As Congress grapples with the costs of tackling health care reform, a couple ideas have floated to the surface to help fund the effort. As I mentioned recently, a national tax on soft drinks was the subject of a national feasibility study and it was determined that such a tax could raise a significant amount of revenue while combating the obesity epidemic at the same time.
Now the idea of a national tax on fattening food has also arisen. Again, the idea is to improve the health of the nation through economic incentive while raising money for health reform. As should be expected a large segment of advocacy and lobbying groups are up in arms about the idea, including the National Restaurant Association and the American Beverage Association. They decry the burden placed upon the little guy who is simply trying to enjoy a few simple pleasures in life: a good meal and a soda to wash it down.
For the food service industry, both of these taxes will force restaurateurs to raise prices, which explains the NRA’s opposition. Opposition to the food tax proposals also point out the likelihood of a high rate of recidivism (meaning poorer people, who tend to eat fattier foods and disproportionately drink more soda, will carry the largest burden). Of course, such a tax would probably help discourage the lower income people from eating unhealthy foods, and would insure them with a public health coverage plan.
Neither a fatty food nor a soda tax has made it onto any of the health care reform legislation currently being considered in Congress, and at this point their inclusion does not seem likely. That probably comes as a relief to the NRA, but don’t expect the restaurant industry group to sit back. They have joined the Americans Against Food Taxes lobbying group, who plans to push hard during the upcoming congressional summer recess to ensure any tax on food or drink doesn’t make into health care reform legislation.