This is an extraordinarily sick country, in more than one sense of the term:
Faced with the high cost of caring for smokers and overeaters, experts say society must grapple with a blunt question: Instead of trying to penalize them and change their ways, why not just let these health sinners die prematurely from their unhealthy habits?
Of course it all ends up in an elaborate po-faced on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand charade of objectivity: the perp obviously went to jejunalism school. But ‘experts say’ is, as always, the operative phrase, the word of power that trumps all other considerations. Especially in the lede.
What a bunch of sick, punitive fucks we Amurricans are; and what sanctimonious hypocrites, too, clothing the whole sadistic revel in the garb of righteousness. We’re just conscientiously trying to make sure nobody gets more than he deserves — except, of course, for the people who have many orders of magnitude more than they deserve. Death to the evildoers — preferably a long, slow, exemplary death, pour encourager les autres.
This unintentionally Swiftian piece certainly commits a muddle a minute. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to the writer, for example, that the high cost of medical care in this country might have other sources than the self-indulgence of prole cola-bibbers and nicotine fiends, though the subject has been much discussed.
And the conventional polarities of debate are carefully observed:
There are plenty of public health researchers … who will argue that smoking taxes are not regressive so long as money is earmarked for programs that help poor people quit smoking.
I bet they will — argue, that is.
The one thing that is never, never considered in connection with excise taxes(*) is just rebating the money, on a strict per-capita basis, to every man woman and child in the country. ‘Liberals’ and ‘conservatives’ alike howl in execration at the idea — the former, because they’d rather take the money and spend it on soul-engineering ‘programs’ that employ ‘experts’ ; the latter, because the idea of poor people having more money drives them batshit.
Yet the rebate idea, from any rational point of view, is a thing of beauty. It’s redistributive, as any fixed per-capita payment must be. It disincentives the wicked — get thee behind me, Pepsi — and rewards the virtuous. And it’s a sneaky way of getting started on a social wage.
(*) Especially everybody’s favorite policy pipe dream, a carbon tax.