2/15/2009

For a more sustainable U.S.

http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?did=1645605171&sid=1&Fmt=3&clientId=1670&RQT=309&VName=PQD Article wrote by David P. Chynoweth who is a professor emeritus of agricultural and biological engineering at the University of Florida. One of his suggestion is a heavy tax on unhealthy product such as tobacco, alcohol, foods with added sugar and alcoholic beverages. It would be good idea to heavy tax on unhealthy product, but low income people consume alcohol heavier than middle or higher class people so unhealthy product company would have hard time if it is happen. I think idea of "Education through undergraduate college level should be free for all residents" is good idea to be a more sustainable country because we can learn so much things in the University, so it makes country more productivity.

10 comments:

Gracie said...

Isn't one of the goals of the tax to discourage unhealthy eating? Also, it seems like lower income people would consume more less expensive alcohol. Would the tax include all alcohol? Many upper class people consume expensive alcohols.

Dr. Tufte said...

-1 on Victoria for grammatical problems.

These are commonly called sin taxes.

The idea sounds great on paper, and up to a point, it is.

The problems are 1) there aren't enough sins and sinners to make a huge budget dent, 2) we already tax most of these things fairly heavily, 3) they do tend to be regressive so advocates for the poor don't like them.

Dr. Tufte said...

In thinking about this later, I'm also struck by the bizarreness of applying sin taxes to eating.

We've spent most of our history trying to made food cheaper, so that we can have enough to eat.

Now that we've actually done that, there are people who want to selectively reverse that. I'm not claiming that's wrong, but we should recognize that it is a bit weird, and it should give us cause to slow down and think things through a bit.

Abigail said...

It would be ideal for everyone to receive a free, high quality undergraduate degree. However few things in life are ideal. How would we finance such a program and what would happen to the level of education? We do this through high school and the truth is most high school fail many, many students. Do we really want that for college?

Dr. Tufte said...

A good tip-off for recognizing a bad economic argument is that it focuses on inputs not outputs.

In this case, the sin tax is on outputs, and the plan to use the proceeds to pay for higher education is about inputs.

The output side - sin taxes - is a fine argument (all I worry about is that these are a lot more widespread already than people recognize, and not enough people ask about how you would figure out the right size of the tax).

The input side - putting money into higher education - is more suspect. The reason is that there is no evidence offered that the output we would be buying with this input is a good deal.

That's a pretty basic question that no one should ever stop thinking about - you think about this constantly during your daily routine.

But ... we get to public policy questions ... and we fall for this bait and switch argument. We spend a very small amount of time talking about outputs, and then switch the subject to inputs. And it's always more inputs ...

When this happens it isn't a policy debate any more - it's advocacy.

Go out and try this for youself: find a policy debate that you can be neutral about, and think about whether the discussion is focused on inputs or outputs.

Trevor said...

I think that the idea of higher taxes on tobacco, alcohol, and unhealthy foods is a good idea in theory, but not at all practical. This has already been applied to tobacco and alcohol throughout the years and it hasn't had much success. I have three points to make concerning the raising of taxes on these items: 1. the amount that these items can be taxed is limited to a certain degree and 2. Most people who consume these goods are not willing to give up their life styles because of an extra $0.50 each time they purchase these products. The additional tax revenue really will not make a difference in the national deficit because of the amount of debt we find ourselves in each year. Also, if there is an increase in taxes on these goods, many low-level income homes will neglect other financial commitments, such as rent, food, children, in order still have the means to pay for these items.

Dr. Tufte said...

Hmmm.

Well, sin taxes are a really practical way to raise revenue. You're right though, they're not too practical at getting people to drop those behaviors.

A scary bit of statistics is that our sin taxes on many items already far exceed the costs associated with those items.

For example, the optimal tax on gasoline to combat anthropogenic global warming - developed and calculated by a true believer - is only a fraction of what we already collect in gas tax.

anthony said...

If a sin tax was imposed on foods with added sugar, food prices pretty much everywhere would rise! That would certainly raise tax revenue, but individual wealth overall would certainly suffer.

Luke said...

This is a very interesting idea, but I think it will end up causing a bigger problem. In reference to smokers, I don’t believe the price will affect them at all. Smoking is an addiction and people will find ways to get their cigarettes, so this will not affect the companies because the reduced smoking or other harmful substances will be reduced minimally. Poorer people may be on some type of state help and in this the state will be paying for the cigarettes not the smoker. So, in it all the money that the state puts out to assist its citizens will just be cycled back, in this type of case and it will hardly make a dent in any deficit.

Landon said...

It would seem that taxing luxury goods would only hurt everyone more than help anyone. Sin taxes could be imposed on all things that are luxury, for example our automobiles. It would more depend who is making the argument. If people feel that tobacco is a necessity good, then an increase on taxes would have very little impact on the amount purchased; however, if someone believes that they are luxury then they may be inclined to cut back. With so many people thinking that these unhealthy products are necessity, you would only be creating addition benefit from the individuals that look at them as a luxury. With such a small percentage either way would it be worth punishing some to make very little.