According to this story, some Senators are beginning to consider ways to pay for the proposed health care plan. My guess is that, if a health care plan passes, it will be paid for by a series of different taxes, many of which will be viewed as taxing “unhealthy” activities — like drinking the “sugary soft drinks” noted in the article. Such taxes are in line with the “sin taxes” that are routinely imposed by governments, such as taxes on cigarettes.
We therefore may see taxes on dietary choices — like eating meat, or eating Twinkies. As a non-vegetable eater who occasionally enjoys a bowl of sugary breakfast cereal, I’m probably in trouble.
Once you begin to tax activities, however, it is difficult to decide where to draw the line. Is drinking a “sugary soft drink” any more risky than, say, mountain-climbing or water-skiing? Should taxes to raise revenues for health care programs be viewed as a kind of “user fee” designed to raise revenue from those who are most likely to use the health care programs, much like the user fees imposed on individuals who camp in national parks?