Harkin likes Junk Food Tax

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin said this morning that the idea of using a tax on sodas/junk food to help pay for health care reform is generating some  fizz in Capitol Hill.

“It’s on the table. It could be,” Harkin said during his weekly conference call with print scribes. “And quite frankly, I’m pre-disposed (to it).

“That’s what’s making people unhealthy and obese,” he said.

Harkin rejected the notion that a government tax on food choices could play into the hands of critics trying to shoot down the broader health overhaul.

Actually, Harkin said, all the tax would do is help us listen to our “DNA.” Harkin says we’re all wired genetically to be healthy, but our sugar-coated society steers us to make bad choices. A tax hike, he contends, would help rewire our Twinkie-centric social structure.

It’s actually about eduction, not revenue, he said.

“We’re not telling people what they should eat or what they shouldn’t,” Harkin said. “It’s going to give people the information of how to be healthy.”

Still, he didn’t explain how this fairly complex argument about the unhealthy structure of society would counter the fairly simple, bumper-sticker-sized contention that is sure to be leveled by opponents – “Taxing my Ho Ho is a No No.” Or something like that.

Harkin is also pushing for several other provisions focused on preventative health, including workplace wellness programs, reimbursements to health care providers for diabetes screening and other preventative tests and the elimination of patient co-pays  and deductibles for those tests.

Harkin said he expects health care reform legislation to be ready for debate by July and on President Obama’s desk this fall.

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5 responses to “Harkin likes Junk Food Tax

  1. Pingback: Politically Speaking » Blog Archive » A tax on pop possible, says Harkin

  2. Paraphrased: The idea of using a tax on politicians to help pay for all these reforms is generating some buzz in public circles. Every time they approve a tax increase, their personal taxes will rise 3%.

    “It’s on the table. It could be. And quite frankly, I’m pre-disposed (to it). That’s what’s making the budget unhealthy and obese.”

    It’s actually about eduction, not revenue.

    “We’re not telling politicians what they should approve or what they shouldn’t. It’s going to give politicians the information of how to keep government fiscally healthy.”

  3. Of course Harkin likes a new tax idea. Hopefully you aren’t expecting your readers to be shocked, Todd.

  4. Todd

    Harkin says “this isn’t about revenue”? Who does he think he’s kidding?

    They just got done passing the biggest increase in federal tobacco taxes in history to supposedly pay for children’s health care (they forgot to tell you that in order to do so, they’d need 4 million NEW smokers in order to cover the costs)

    So now they want to go after “junk food”. Here’s a memo for Senator Harkin. Poor people aren’t lining up to shop at New Pioneer Co-Op or at your organic specialty store.

    They aren’t going out to eat at the vegan restaurant…

    This proposed tax is aimed square at the pocketbooks of folks in lower and middle incomes.

    They can sit there and claim that they are “giving 95% of Americans a tax cut” (a whole $7 a week by the way)–when in fact they’re finding other ways to squeeze these people for more money.

    In just over a 100 days Todd, we’ve spent more money than we have on Katrina, Iraq and Afghanistan COMBINED.

    Eventually…we ALL will be paying for our government’s foolishness.

    • Dear Dorman,

      Childhood obesity is a serious and complex problem that requires thoughtful and comprehensive solutions. The same is true for improving health care in America.

      It’s why America’s beverage industry stepped up three years ago to develop the national School Beverage Guidelines that cap calories, reduce portion sizes and remove full-calorie soft drinks from schools. The guidelines help teach our children the skills to balance calories that will last a lifetime. A tax won’t teach them anything.
      Furthermore, people view it as an over-reach when the government uses the tax code to tell people what to eat or drink. They view it as just a money grab.

      We need government to focus on meaningful programs that make a difference for health care. A soda tax is just the wrong public policy for such a complex problem.

      Thanks,

      Jessica Badger
      American Beverage Association

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