In his commentary, Matt Cavedon, communications associate at the Acton Institute, addressed new taxes that are being proposed to combat the high obesity rates in the United States and to provide financial support for health care reform. The new taxes proposed to help fund health care reform will begin to tax what Congress deems junk food or unhealthy food. Cavedon exposes the hypocrisy fostered by taxes on such junk or unhealthy food:
In “The Sin Tax: Economic and Moral Considerations,” the Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president of the Acton Institute, has argued against the idea of taxing sins to pay for public services. If the government relies on taxes on unhealthy foods to pay for health care programs, how can it both fight obesity and maintain steady revenue? Sirico says it cannot: “Under a sin tax, the state finds itself professing to discourage certain behaviors while relying on their continuance as a source of revenue.” The government may say unhealthy eating is bad, but it would rely on it for tax money.
The problem of hypocrisy leaves aside the question of whether government is qualified to be the moral police officer of our pantries in the first place. Sirico points out that “the government’s sense of morality, especially when it is influenced by excessive power, is often at war with traditional standards and common sense.” With food taxes, eating apple pie would become more of a punishable sin in the eyes of the government than cheating on a spouse.
Cavedon further explains the hypocrisy of taxes on junk and unhealthy food while also articulating the moral disorientation of such taxes. “Obesity is a problem” Cavedon states, “but higher taxes are not the answer.”