Most people are aware that products and services considered by some to be morally bad, such as alcohol, tobacco, drugs, candy, sugar-based soft drinks, fast food, coffee, and gambling, are taxed under what are referred to as sin taxes. But there are also taxes on things that are allegedly good for you. I call them the saint taxes.
The Federal Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996 established at least 18 programs for taxation of products such as dairy products to support generic advertising campaigns. Milk producers currently pay a milk tax that is used to fund the Got Milk? advertising campaign promoting the consumption of milk. Because both the dairy industry and the government agree that milk is good for you, all milk producers (and thereby consumers) must pay for generic advertising to get out the word. Otherwise, people might just drink alternatives like fruit juice. Unfortunately, citrus growers haven’t bothered to convince the government to impose an advertising tax on them too, so they are SOL.
I can see where this is going now that our government is officially a milk pusher. Don’t be surprised to hear this the next time you have to renew your license. “Please take a number and have a seat. Would you like some milk with that? Since you will be waiting for quite a long time, please feel free to take advantage of the dairy bar. Milk is for everyone, you know. If you quality for food stamps, the cheese is free!”
Of course, the Got Milk ad campaign fails to distinguish the differences between milk produced from free-range cows that eat pesticide-free, nutritious grass or those that have been injected with growth hormones and forced to ingest foods that cows would normally never eat and have been produced with high levels of pesticides. So, it’s not exactly a saint tax. It’s kind of like subsidizing the sale of White Russians since the benefits of the milk far outweigh the questionable addition of vodka.
However, it seems that our government isn’t completely on the milk bandwagon. Milk was consumed for perhaps thousands of years before pasteurization was invented, and some people even prefer to drink it unpasteurized because they believe it is more nutritious before undergoing the pasteurization process. Yet, even though it is perfectly legal for the Amish farmers of Pennsylvania to sell unpasteurized “raw” milk to eager, well-informed consumers who are aware of the risks of bacteria, the Food and Drug Administration has decided that it should be illegal to sell across state lines and that these rogue farmers should be prosecuted. At the same time, the FDA is perfectly willing to allow drug companies to sell medications with horrendous side effects and questionable benefits. I guess we can look forward to prohibition-style milk raids and roadblocks to ensure that all the bad milk is kept inside the state. Pretty soon, we might see the price of raw milk skyrocket and we’ll have milk-smuggling gangs selling the stuff on street corners. “Would you like some raw milk with your fries?”
Unfortunately, while plain milk is exempt from state sales tax, flavored milk such as chocolate milk is taxable, since it is not considered a necessity. However, medical research (as well as Professor Lupin, Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry) suggests that dark chocolate actually is quite good for you, so maybe we can push through a tax exemption for dark chocolate milk.
Can there be a better example of a saint tax than the new Christmas Tree Fee? Yes, a Federal regulation just took effect in April 2014 to tax real live Christmas trees in support of yet another advertising campaign in favor of real vs. fake trees. What should this ad campaign be called? How about Got Christmas? No, I really don’t think that will fly, except maybe down south. I guess it should not really center on the promotion of Christmas itself, just the chopping down of perfectly good, oxygen-producing, life-supporting trees. To be neutral on the promotion of religion, the ads could also promote Hanukah bushes, Buddha bushes and, who knows, maybe even a Ramadan bush. Since many of the teachings of Islam follow in the footsteps of the Old Testament, we could try and promote a new tradition called the “Burning Bush of Ramadan.” It could be decorated with hated foreign flags and set on fire at sunset.
The Christmas Tree tax, of course, does not apply to artificial trees that can be reused year after year! Somebody has got to save the loss of American tree-farmer jobs to low-wage Chinese factory workers. Besides, we can’t just sit by and watch the family tree farm lifestyle disappear. Pretty soon young tree farmers will leave the farm or convert it to the production of government-subsidized corn for use in unhealthy corn syrup, cow food, and ridiculously inefficient ethanol.
It occurred to me that there are probably a lot of other saintly products and services that are generic enough that they also ought to be promoted by the government.
How about a skinny tax on clothing to promote a Got Skinny? advertising campaign? As they say, nothing tastes better than skinny feels. Combined with a fat tax on unhealthy foods, it could be give the old one-two punch to obesity!
Believe it or not, there is a product even more saintly than Christmas Trees. What could be better for you, or at least for babies, than mother’s milk? It only stands to reason then, that something so good for you absolutely should be taxed for our own good!
Did you know that there is a significant demand for mother’s milk since not every mother can produce any or do so in sufficient quantity? Yes, there are people who donate their own breast milk to provide for babies that otherwise would be unable to get it. There is an organization called the Human Milk Banking Association of North America that has established regulations for the construction of milk banks. Some hospitals have begun to establish these milk banks to offer better nutrition to premature babies whose mothers are not able to breast feed.
Unfortunately, the IRS has decided that breast milk donations cannot be deducted from income taxes since they are considered to fall under the category of human tissue. You know, like organs and embryonic stem cells, which also by the way happen to be very useful for saving or improving human life. We are, in essence, discouraging the donation of mother’s milk by excluding it as a valuable, tax-deductible product. Supplies such as breast pumps are deductible as medical supplies, but not the valuable product itself.
So, if mother’s breast milk is better for babies than cow’s milk, why not just slap on a tax to pay for some advertising to promote if as well? Got Mommy’s Milk? But what happens when you reduce the supply of a thing (no tax write-offs) and then stimulate more demand for it (advertising)? Economics 101 would say the price of that item would go way up! I think we just found a way for mothers to start a business that will generate a steady cash flow from selling their milk. Never mind donating it, America is the land of capitalism. Maybe they can even write off the cost of their raw materials (food), especially chocolate. What other taxes actually help to stimulate the economy? I think a new tax on mother’s milk could be a real winner!
UPDATE on Sin Taxes:
Danish lawmakers killed a controversial “fat tax” one year after its implementation, after finding its negative effect on the economy and the strain it has put on small businesses far outweighed the health benefits.
Products such as butter, oil, sausage, cheese and cream were subject to increases of as much as 9% immediately after the new tax was enacted.
“What made consumers upset was probably that an extra tax was put on a natural ingredient,” said Sinne Smed, a professor at the Institute of Food and Resource Economics.
The fat tax came to an end after netting an estimated €170 million ($216 million) in 2012 in new revenue. Danish lawmakers will slightly raise income taxes and reduce personal tax deductions to offset the lost revenue. The lawmakers also decided to reverse an earlier decision to create a sugar tax.