Citizens for Limited Taxation & Government
"The Commonwealth Activist Network"
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*** CLT&G Update ***
Saturday, April 25, 1998
Barbara’s Bi-Weekly Column

Steady diet of taxes leaves her wallet thin
By Barbara Anderson
The (Quincy) Patriot Ledger
Saturday, April 25, 1998

First they came for the smokers, and I said nothing. Now they are coming for me.

A Yale University psychologist recommends that there be a tax on fatty foods because they cause health problems. My smoking friends predicted it and warned us: if the government can tax cigarettes because they’re bad for us, the government will eventually want to tax foods that are bad for us, too. Logically, why not?

Of course, the tax code will have to be changed every few weeks, whenever another study is done that contradicts the previous study: Salt, milk, liver, ketchup, eggs are bad and taxed, butter is taxed, margarine is taxed, butter’s taxed at a lower rate; an apple a day keeps the doctor and taxman away, unless it’s been sprayed, then tax it; unless you wash it, then rebate the tax.

There’s a credit for eating fish, unless it’s been contaminated by mercury, in which case there’s a surcharge. Chicken soup is taxed for as long as science ridicules it, then the tax is repealed when science admits that mother was right.

The Department of Revenue will let us file our daily menu electronically. The IRS, which can’t get a simple question about capital gains right 100 percent of the time, will easily sort out the amount due for eating too few grams of fiber. And guess what you’ll have to provide daily to prove you don’t owe it?

Vegetarians will insist that everything but vegetables be taxed. Aptly named fruitarians will insist that vegetables be taxed too. The IRS will have to decide, once and for all, how to classify tomatoes.
Food will go underground to avoid the tax. This is fine for potatoes and carrots, but meat and dairy foods will fare badly.

On the bright side, dieting will become easy. I am entirely capable of living on grapes to avoid paying another tax.

Dick Armey, here is the perfect reform. Abolish the IRS, tax only food at 100 percent but exclude fruit, then we can all eat berries and watch the government starve.

While you digest that delicious proposal, let me tell you about an April Fools’ Day joke played by a local radio station. No, not the dead mayor gag: another station came up with something actually funny, a "news item" that legislation had just passed a pet tax, assessed by weight. In order to determine the amount, you have to bring your pet in to be weighed.

Since Massachusetts legislators are capable of anything, some people believed the report. Animal lovers were outraged, though some called with thoughtful questions: do gerbils count, how do I get my cows to the assessors, and what about goldfish? The answers: all pets count, round them up, and you can choose to weigh your fish with or without their water.

Inevitably, a caller responded to the complaints by reminding listeners of all the good things that government does and that taxes are the price we pay for civilization.

Well, why not? If cigarettes and fat cost society money because of the problems they allegedly cause, look at what animals cost us!

Take my town. When I moved here twenty-some years ago, dogs roamed freely, causing socially disruptive arguments between dog owners and their neighbors. So town meeting passed a leash law. The town needed a paid dog officer to enforce it. Then there was a request for a new town employee to clean the sidewalks, since the dog doo that had previously been spread around four square miles was now concentrated on the walkways.

The eventual solution was a pooper-scooper law, and the inevitable result of that was serious flooding after dog-walkers tossed their doggybags into the town’s storm drains. But not to worry; debt overrides of Prop 2 will fix the drains. No problem is so big that it can’t be solved with higher taxes.

This tax is less fair than the cigarette and food tax, though, because people who don’t even have dogs have to pay it. I think only dog owners should be taxed by the weight of their dog’s share of the problem.

Yes, now that I think about it: tax the smokers, meat eaters and dog owners. I don’t smoke, I’ll eat berries, I have cats. So I won’t object until the government decides to tax sarcasm, and then I’ll hope there’s someone left to speak and fight for me.

Barbara Anderson is co-director of Citizens for Limited Taxation and Government. Her column appears bi-weekly in The Patriot Ledger and is syndicated.

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"The only alternative to limited taxation and government is unlimited taxation and government."

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