Sin Tax For a Big Mac

“Whether the issue is health care, the financial sector, groceries, or gasoline, our focus must be to create more appropriate rules, not just more rules. Time spent dotting I’s and crossing T’s on forms in triplicate is time that isn’t spent treating patients or brainstorming the innovations of tomorrow.”  Congressman Tom Price, M. D. (R-Georgia) and Chair of the Republican Study Committee on the new tobacco regulations and their impact on so-called health-care reform.

Late last week, the Congress showed how easily they can be swayed to vote against our best interests. As expected, the House of Representatives voted 307-97 to back a Senate version of a bill putting the regulating of tobacco products under the authority of the Food and Drug Administration.  The Senate passed the legislation 79-17 earlier in the week, and it’s expected the president will sign the bill into law. In fact, he says he is looking forward to it.

The FDA will begin regulating tobacco products with sweeping new powers that will affect everything from cigarette content to marketing. Warnings would cover at least half of tobacco packages. Advertising would be restricted to black-and-white. No tobacco product could be marketed as "reduced risk" without extensive scientific backup. Candy-like tobacco lozenges and sweet-flavored products would be pulled off the market.  All sounds good in this crazy world we live in today, right? Wrong. But this begs the question, what is next?  

If the Congress will roll over in overwhelming numbers regarding the “nasty habit” of smoking, then it’s a matter of time before you are paying a sin tax for your Big Mac.  

Riding the anti-tobacco wave, the president began his tour of news outlets and speeches to promote his health care plan. It will culminate with a live ABC News broadcast from the White House on June 24.

The president started with the annual American Medical Association meeting.  On the one hand, he acknowledged that a fear of lawsuits drives prices up but then said he would not support limiting judgments.  In the course of a few minutes, Obama was cheered and then booed by the crowd.  

So the Senate begins “marking up” the Kennedy health care plan.  The Congressional Budget Office chimed in with an “incomplete” projection of an additional trillion dollars in deficits on an annual basis when scoring the plan. While I wish Sen. Kennedy good health, it is sheer hypocrisy that, while he is receiving experimental treatments for brain cancer, he is championing a bill that would deny those same treatments to other brain cancer patients.  

That’s the rub: the Kennedy Plan, accompanied by the Obama regulatory actions now already under way, will put a bureaucrat between you and your doctor.  This is the same great approach that people in Europe and Canada flee, coming here when they need something serious cured or surgically remedied.

By the way: just when was the last time a rich American went to, say, France to have heart surgery?  And didn’t Teddy Kennedy go to North Carolina or some such other non-EU state to have the operation for his brain tumor?  But I digress.

With the CBO report of a cost of at least $1 trillion, it is expected the plan would lead to the elimination of private coverage for about 23 million Americans. Of course, Democrats say the CBO’s numbers do not take into consideration the savings the plan apparently would create. Since Mike Dukakis in 1988, Democrats have been talking about cost savings in government health care coverage.  Those savings have never materialized. Here’s the kicker: Democrats say off the record “some” of the costs could be covered by taxing certain “unhealthy” foods, such as sugar.
In theory, the Kennedy plan falls short of the government-run health insurance entity championed by President Obama.  In addition, it doesn’t expand Medicaid coverage to everyone earning less than 150 percent of the federal poverty level. Democrats are still trying to get those into the bill and, according to CBO, if added, they would add significantly to the trillion dollar annual cost of the bill.

Are you sick yet? I am. I’m thinking I ought to start smoking and open a cigar bar that sells only the best scotch whiskey with parking for SUVs only. Oh yeah, I’m going to start hoarding sugar and freezing my Big Macs, too. Sounds ridiculous?  Maybe so, but I never thought an overwhelming majority of representatives and senators would vote for the restrictions on tobacco taking us one more step down the road to socialism.

I don’t like smoking one bit, but it’s a personal choice.  Heck, our president can’t quit smoking, and he’s the smartest guy in the world, right? If people started eating right and quit smoking and drinking, primary care physicians would have nothing to do. The time and medical resources spent to manage the chronic illnesses we bring on ourselves do impede medical progress; I have no doubt about that.  However, this kind of change has to come from within. No amount of government regulation will make people stop smoking, drinking too much or eating too much of the wrong foods. Those changes are made by the individuals.

We can’t stop the train of regulations without a change in political party control in the House and the Senate. So tobacco will be regulated by the FDA.  However, we can stop the train of government healthcare for all by calling and writing your legislators and getting involved. It’s our last chance.  Real reform of our health care system is getting government out of the mix.