Cocoa is rich in antioxidant flavonoids called flavanols. ... Studies have shown that people with high blood levels of flavonoids have lower risk of heart disease, lung cancer, prostate cancer, asthma and type 2 diabetes ... people who ate a diet rich in cocoa powder and dark chocolate had lower oxidation levels of bad LDL cholesterol, higher blood antioxidant levels and 4 percent higher levels of good HDL cholesterol.
— Prevention Magazine
Gov. Deval Patrick wants to tax sweets, including, presumably, the dark chocolate that is standing between his constituents and heart disease, lung cancer, prostate cancer, asthma and Type 2 diabetes. Why does he hate us?
OK, to borrow one of the governor's favorite phrases: I get it. State revenues for the new fiscal year beginning in July are expected to increase "only" by more than a billion dollars, a 6.9 percent increase over this year's estimated revenues, hiking the state budget by less than two billion dollars. This proposed $32.3 billion budget apparently can't keep the state in the style to which it is accustomed, so what's a state to do?
Our total tax burden, per capita, is only fourth in the nation, so let's go tax the sinners.
I "get" the sales-tax exemption argument. Food is exempted from the state sales tax because it's an essential expenditure on something that's good for us; candy and soda are not essential, and are in fact bad for us; therefore, candy and soda should not be exempted from the state sales tax.
But Nanny, the latest data show dark chocolate, filled with antioxidants, is good for us. Therefore, it should not be taxed. Dark chocolate with fruit and nuts in it, like one of my favorite candy bars, is even better for us. Thinking in government language now, maybe my candy bars should be subsidized!
When I had a cold and/or sore throat, my mother would make healing candy with a family recipe brought here from Germany: mix honey, molasses, vinegar, vanilla, butter and, of course, sugar; boil until it crackles.
Of course, in my western Pennsylvania hometown, founded by Catholic Germans who built the brewery right after the church, Straub's beer (all grain, no sugar, salt or preservatives added) was considered one of the major food groups. It was consumed by nursing mothers to enrich their milk and by senior citizens to keep them "regular." Here in Massachusetts, this whole-grain nutritious beverage, were it imported from Pennsylvania, would already be taxed! But back to candy. Health Magazine tells us that "Eating chocolate stimulates the brain's opioid production. Opioids are chemicals responsible for diminishing pain sensations, enhancing pleasurable ones, and creating a sense of overall well-being. Your body's natural opioids include endorphins, chemicals which increase your pain tolerance."
This applies even to not-dark chocolate. Gov. Patrick wants to tax our opioid production! He doesn't care if we are in pain! Shame, shame, Gov. Patrick.
I can't wait to see the pages of regulations on what is candy and therefore subject to the sales tax, and what is not.
Never mind. The governor plans to balance his tax assault on our physical and mental health with additional taxes on tobacco. Smokers will get another 50-cent increase per pack, and the tobacco excise will be applied to cigars and other smokeless tobacco products.
House Minority Leader Brad Jones asked, "Is this part of the plan to help balance the budget in New Hampshire?" Actually, I'm surprised at how much money Massachusetts still gets from the cigarette tax.
Chip Ford once suggested to Big Tobacco that it announce it would no longer sell cigarettes in Massachusetts; he thought it would be fun to watch state government panic over the immediate loss of those revenues to which it has become addicted. Right now, if everyone stopped smoking, the commonwealth would lose roughly $484 million in excise taxes and $90 million in sales taxes. So I'd suggest that our commonwealth doesn't increase the cost of tobacco use for the purpose of preventing cancer. Despite a natural resistance to paying higher taxes, everyone won't stop smoking anymore than I'll stop eating sweets or, for that matter, drinking Zero Cherry Coke. (Shouldn't diet drinks be exempt at least until we break our sweetened soda addiction? Does the state tax methadone?).
So there I was, last weekend, watching Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the House Ways and Means chairman, being interviewed by Chris Wallace on Fox Sunday about President Obama's State of the Union address, which the congressman memorably accused of calling for "a future of debt, doubt and decline." He attacked the tax hike on "the rich," noting that this category includes the many small businesses that file as individuals.
It was Ryan's 42nd birthday, so at the end of the interview he was presented with a cake that had a dollar sign frosted on it.
This young politician, one of the few with whom I've identified (fiscal conservative, libertarian and Aquarian) said, "I don't eat sweets." Well, goodbye my kindred spirit!
I'll still vote for him for president someday, when he's older. At least he tries to lead by example, not tax policy. Do you eat cake, Gov. Patrick?
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Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation.