Saturday, October 3, 2009

Good Morning, again. It is cool and wet today. I have to go to the library so I hope to dodge the raindrops and stay fairly dry. Needless to say--no gardening today.

I had resisted Facebook for a long time but have finally caved in and enrolled. Most of my family are on it and so are several old and dear friends. It does provide a nice way to keep up and some other nice entertainment.

I found this item that surprised both mom (who is on social security) and me (who is just shy of eligibility.) I really do think this sucks big time--to find that if you opt out of medicare because you qualify for a better health program only to find that you also must opt out of Social Security. We both thought the two were totally separate. After all you can opt for 'early' Social Security benefits at age 62 but must wait until age 65 to get Medicare. Something about this is totally screwy.

This one can be filed in the 'damned if you/damned if you don't' folder. Enrollment in Social Security is running above expected levels this year as older Americans who can enroll do so. Either they have lost jobs or they need the extra income in these nasty economic times. On the one hand the higher enrollment numbers will advance the time line for Social Security paying out more than they take in. On the other hand those who opt for social security and do not have a job are relieving the employment crunch somewhat. I don't blame those who opt for early benefits.

The Slate has an article examining the latest resurrection of 'fat taxes.' Actually they shouldn't be called 'fat taxes.' They aren't really because they are on a category of food most of us think of as junk food. Often these were already taxed because they were subject to sales taxes unlike other foods. Take a look at you checkout receipt at the supermarket and see if you state or local government follows that. You might buy potatoes, which are not taxed, and potato chips, which are. I am not really convinced by the argument that junk foods are 'engineered' to be irresistible, addicting even. They are just so readily available and convenient. But then we have whole categories of foods that are highly processed but aren't considered in the same category--he cake mix you bought along with the potatoes and potato chips for example. How do you want to categorize these foods? Or take a look at the canned vegetables on the supermarket shelves. Mom and I have and have been shocked at how much salt is in them. We recently had our first meals of beans and corn bread which were so salty we didn't have to add any salt. Mom doesn't add salt in cooking. She uses spices and herb mixtures exclusively. We add salt to taste at the table. We switched from the already prepared beans to the dried beans from then on. And we have switched to more of the frozen vegetables for the same reason. Alcohol and tobacco taxes are nicely straight forward compared to the swamp of trying to impose fat taxes.

But then there is another reason why I am somewhat leery of this kind of tax. Like all other 'sin' taxes they become a crutch for governments that impose them and those governments are not likely to take any real action to reform the behavior. In the 19th century the Czarist government knew that alcoholism was rampant but taxes on vodka and other alcoholic products provided the major support for their finances. Needless to say no real efforts were made to curb alcoholism because that would have diminished the revenues.

And then here is another bit of insanity. Since tourism brings in money why throttle the goose who should be laying the golden eggs? Thanks to Chris in Paris for the link. My first thought was to wonder if this proposal had anything to do with Chicago's fourth place finish for the 2016 Olympics--especially since one of the IOC members asked Obama about travel restrictions.


Elaine said...

Good I see your networked blogs is working, I followed of course.

About taxing junk food I have a dear friend in Canada and she has been following the Healthcare Reform news in our country. She sent me a long email about taxing junk food. In Canada all junk food is taxed, from the bag of cookies to the bag of potato chips, and of course sugary drinks. She went on to say all PREPARED foods in the grocery store are taxed as well. So that means the oven roasted chicken that so many's taxed in Canada. Their focus is on buying REAL food and preparing it yourself.

When I go to the grocery buying real food is my focus. Have not bought a packaged cake mix or any of that stuff in decades. Never go down the snack aisle, don't buy that stuff either. As far as I'm concerned they can tax all this unhealthy stuff...BUT healthy food must be available to all citizens rich or poor. And we both know it's not. The obesity epidemic is never going to be solved until we start feeding our children healthy food at school and home. The poor have little choice..a box of macaroni and cheese often is their best option.

Looking to the Stars said...

You brought up a lot of neat things in your post. Social Security is getting closer for me and that just seems really wierd. My heart still believes I'm a little girl :)

Going to look at the next shopping receipt and see if we are being taxed for the so called junk foods. Potato chips have been a part of my life since I was knee high. Also, it was neat to read what Elaine said, I like finding out what other countries are like.

I never use salt when I cook, my husband had to adjust to salting his food at the dinner table. After 16 years, its old hat for him. Like you, I buy frozen when I can't get fresh. Its the only thing I miss about my in laws, when they lived here they had a great garden where they would give us veggies from. (I do not have a green thumb, tho i have tried) :)