Move over booze and cigarettes, a new sin is about to be harnessed for social engineering.
New Jersey is yet another state where politicians have run public finances into the ground. As with incompetent political hacks everywhere the perpetual search for new money streams is becoming frenetic. Lawmakers in Trenton are pondering whether slapping a sin tax on fast food could stem the state’s financial woes. That state’s governor recently called the new sin tax a "constructive suggestion."
According to the news story to which we link, public reaction is hostile to the concept of taxing fast food. Residents of New Jersey don’t relish adding yet one more tax to the plethora of others that make the state one of the highest taxed in the nation. Critics of the fast food tax note that such a tax is essentially a tax on the poor. To those objections we have to say — so what? — for in effect, that’s what the legislators will likely say, as a plain matter of fact. Robbing the poor is legislative business as usual in New Jersey and too many other places.
One of the myriad of taxes those in New Jersey are subjected to is an extremely high cigarette tax, enacted not long ago by the legislature and the current governor. That tax is also very regressive, affecting far more poor people than the well-off. No one worried about the poor or the multiplicity of taxes then. Since smokers are a disorganized minority without any political clout the tobacco tax was rammed through without much fuss.
If truth be told, people who regularly dine on fast food are also a minority and also tend to be poorer than the average. They also are disorganized and politically apathetic. The New Jersey governing class, as is the case in most of the United States, is quite elitist. Since they won’t be paying the tax, and, in fact, are quite scornful of those who do frequent fast food joints (and smoke), they won’t lose any sleep picking the pockets of fast food eaters. The elite, so they think, may actually be doing the poor, dumb slobs a favor since, as one person quoted in this story says, high taxes on fast food may prompt people to seek healthy foods. That’s one of the arguments used to hike cigarette taxes: it’s for their own good. Disgust with elitist governing is growing fast. That’s good.