be approved on Wednesday by the Panel for Educational Policy, the school oversight board. Student stores will be able to sell only approved snacks bought from the new vendor, rather than obtain the food themselves, as they once did. …Department officials are suggesting that teams use walk-a-thons and similar activities as a way of raising money and doing something active.

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A report at CBSnews.com highlights the growing interest among politicians and bureaucrats in new taxes on sugary drinks, including sports drinks such as Gatorade. This is a reprehensible example of nanny-state intervention, of course, but it shows the risk of having government involved in health care since politicians then assert the right to tell us how to live:

…one of the proposals put before the committee received a nod of approval from health officials today: taxing soda. The [Senate Finance] committee — the last congressional panel expected to produce its own recommendations for health care reform – listened to arguments earlier this year both for and against imposing a three-cent tax on sodas as well as other sugary drinks, including energy and sports drinks like Gatorade. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that a three-cent tax would generate $24 billion over the next four years, and proponents of the tax argued before the committee that it would lower consumption of sugary drinks and improve Americans’ overall health. …CDC chief Dr. Thomas Freiden said increasing the price of unhealthy foods “would be effective” at combating the nation’s obesity problem… The American Beverage Association, which strongly opposes the tax, told the Wall Street Journal the tax would hit poor Americans the hardest.  

The Los Angeles Times, meanwhile, has a similar report about politicians wanting a tax on foods that supposedly lead to obesity. The reason for their interest, not surprisingly, is that a 10 percent tax on such foods may lead to more than $500 billion, which doubtlessly is leading to lots of salivating on Capitol Hill:

Key among the “interventions” the report weighs is that of imposing an excise or sales tax on fattening foods. That, says the report, could be expected to lower consumption of those foods. But it would also generate revenues that could be used to extend health insurance coverage to the uninsured and under-insured, and perhaps to fund campaigns intended to make healthy foods more widely available to, say, low-income Americans and to encourage exercise and healthy eating habits. …a 2004 report prepared for the Department of Agriculture suggested that, for “sinful-food” taxes to change the way people eat, they may need to equal at least 10% to 30% of the cost of the food. And although 40 U.S. states now impose modest extra sales taxes on soft drinks and a few snack items, the Urban Institute report suggests that a truly forceful “intervention” — one that would drive down the consumption of fattening foods and, presumably, prevent or reverse obesity – would have to target pretty much all the fattening and nutritionally empty stuff we eat: “With a more narrowly targeted tax, consumers could simply substitute one fattening food or beverage for another,” the reports says. …Conservatively estimated, a 10% tax levied on foods that would be defined as “less healthy” by a national standard adopted recently in Great Britain could yield $240 billion in its first five years and $522 billion over 10 years of implementation — if it were to begin in October 2010. If lawmakers instituted a program of tax subsidies to encourage the purchase of fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, the added revenue would still be $356 billion over 10 years.

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