04/05/2017

Big Nanny Republicans? West Virginia Proposes GOP-Backed Soda Tax

Logan Albright, Conservative Review

There are basically two schools of thought on the purpose of the tax code. One is to raise revenue to fund the essential functions of government, whatever those may be. The other is to use taxes as a carrot and a stick, rewarding behaviors the government finds desirable and punishing those that it doesn’t. America’s founders, the architects of the original tax code, would have found this second function, in which taxes are used for social engineering, unthinkable and against the very nature of the limited-government power structure they proposed. And yet controlling people’s behavior has become an increasingly important function of tax policy, despite its implications for individual freedom and independence.

This is the rationale behind the soda tax. It is asserted that America is undergoing an obesity “epidemic,” an insulting use of the term that falsely analogizes personal lifestyle choice to disease. It is therefore assumed that it is the responsibility of the government to “cure” the disease of people consuming too much sugar and fat.

This used to be an idea that was only proposed by meddling Democrats who think their mission in life is to tell other people what to do. Sadly, that appears to be the case no longer, as a soda tax proposal taking hold in West Virginia is being pushed by Republican lawmakers.

The proposed tax would charge five cents for every 16.9 fluid ounces of soda sold, a tax that would be split between consumers and retailers depending on how strong the demand. Five cents may not sound like much extra to pay, but consider that it represents a 400 percent increase on the rate at which soda is currently taxed. Additionally, two other bills have been introduced in the West Virginia legislature that would increase soda taxes a further one and two cents respectively.

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