8, 8 days until Disney! Ah ha ha!

How do people dream up these ideas?

A tax on "bad" food:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6291072.stm

What I don't get is why do people think it's even any of their business to try and "save" other people from heart attacks and disease? Educate people then let them live and die the way they want to.
Permalink Send private email bon vivant 
July 11th, 2007 8:26pm
The ideas come from the fact that people who deliberately engage in risky and unhealthy behaviors ultimately end up costing society money in the form of more Medicare or Medicaid utilization.  Granted, there are many "risky" behaviors you could tax, but smoking and eating crap are among the more easily identified and systemic.
Permalink Send private email muppet 
July 11th, 2007 8:28pm
Of course they could instead eliminate tax on 'good' foods instead. Why not do that?
Permalink Practical Economist 
July 11th, 2007 8:31pm
They already do. Food from the grocery store is free of sales tax, but take-out food like McDonald's is taxed at 17.5%.
Permalink Send private email bon vivant 
July 11th, 2007 8:35pm
Where?

Here there's just sales tax on restaurant food.  It's called "restaurant tax" but the rate is identical to whatever the current sales tax is.
Permalink Send private email muppet 
July 11th, 2007 8:37pm
> Of course they could instead eliminate tax on 'good' foods instead. Why not do that?

Because they already did. All food (except food in restaurants IIRC) is zero-rated for VAT.
Permalink s 
July 11th, 2007 8:38pm
In the UK both restaurant and take out food attracts VAT (sales tax) at the full rate.
Permalink Send private email bon vivant 
July 11th, 2007 8:47pm
Yes I meant to include restaurant with take-out as a single category.

The point of differentiation is food from the shop vs fully prepared meals.
Permalink s 
July 11th, 2007 8:49pm
I know -- I was clarifying in answer to muppet's question.
Permalink Send private email bon vivant 
July 11th, 2007 8:50pm
They should just put all these under one umbrella called the STUPID Tax--cigarettes, fast food, gas guzzlers, etc.  Unfortunately, alcoholism is classified as a disease so we couldn't call it stupid--oh well.  Drug abuse--maybe that would qualify too.
Permalink Send private email sharkfish 
July 11th, 2007 8:54pm
There's already a stupid penalty: You die young. 

If you die young, it's usually roughly around the time of retirement, if not before.

Yes, there is a cost associated with the death and disease caused by these activities -- but it's a lot less than the costs associated with longer-living healthier people -- who draw a a state pension, visit their GP almost every week, get free/subsidized transport, get free/subsidized medications, for 20, 30 or 40 years....
Permalink s 
July 11th, 2007 8:58pm
>Yes, there is a cost associated with the death and disease caused by these activities -- but it's a lot less than the costs associated with longer-living healthier people -- who draw a a state pension, visit their GP almost every week, get free/subsidized transport, get free/subsidized medications, for 20, 30 or 40 years....

I bet this isn't true.  If it isn't true, I bet it's darn close.
Permalink Send private email muppet 
July 11th, 2007 9:16pm
If you get lung cancer or cirosis (sp?) of the liver, you go to hospital and die in about 1 year, if that.

If you don't get either of them:
1. you get a state pension for many years
2. and you visit the doctor all the time (go into any GP's surgery - it is vastly disproportionately full of old people),
3. then you get put in a care home when you get Alzheimer's. Initially partly at state expensive, but eventually, when you've exhausted all your savings and sold your house, at 100% state expense.
4. then you die from some disease or other related to old age, and usually die slowly in hospital, often over several years.


The other scenario(s) involve heart attacks or other sudden deaths.  A sudden death from a heart attack at age 60 is cheaper to the state, than a sudden death from a heart attack at age 85 to 90, after you've had 20 to 30 years of old people's state benefits (see 1, 2 and 3).
Permalink s 
July 11th, 2007 9:27pm
Let's have some stats instead of a bunch of assertions with numbers pulled from your ass.
Permalink Send private email muppet 
July 11th, 2007 9:29pm
I don't know where you'd find the stats.

Old people are a net cost to government.  Haven't you heard all the reports about the impending pensions/health/social-security crisis because there are too many old people and not enough young people, because of declining birth rates?  Don't you read the news?

I'd love to hear why you think giving somebody years and years of free/subsidized state benefits (i.e. somebody who lives to a ripe old age) could even possibly be cheaper than not giving somebody this stuff.
Permalink s 
July 11th, 2007 9:33pm
I think that your assertions that smoking/eating garbage/etc only cost the govt in short, acute bursts ending with the insured's death.  Smokers can live a long life full of health problems requiring all sorts of interventions before eventually dying of cancer or emphysema.
Permalink Send private email muppet 
July 11th, 2007 9:35pm
I think you're far more likely to be right about obesity.

Seriously obese people do often live long, and have higher rate of blood pressure problems, diabetes, other health problems, etc., that can and are treated, at great expense.

The effect on the death rates for smoking and heavy drinking are extremely dramatic, far more dramatic than most people realize. They are easily the number 1 and number 2 killers in the West.  I'm sure we all know some smoker who supposedly lived to 102,  but usually smoking or heavy drinking kills you before any other disease of old age, by a long way, which is why they are so easily the number 1 and number 2 killers.
Permalink s 
July 11th, 2007 9:42pm
Do you just not KNOW any smokers, or what?
Permalink Send private email muppet 
July 11th, 2007 9:44pm
I know plenty of smokers.

I have smoked myself.

But the fact is that if you smoke, you chances of living to a ripe old age are vastly reduced.
Permalink s 
July 11th, 2007 9:45pm
Well, you probably won't make it to 80, but even if you make it to 60 which is way more likely, it'll still be a long costly road.
Permalink Send private email muppet 
July 11th, 2007 9:46pm
How about a tax for every pound overweight you are and for every second longer than 12 minutes it takes you to run 2 miles?
Permalink Michael B 
July 11th, 2007 9:48pm
Why should people be penalized for genetic disorders or chronic conditions?  People who would otherwise be healthy if not for stupid, self-destructive choices are making a conscious decision to be a drain on society.
Permalink Send private email muppet 
July 11th, 2007 9:54pm
What, people with genetic disorders and chronic conditions aren't a drain on society?
Permalink Michael B 
July 11th, 2007 10:00pm
Is that what I said?
Permalink Send private email muppet 
July 11th, 2007 10:00pm
I don't care about the idiot reasoning you wrapped it in.
Permalink Michael B 
July 11th, 2007 10:01pm
And there should be a per sexual partner tax, because the risk of STDs is increased.

People who play, watch or encourage contact sports, or other injury-prone sports, should also be taxed more heavily, and have to work an extra couple of days per year.  This is to compensate for the hospital costs, and extra time off work, that people who play in these sports have, because of sporting injuries.

People who ride bikes should be taxed more heavily, because many are injured in accidents and clog up our hospitals.

People who eat too much red meat (causes many diseases), who overheat their frying oil (causes cancel), or use too much chilli (inflames stomach ulcers) should also be penalized.

People who climb ladders to clean their own windows or paint their house, should pay extra tax, since they are the number 1 cause of household accidents.


etc.

Or the government could just butt out of people's private lives.
Permalink s 
July 11th, 2007 10:02pm
I thought you were on quite a roll there, s.
Permalink Michael B 
July 11th, 2007 10:03pm
Yep, I'm familiar with all of these stupid arguments and I find the whole thing boring.  Slippery slope is a logical fallacy, and Michael B, even though you're a worthless troll who contributes nothing, I'll assert that there is a HUGE difference between people disadvantaged by birth or luck and people who wilfully damage themselves.
Permalink Send private email muppet 
July 11th, 2007 10:06pm
Who's talking about slippery slope?

I'm also talking about other forms of "people who willfully damage themselves".

Unlike you however, I'm not cherry-picking only certain unpopular types of willful-self-damage.
Permalink s 
July 11th, 2007 10:09pm
Not because they're unpopular, but because they're particularly high risk, expensive, and systemic.
Permalink Send private email muppet 
July 11th, 2007 10:12pm
Yeah, who's talking about slippery slope?
Permalink Michael B 
July 11th, 2007 10:15pm
"If we ban these then we have to ban these other N things" is slippery slope.
Permalink Send private email muppet 
July 11th, 2007 10:17pm
Eating health food doesn't actually help you live longer ... it just SEEMS longer.
Permalink AMerrickanGirl 
July 11th, 2007 10:20pm
Eating "bad" food occasionally isn't necessarily unhealthy either. I don't personally like McDonalds, but I'm perfectly prepared to believe that having it once a month is healthier than just sticking to rabbit food.
Permalink Send private email Colm 
July 11th, 2007 10:23pm
I would so love to challenge any one of you righteous eaters to a triathlon.

Six weeks lead time.  You stick to your lunatic diets and I eat nothing but fast food and we'll see just who doesn't drop dead of a coronary.
Permalink Michael B 
July 11th, 2007 10:27pm
> "If we ban these then we have to ban these other N things" is slippery slope.

That's not slippery slope.

The slippery slope argument goes like:  First they do X, and the it's just a small step to X+, then X++, then X+++ and before you know it you're at X+++++++++++++++++++++++++, therefore we should not do X.

The point I raised was entirely different.

It was if you wish to stop X (self damaging behavior in this example),  then it is inconsistent to cherry pick X1, X3 and X5, just because you happe to not to like them --- and ignore X2, X4, and X6, because you don't mind them --- even though all are equivalent forms of X.
Permalink  
July 11th, 2007 10:28pm
Triathlons are not healthy.
Permalink Send private email Pavel Tsatsouline 
July 11th, 2007 10:52pm
>>>Food from the grocery store is free of sales tax, but take-out food like McDonald's is taxed at 17.5%

Bullshit. It is only taxed if you eat in. If you take away, there is no VAT. Fast food places just swallow the difference to keep the pricing structure simple.
Permalink Send private email Tapiwa 
July 12th, 2007 6:02am
Jerry Clower has a line about joggers living longer reasoning they should be taxed more for using the world longer than he's gonna use it.

The insanity of behavioral taxation is that regardless of what the counter-culture may have you thinking, everyone is not the same.

Do you know any smokers/heavy-drinkers who are nearing or past retirement that do not have health-related problems? I certainly do.

It's nowhere near a definitive if you do x, then y is inevitable.

And I completely agree that any legitimate consideration can't be cherry-picking.

That said, having a baby in a larger city needs to be taxed more heavily.

(search for urban)
http://www.schizophrenia.com/prevention/country.html

If you feel like googling it, you can find all sorts of data that suggests living in a bigger city is detrimental to your health and puts you at higher risk for a number of ailments. Such 'risky' behavior needs to also be accounted for.
Permalink Send private email JoC 
July 12th, 2007 10:42am
>It's nowhere near a definitive if you do x, then y is inevitable.

This is a load of bullshit and a typical smoker's position.  If you smoke, you are SO LIKELY to have health problems (99.9%) related to smoking that "inevitable" is a REALLY good term for it.
Permalink Send private email muppet 
July 12th, 2007 11:10am
I know too many smokers that have either already died of unrelated causes (like being in their 80's) or that have no respiratory troubles to believe 99% is anything but propaganda.

Not that it doesn't happen, or even that it isn't frequent, the point is that it is not certain.

Getting Orwellian on you, suppose there's a way to detect the likelihood of future heart disease in a newly conceived fetus. Choice should be given to either abort, or pay tax based on predicted social burden.

You could stretch that further and just say that any quadraplegic is an unnecessary drain. Afterall, they do continually choose to live, the same as smokers.
Permalink Send private email JoC 
July 12th, 2007 11:31am
JoC, you're missing the point :-)

muppet's position, is he gets to choose which undesirable activities deserve to be taxed, based on his personal biases and prejudices.
Permalink s 
July 12th, 2007 11:45am
Heh, no, mine is a pretty simple position: risky behavior which is a systemic problem (like overeating and smoking) should be taxed.  Chronic and genetic problems (ie, things not premeditated or deliberate) should not.

Simple as that.

I eat plenty of fast food.  I'd have to pay any increased tax on the practice, too.
Permalink Send private email muppet 
July 12th, 2007 12:26pm
Don't forget driving... it causes substantial social burden not just directly in health care costs for accidents, but also from the pollution, court costs, and lost productivity of all those stuck in traffic waiting for your carcass to be scraped from the pavement.
Permalink Send private email JoC 
July 12th, 2007 12:47pm
And driving is already heavily taxed.  Property taxes, gas taxes, registration, licensing, tolls...
Permalink Send private email muppet 
July 12th, 2007 12:52pm
Which are already used to pay for the infrastructure that supports it, not the perceived increased health care costs of indulging in the risky behavior.
Permalink Send private email JoC 
July 12th, 2007 1:07pm
You could strike court costs, barring the court costs associated with recouping medical costs.

But you still have to also add taxes for living in more populated areas.
Permalink Send private email JoC 
July 12th, 2007 1:10pm
Those taxes already exist.
Permalink Send private email muppet 
July 12th, 2007 1:16pm

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