Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Let's Tax Our Way to Health

In 1960, the federal minimum wage was $1 per hour and a fountain soft drink cost five cents, while a slice of pizza in New York City costs around 60 cents. In 1960, children ran and played outside after school; they left the house on Saturday mornings and returned at dark. Bicycles, skates, hula hoops, and stick ball were the fitness machines of the 60s. Elementary school students wore gym uniforms and sweated in gym class; recesses were spent climbing jungle gyms, swinging on wooden swings, and playing ancient games called, "tag" or "hide and seek." Children in rural areas did chores like feeding livestock, cleaning up after livestock, and running errands. City kids did chores like making beds, washing dishes, and running errands. City and country alike, children ran, played, socialized, and enjoyed the freedom to just be kids.

Today, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour and a fountain soft drink costs $1, while a slice of pizza in New York City costs around $2.50. Today, children come home after school and chat, text, and game -- all electronically. Schools have eliminated gym classes due to lawsuits and increased operating costs. Elementary students are watched over as they play on rubber mats and stand and chat with each other. Children in rural areas do chores, but now they have access to four-wheelers. City kids do chores like hooking up the wireless Internet and showing parents how to surf the Web. City and country alike, children have become more isolated as all of their socializing is done via electronic media.

Today, I heard a report how today's children will be the first generation in the history of the United States to live shorter lives than their parents. The report cited the epidemic of childhood obesity as the cause for these shortened lifespans. The report said the federal government now has the answer to childhood obesity: an 18-percent tax on soft drinks and pizza. The reasoning behind this tax proposal consisted of "if soft drinks and pizza costs more, then kids will consume less and be healthier."

Now that really doesn't make any sense to me. In 1960, a person would have to work three minutes at minimum wage to buy a soft drink; today a person has to work eight and a half minutes for that same drink. In 1960, a person would have to work 36 minutes for a slice of pizza, while today one would have to work only 21 minutes. Hence in the logic of the government -- since soft drinks cost more -- soft drink consumption should be down while pizza slice consumption should be up. According to its own report, soft drink consumption is higher. Oh well, so much for their logic.

Will an 18-percent tax on soft drinks and pizza create fitter children? I would guess the only thing that would get slimmer is our pocketbooks, while the government coffers get fatter. Would things like more exercise be good for kids? Would creating a safe environment where kids can run and play be good for them? How about fast-food chains offering inexpensive healthy choices so a working single mom can afford to feed her family something besides inexpensive grease-saturated food? Perhaps, healthy school lunch programs run by lunch ladies that actually prepared food from scratch instead of being required to use pre-packed, government-issued, convenience food would be better for the children?

I may be naïve, but I don't follow the logic that says we can tax our way to health.

Am I the only one?


Anonymous said...

You are totally correct. I love my parents. But sometimes I think the problems of today are the fault of their generation. Humans have a habit of reacting. And sometimes reacting without thinking. When our parents went thru the depression, most of them learned that they needed to save and be prepared for any event. My parents never spent a dime unless it was necessary. My dad was a school teacher and never made much money. The first year out of school, I made more then he did after 30 years of work. Yet, our family was never out of money. And when he retired, he saved most of his social security. He never borrowed money, and grew almost everything our family ate. I remember we used to plant 100 pounds of potatos every year, just in case we had nothing else to eat. And we always ate the rotten ones first, to make sure the rest would last as long as possible. The joke in our family was that we never ate any good potatos, because as long as there were rotten ones, we ate them first.

However, my parents, and I believe many others, didn't want their children to suffer the way they did. So they never let us know how hard they worked, or saved. And they gave us everything on a silver platter. As a result, many in my generation learned the wrong lesson. I believe my parents taught me and my sister the right things. But many parents of that generation didn't. I remember in the 60s and 70s, I kept thinking to myself how so many young people we on drugs, lazy, and disrespectful of authority. And I thought at the time, "What is this country going to be like when my generation are the adults?". Well, now I know.

Life goes in cycles. I expect in a generation or two, we will again grow to respect authority and work hard. And then we will cycle the other way again. Think about it. The Roaring 20s weren't called that for no reason. And I think it was some ancient Greek who first thought the youth were going to the dogs.

Just like global warming, it's just a natural cycle. But don't get me started on that. God probably shakes His head at us. But He still loves us. That's the GOOD NEWS.

The Layman said...

I remember comimg home from the Army in November of 1960. I came home to a new church my parents had picked out, and I am still there after all the years. What has changed is the life within when one remembers the saints that were with-in. How great it is that we now have the Mens NetWork to guide this generation to thier rightful God given roles in life. And I believe we can also show the new episode #29 to our Sunday School children. All father has to do is download it and show it. Spring is just around the corner also perhaps we can take some long walks with the kids...but no snacks after?