A meat tax is a rotten, regressive idea

Read the original article by Will Coggin at washingtonexaminer.com here.

Despite our political divisions, here’s a sentiment most Americans can agree on: “You can take my bacon from my cold, dead hands.”

Our love affair with the succulent strips has seen everything from bacon lip-gloss to bacon-flavored vodka. We’ve long enjoyed the stuff — pork belly futures were first traded on the Chicago Exchange in 1961.

And not just bacon, but all meat.

This fall, Oxford researchers suggested taxing beef, bacon, sausage, and other meats. Their justification is on very shaky public health grounds. In short, they claim that meat is bad for people, and therefore the government should tax it. It’s the latest version of the “sin tax.”

In our own time, we have seen soft drinks, fruit juice, plastic bags, and even straws similarly targeted by like-minded prohibitionists. Considering the growth, these taxes and their proponents aiming to alter the American lifestyle will clearly not be constrained by a strategy of appeasement.

It’s shocking that this needs to be said, but there are a number of downsides to taxing an entire food group. Chief among them are public health concerns, especially for the poorest among us. Meat is a great source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Affordable meat helps ensure a diet with sufficient protein for millions of Americans at or near the poverty line, to say nothing of the rest of us.

Meat is a perfectly natural part of the human diet — scientists believe eating meat is what allowed human brains to evolve — and the government recommends meat as a protein source. (The same isn’t true for traditional targets of “sin taxes,” such as cigarettes.)

A meat tax, much like a soda tax, would ultimately be regressive and disproportionately harm the poorest among us. Considered as a share of income, poor households pay roughly eight times more on consumption taxes than the best-off families do.

In fact, it has an impact on the economy that advocates may not anticipate. When Philadelphia enacted its soda tax, 1,200 people lost their jobs. Meanwhile, Philadelphians did not stop drinking soda but bought from surrounding cities to escape the high tax.

All things considered, it’s hard to view a meat tax as anything more than a way to punish the poor, in terms of nutrition, quality of life, and expenses.

Governments have no business telling us what to eat. It’s up to us to make the best decisions about our diets. While the vegans over at PETA and the Humane Society of the United States would surely be pleased by the nanny state increasing the cost of meat, these same people would likely drool at the idea of altering the packaging of meat, much like has been done with cigarette boxes.

Instead of descending down the rabbit hole of restricting consumer choice based on what the government (or Oxford researchers) think is “good” or “bad,” here’s a radical idea: Let people make their own choices at the grocery store without government placing its thumb on the scales and trying to unduly and improperly influence our choices.

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