Thursday, May 14, 2009

Is beer "bad stuff"? Is King Corn?

My friend Budd left a comment on my post about taxing soda a few days ago, asking if beer isn't "bad stuff", and therefore should be taxed. As Budd, and anyone who has known me for about 5 seconds knows, I love beer. But, I have to admit that it is not good for me, except that it makes me happy, and there has to be some health value in that.

The reason Budd's question warrants an answer is that we know that alcohol is bad for us. So, what do drinkers pay? Extra tax, to diminish the amount they drink. Cigarettes get the same treatment. So, if we know soda, and twinkies, and bacon double cheeseburgers are bad for us as, why not tax them too, and use the money to fund a decent health care program. The tax alone would improve our health. In Economics we call this a "Pigovian Tax".

This brings me to a movie I saw last night called "King Corn". It is a documentary (available on Netflix) about how our idiotic farm subsidy program has, since 1972, caused corn to become the major influence in the American diet. Two guys just out of college lease an acre of land in Iowa and grow corn on it, then trace the paths the corn might take. It seems that the corn we mass over-produce is of low nutritional quality, and is in out meat, as well as anything that is sweetened. Many nutritionists blame it for our national obesity problem. The film is interesting and entertaining, without the snarkiness you might find from the likes of Micheal Moore.

It is obvious that instead of subsidizing high fructose corn syrup, we should be taxing it. Instead, the novice farmers in "King Corn" can only turn a profit because of the cash they get from the taxpayers. Which raises the question "Are we out of our fucking minds?". We are using taxpayer money to kill ourselves. Why not subsidize Al Queda?

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