Regressive taxes are good!

That’s what Bloomberg says, anyway. We should tax poor people more, so they can’t afford to buy things like sugary soft drinks, which would shorten their lifespan. Apparently, if you’re rich, you never indulge in stuff that might harm you.

Some people say, well, taxes are regressive. But in this case, yes they are. That’s the good thing about them because the problem is in people that don’t have a lot of money. And so, higher taxes should have a bigger impact on their behavior and how they deal with themselves. So, I listen to people saying ‘oh we don’t want to tax the poor.’ Well, we want the poor to live longer so that they can get an education and enjoy life. And that’s why you do want to do exactly what a lot of people say you don’t want to do.

The question is do you want to pander to those people? Or do you want to get them to live longer? There’s just no question. If you raise taxes on full sugary drinks, for example, they will drink less and there’s just no question that full sugar drinks are one of the major contributors to obesity and obesity is one of the major contributors to heart disease and cancer and a variety of other things.

So…who in New York has a guillotine? I think it’s time to wheel it out and take care of some patronizing jerks.


  1. says

    Well, the way he talks about it is problematic, but the basic idea of taxing goods to account for their social cost is fully ethical and good public policy. We raised taxes on cigarettes and that contributed a lot to lower rates of smoking. We should drastically increase taxes on fossil fuels. Raising taxes on alcohol is proven to reduce excessive drinking. Taxing sugary beverages has a huge public health benefit. It’s not specifically directed at poor people, obviously.

    The problem is if low income people can’t quit their tobacco or sugar addiction, or need the car to get to work and don’t have an alternative, and it ends up hurting them economically. But the solution to that is to use the tax for some redistributive purpose that returns the benefit to them. As long as that is part of the plan, I am 100% in favor of a tax on sugary drinks. Sugary beverages are a huge contributor to obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, and yes, it disproportionately affects low income people. They aren’t food, they are empty calories. And it’s not some sort of empowering choice — it’s the consequence of more than a century of aggressive marketing and science denial, just like the tobacco and fossil fuel industries. Bloomberg is right about that.

  2. vucodlak says

    Stop-n-frisk Bloomberg is a mass of bigotries and weaponized privilege animating a moldy elf-on-the-shelf doll. He hates people of color, the poor, and fat people. Elect him, and he’ll spend his term making sure those groups suffer as much as possible.

    If, by some evil miracle, he gets the nomination I will NOT vote for either major presidential candidate. I’ll vote for bland centrist Mayor Pete, I’ll vote for No-We-Can’t Klobuchar, I’ll even swallow a turd and vote for Clueless Old Joe, but not Bloomberg. I won’t be the only one to sit that race out either. I will vote all blue down ballot, but I refuse to be forced to choose between a pair of asshole New York billionaire* crime bosses trying to out-awful each other.

    The one and only good thing about a Bloomberg candidacy is that maybe a small meteor will hit the debate stage while he’s up there with Trump, and spruce up the planet a bit.

  3. says

    @#2, vucodlak:

    That’s kind of the idea behind his run. He, like many of the richer Democrats (Obama and Hillary Clinton have both revealed themselves to be in this group, shamefully) would rather have a second Trump term than a win for Warren or Sanders. All the “resistance” is just a show — Centrists love the fiscal status quo and are terrified that there might be a threat to it.

  4. hemidactylus says

    Yeah that seems a bit ripped from context. Bloomberg at the IMF is talking about ways to approach noncommunicable diseases and his view is tax policy works in this area (hence sin tax). This happens to be regressive as it impacts poor people more, but it doesn’t seem to be calling for regressive taxation as a general good. Bloomberg’s wording is a bit offputting and the nanny state notions he is known for make him unpopular amongst some folks. Funny thing that googling the quote comes up with some right slanted sites (eg- Americans for Tax Reform). He goes on to make some comparison to coal miners losing employment if we stop using coal which doesn’t quite follow.

    The whole in context thing is on the IMF channel:

  5. gorobei says

    Bloomberg was a dick, but he did implement policies like raising the price of cigarettes from $7/pack to $13/pack. There was actually a statistically significant rise in life expectancy from this. Sugary drinks would have shown the same effect. Implementing the 311 system was a cost effective quality of life improvement. Stop and frisk – morally wrong and misguided.

    He was a fairly uncharismatic, evidence-based policy-wonk mayor. 100x better than Giuliani. But, seriously, why would anyone want him as president?

  6. says

    Bloomberg was a dick, but he did implement policies like raising the price of cigarettes from $7/pack to $13/pack.

    $6 more does not affect a wealthy person at all – Bloomberg’s policies mostly amount to using disparate wealth to manipulate the poor.

    Hang the rich.

  7. nomdeplume says

    I’m with you on the guillotine PZ, but I think Bloomberg is actually right on using taxes to discourage sugar intake, smoking, alcohol addiction, and, dare I say it, carbon consumption. But as cervantes above says, use those taxes raised for some redistribution back to the poor. You could of course also regulate the maximum amount of sugar in sugary drinks but as soon as some policy might impact corporate bottom lines the screams of “nanny state” come thick and fast.

  8. nomdeplume says

    I didn’t say it, because it should ho without saying, but regressive taxes for social benefit must be accompanied by a strongly progressive income tax system. Bloomberg of course is against that.

  9. vucodlak says

    “Sin taxes” like taxing sugary drinks exist purely because the poor can never be made to suffer enough.

    Taxing sugary drinks? It’s meant to make poor people suffer, period. With alcohol and tobacco you can at least make an argument that the use of those products harms people other than the user (drunk drivers, assaults by drunk people, secondhand smoke, etc.), but sugary drinks? Nope. But sugary drinks are a pleasure that poor people can afford, and we can’t have that. The filthy poor don’t deserve any pleasures. If they want to enjoy any part of life, then they should stop being poor.

    I don’t want to hear any whining about “the public health costs” of sugary drinks, either. You know what is bigger contributor to public health costs than the existence of fat people? Forcing people to live in poverty, which taxes like this absolutely contribute to. If you’re supporting pieces of shit like Bloomberg or their anti-poor policies, you’re part of the problem, not the solution.

    Bloomberg isn’t trying to help anyone, or solve any problems. He hates poor people, he hates fat people, and he can get gullible liberal rubes to go along with this kind of a poor tax.

  10. cartomancer says

    Well, by his own logic the kindest thing to do would be to raise taxes on Michael Bloomberg until he has so little money left he cannot afford to buy anything. All those billions of dollars he’s hoarded – why, he’s just about the biggest risk to his own health in the country! I shudder to think of all the high-sugar, high-fat, high-salt foods he can buy with his disgustingly excessive reserves of society’s stolen resources. He could build an elaborate mansion out of pure lard, with spun sugar windows, chocolate roof tiles and a moat of high fructose corn syrup, and he could eat the whole lot in a week before commissioning another one the week after. And he has absolutely no need to get up and do any exercise either, what with his billions allowing him to live out the rest of his years in abject luxury.

    What’s that you say? Rich people are somehow not affected by the same incentives to eat cheap food as poor people? Sounds like a good argument for making poor people a lot richer to me…

  11. hemidactylus says

    I was thinking somewhat tangentially about the quality of food available to poor people and the notion of food deserts, where people live adjacent to convenience stores and do most of their shopping there out of necessity. There are pantries and food banks that may help address the food quality and distribution issue.

    In my own circumstance I can afford to eat as I want and have transportation to get to decent supermarkets. But what choices do I make. Lately I’ve tried to eat better. But that can be more expensive.

    Affluent people not as impacted by regressive point of sale nanny taxes still eat slop, just more expensive at restaurants instead of from convenience stores. Deep-fried food. People are hardwired to crave fat, sugar and salt and foods are engineered and aggressively marketed with that in mind.

    And beyond that which people cannot control as in their metabolism, life is more sedentary now. So yes sugary drinks in excess are bad, but being connected all the time usually means not burning as many calories being active. Should we tax sitting for hours in a recliner watching tv? Or subsidize monthly gym fees as a part of comprehensive single payer health care? More carrots* than sticks to shape behavior.

    *- would have went with sugar cubes but that sends the wrong message

  12. mailliw says

    Billionaires form a demographically insignificant percentage of the electorate and their opinions and interests can safely be ignored by anyone seeking to gain any substantial portion of the popular vote.

    Billionaires almost always support indirect taxation like sales tax which effect poorer segments of society adversely, rather than direct taxation like income tax, wealth tax, corporation tax and inheritance tax which might mean they are rather less obscenely wealthy than they were previously.

  13. DanDare says

    @9 on the nail.
    Strong progressive tax and tax on harmful goods with a lot of checks and balances on selecting those goods – must be evidence based for sure.
    Tax windfall must distribute back to support the poor and vulnerable and the commons, like roads, health infrastructure etc.
    And yes the rich can afford to buy the highly taxed goods. So what? That is a small number of people and the impact is largely on them.

  14. unclefrogy says

    the only thing even possibly good about Bloomberg is he might be just enough to dilute the moderate vote just enough by spreading it out to allow one of the more liberal progressives to lead, other then that I see nothing good about it.
    it would be a hard choice to make in november but while he is a typical rich white guy at least you can not accuse Bloomberg of treason and he is not openly a fascist.
    lessor of two evils?
    uncle frogy

  15. microraptor says

    The only thing I can really say in response to anything Bloomberg has to say is “Okay, Boomer.”

  16. Artor says

    You know what else poor people can’t afford besides sugary drinks? Essential medical care for themselves and their children. A decent education. A reliable car to get them to a better job. More than a few days of savings. I guess it’s important to keep them from those things too.

  17. says

    Maybe they should tax fine wine at 5000% and not tax the cheap stuff.

    Note that NYC was also doing usage taxes for vehicles – which are absorbed into the operational expense of a town car or a limo but hit an uber driver right where it hurts. Because NYC is for town cars and limos. Poor folks should take the dysfunctional and nasty subway.

  18. consciousness razor says

    And yes the rich can afford to buy the highly taxed goods. So what?

    So this is classism, effectively if not intentionally.
    It’s as if some people think a sales tax is the only tool the government could possibly use. It’s not.

  19. hemidactylus says

    Maybe instead of taxing sweet drinks we should be taxing commodities futures transactions. McGoey’s No Such Thing as a Free Gift touched on deregulation in commodities indexing and derivatives and speculative bubbles that could impact food pricing. Surely the sorts of people who gambled on mortgages then shifted to commodities markets when the former went south bigly could foot more of the social costs of their behaviors.

  20. Elladan says

    Cervantes @ #1: If you raise sin taxes on things like soft drinks and beer, it should be obvious that the result is that poor people can’t afford them while the tax will have no effect on rich people at all. Yes, overall consumption goes down, but the ones forced to reduce are the poor.

    The same result will obviously be true for high taxes on carbon, too: poor people won’t be able to get to work because they can’t afford gas, while rich people will blaze past the overcrowded buses in giant mega-hummers getting half a mile per gallon. It reduces carbon, but the people who have to reduce are poor people.

    This is why, in cases of actual shortage such as war, governments typically use rationing for basic goods. We need those poor people to get to work, so crushing them via punitive sin taxes won’t do! Instead, everyone gets a ration card for a certain number of gallons of booze or gas per week, and if someone is driving around in a mega-hummer they’re obviously a criminal.

    Is this an optimal system? Obviously it’s not. But then why the hell would we assume that a neoliberal capitalist solution such as a sin tax is fair or ethical?

  21. hemidactylus says

    Dated but interesting:
    “ The average American, who spends roughly 8 to 12 percent of her weekly paycheck on food, did not immediately feel the crunch of rising costs. But for the roughly 2-billion people across the world who spend more than 50 percent of their income on food, the effects have been staggering: 250 million people joined the ranks of the hungry in 2008, bringing the total of the world’s “food insecure” to a peak of 1 billion — a number never seen before.”

  22. Elladan says

    OK how about this: Progressive sin taxes!

    If you’re poor, a bottle of jack costs $30, but if you’re Michael Bloomberg it costs Three Hundred Million Dollars.

    Now that’s a sin tax I can get behind!

  23. says

    Those taxes are worthwhile only for truly binary choices. When “the market” forces those binary choices on those who medically need a third choice, though…

    “Sugary drink” taxes piss me off. I (and my descendants) cannot tolerate even the smallest amounts of artificial sweeteners — they trigger blinding headaches. (And let’s not talk too loudly about phenylkenoturia — a genetic disorder whose origin and pathology are taught in basic biochemistry, and lead to mandatory testing of newborns in many states — and its relationship to artificial sweeteners. Poison. Something with poison in it…) But I’m happy without much if any sweetness in drinks.

    Just try getting unsweetened iced tea at any fast-food place that sells iced tea. And if you ask for just water, it’s been run through the tubing on the dispenser for artificially-sweetened tea or lemonade.

    What we’d be much better off doing is, instead of taxing the consumers (who often do not have a choice or must make individual-circumstances tradeoffs), taxing the manufacturers out the wazoo for any product containing simple sugars or taste-substitutes that they incorporate in their products… and putting the “excessive sweetness” burden at the source, where “widespread behavior modification” efforts are both effective and nondiscriminatory. Plus, that actually encourages awareness and responsibility at the consumer end if consumers are consciously adding sweeteners (of their preference).

  24. christoph says

    I think PZ’s comment about “patronizing jerks” is the most accurate thing I’ve read on this subject.

  25. chrislawson says

    Please don’t fall for this. The ‘regressive tax’ line is a marketing soundbite wheeled out by industries that harm poorer people. The same line was used to oppose tobacco taxes and removing lead from fuel. It is a scam because the people making this argument have zero interest in the well-being of poorer people or they wouldn’t be selling their products with marketing that is targeted to them. Yes these taxes are harder for poor people to afford than rich people, but they also meant that fewer poor people got lung cangers and emphysema and poor children had less brain injury from lead exposure (since poorer people live much closer to industrial areas and highways).

    Taxing high-sugar drinks is recommended by almost every public health body in the world, including the WHO. Where sugar taxes have been introduced, consumption of sugary drinks has fallen massively (except in places like Denmark where people could easily stock up in Sweden where there was no tax). And it’s too early to tell but on the evidence we have (1-2 servings of sugary drinks per day increases diabetes risk by 26%), this should have a major effect in lowering diabetes and heart disease rates, conditions that are much more common in lower socioeconomic groups.

    The problem with Bloomberg’s comments is his incredibly patronising belief system rather than his support of this specific policy. As nomdeplume says, the greater problem is the overall taxation burden being shirked by the ultrarich, a problem that Bloomberg joined the nomination race in order to perpetuate. Arguing for sugar taxes to reduce diabetes and obesity while fighting to keep wealth inequality which causes much greater harms (including diabetes and obesity!) is giving a cent while stealing a dollar.

  26. lochaber says

    I’m not sure if I’m really opposed to taxing soda. I am opposed to more tax increases on alcohol and tobacco, since they are addictive substances, and if I remember correctly, that economic supply/demand curve doesn’t apply to addictive substances.

  27. nomuse says

    Sure, let’s tax sodas and donuts and other sugar-rich fat food. Because it isn’t like people working two jobs and who might not even have an oven at home don’t need that quick, cheap (albeit unhealthy) boost to get through a long shift and actually, you know, be able to afford ANY food or shelter.

    Because of course all this intake of high-fructose corn syrup is unhealthy…what’s that you say? Tax the corn syrup itself? Design a tax that causes manufacturers to search for a healthier food? Oh, but that would cost millionaires and their buddies and they wouldn’t be able to afford the same expensive champagne. We can’t have that.

    So let them tax cake.

  28. chrislawson says


    The evidence is clear that taxing addictive substances reduces consumption. It doesn’t necessarily obey the textbook supply-demand curve but that’s at least partly because the textbook supply-demand curve is itself an artificial abstraction that applies to very few products in a real marketplace.

  29. chrislawson says


    Most of the sugar taxes are applied to the distributor or the manufacturer (in many cases these are the same entity). In many cases the cost to consumers only rose 20% of the added tax because for highly profitable products like Coca-Cola, the manufacturer would rather eat most of that tax to maintain market share. Even so, the levels of consumption drop considerably when sugar taxes have been introduced except where people could easily get their supplies from a non-taxed neighboring community.

    The easy way to tell if a sugar tax is going to hurt consumers but not manufacturers is to look at how much the industry groups are spending to stop these taxes. If it didn’t hurt them, they wouldn’t be spending millions of dollars to fight them. To give just one example, the American Beverage Association spent more than $10M just to fight a sugar tax for the City of Philadelphia. That’s an awful lot of money to stop a tax for 0.4% of the US population that wouldn’t hurt the owners.

  30. lochaber says


    huh. for some reason I thought I read something where taxation didn’t really affect the rate of consumption as to addictive substances. Although, I can’t remember where I read that, and it was quite some time ago, so I’ll have to look up that topic one of these days…

  31. hemidactylus says

    I would think subsidizing corn in a so-called free market with the Iowa primary coming up a bit weird. And while promoting taxing of sugary drinks we are also subsidizing the suppliers of corn syrup sourcing. Left-hand vs right-hand? And then there’s ethanol.

    This thing is actually a bit complicated:

    At the tail end this nudging with a carrot is a bit interesting: “In several U.S. cities, doctors are now prescribing fruits and vegetables — an Rx that can be traded in for free produce at the farmers market. It’s part of a program that aims to reshape the buying habits of people at risk of obesity, diabetes and other lifestyle-related diseases.”

  32. Elladan says

    Look, we have to have high taxes on everything I argue is unhealthy, because those dumb poor people can’t be trusted to make their own decisions on things. They clearly can’t be allowed money either, since they would just blow it on nonessentials like beer and soda, or even cigarettes. These policies are meant for their own good, so you should just sit down and shut up about them, silly leftists.

    Meanwhile I, a filthy rich man, sit here in my giant gilded palace surrounded by swimming pools full of Cristal with the finest flake cocaine on every table, as is my right. Because of my vast wealth, I am clearly the best suited to decide what I do with my body and indeed, with all of my money, and your money as well. Now, snap snap, bring me another tin of endangered beluga caviar and a glass full of the tears of orphans, my mouth has started to get that dry feeling I associate with poverty.

    It is quite laughable I must say that anyone would argue against these taxes, for as you all know taxes are the most right and ethical way to influence the behaviors of society. What? What’s that, you think I should pay taxes ever? Silence, you dog! Take this whip made out of trunk of a Sumatran Elephant and give yourself 50 lashes for your impertinence! Chop chop!

  33. says

    Hemidactylus beat me to it:

    While I’m down with taxes on cigarettes (yes, even though millionaires will be relatively unaffected by them) taxing unhealthy food when our society prices fresh fruits and vegetables so highly isn’t really the best thing. What would work better to increase public heath is to provide fresh fruits and vegetables, including juice or other healthier drinks, whatever medical research shows them to be.

    If you have good food and delicious drinks in the fridge, then the “tax” on sugary drinks is buying them at all, and I can live with that.

    No hunger. No thirst. No homelessness. Transportation, greenspaces, libraries and Medicare for all.

  34. hemidactylus says

    @34- Crip Dyke
    I’m a little hesitant on fruit juice per se. I do drink low sodium V8 in morning, because fiber. The low sugar green V8 is ok but not up to the red stuff. I am from Florida but don’t ever drink citrus juice (who can forget Anita Bryant). I get ascorbic acid from a pill and my V8. I drink the bitter celery concoctions when on sale. I believe that bitter green stuff, but not sugary citrus, is good. But I avoid the trendy kombucha sewage drink.

    I drink water a lot, but bottled water is its own downstream plastic issue. Yet given situations like Flint Michigan trust in municipal water taps is hard to come by.

  35. Saad says

    Is he attempting to claim that the very rich have healthy diets and don’t have cardiovascular issues?

  36. Kip Williams says

    Saad, I don’t read it that way. The rich have cardiovascular issues of their own, and others, but they had the responsibility to make certain that they were rich before indulging in such things. As responsible rich people, they know that when your system lags, you need a healthy enough underclass to make it worthwhile transplanting their organs into your body, and selling their healthy blood for you to replace the tired corpuscles you have now.

    It is irresponsible for the poor to take such poor care of their precious bodily fluids and organs. It’s like they have no regard for their betters.

  37. ibbica says

    The state fussing over healthcare costs only carries weight if your health care is covered by the state.

  38. chrislawson says

    Crip Dyke@34–

    You’ll be pleased to hear that many public health specialists recommend any tax on sugary drinks go towards subsidising fruit and vegetables and more nutritious school lunches. Also, most public health researchers also want the tax on sugary drinks to apply to fruit juices (which from a sugar point of view is almost as bad, even unsweetened) and to artificially sweetened drinks because there is good evidence that they too increase diabetes risk (putative model: drinking artificial sweeteners fools your body into releasing insulin even though there’s no extra sugar to suck from the bloodstream, thereby teaching cells to become more resistant to insulin stimulation — which is the pathological basis of type 2 diabetes).

  39. fmitchell says

    Wealthy people know that poor people don’t know how to use money wisely, otherwise they wouldn’t be poor. (And wealthy people know everything, because they’re wealthy.) Therefore poor people’s money should go to the State, which gives it to the rich, who can buy sensible things like gold-plated toilet seats and yachts the size of cruise ships. It’s just common sense.

    (Yes, making unhealthy things more expensive would discourage people from buying so many of them. So would offering cheaper healthy alternatives and funding public health care and fact-based health education. But those are “socialist” solutions, not “free market” solutions, and they offend the delicate sensibilities of people who might have to part with 1% of their billions.)

  40. cartomancer says

    I am very much opposed to the idea of so-called “sin taxes” for the same reason many others have articulated here – they are a punishment on the poor designed to stop them having the simple pleasures that are often the only ones they have access to.

    I myself am very fond of Coca-Cola. I tend to drink about three or four tins f the stuff a day. It is a great pleasure for me, and when I’m feeling down it helps to cheer me up greatly. Now, I can afford to pay any additional tax placed on it. The UK recently did such a thing, and it hasn’t affected my purchasing habits in the slightest. Even if it was twice or three times as expensive as it used to be, I’d still be buying it. Because I like it so much and it improves my life to have it. Fortunately I am healthy and of an appropriate weight for my height, and doctors have never noticed any adverse side-effects with me. Indeed, the stress relief it provides is probably having positive health effects for me, given that it is what I use to medicate when I suffer from the all too frequent bouts of crippling loneliness I suffer thanks to my friends being too busy to see me all the time.

    If I were very poor and could not afford it, yes, out of necessity I would have to cut down. But that would be a difficult, stressful and unpleasant thing for me. So, whatever their aim, whatever their intent, such taxes would burden and oppress the poor, but would have no effect on relatively comfortable middle-class people like me, and on anyone wealthier than I am. Is that morally just? Is that ethically right?

    I find it appalling that anyone can think about the problems poor people suffer and think the solution must involve something other than stopping those people being poor. It’s as if poverty is, in itself, a fine and necessary thing – fuck those guys, who cares? – but the behaviour of the poor must be micro-managed with threats and punishments because poverty somehow makes people morally deficient.

  41. says

    I oppose a sugar tax in a shithole like the USA. I would support some form of it in a more socialistic country where all people have access to healthy food.

    I have lived under circumstances that required me to spend as little money on food as possible. My favorite foods are fruits and vegetables. My favorite drink is freshly squeezed carrot juice. Unfortunately, fresh carrot juice costs about 6 euro per liter. I couldn’t afford that. Conveniently, I also like the taste of sugar. Some sugary soft drink cost only one euro per liter. Thus I picked sugary drinks as a cheaper and less desirable but still somewhat adequate substitute to the healthier and more expensive drink that I really wanted.

    A sugar tax that made the soft drink cost 2 euro instead on 1 euro wouldn’t help me in any way, it would only hurt me—the carrot juice still cost 6 euro and I couldn’t afford it.

    I believe that humans should be free to consume unhealthy food for pleasure if they really want to. But it sucks when people consume unhealthy food only because they cannot afford the healthy stuff. Sugar and fats are pretty much the only things that are both tasty and cheap. Foods that are both tasty and healthy are expensive. I love the taste of fruits and vegetables. It’s just that I couldn’t afford to eat them as much as I would have preferred.

    In a decent socialist-leaning country it would be reasonable to use taxes in order to regulate food prices so that unhealthy foods are no longer cheaper than healthy foods. If people want to consume sugar for pleasure, that’s their free choice. Unfortunately, in countries like the USA some people consume unhealthy foods only because they have no access to better alternatives due to poverty and living in food deserts.

  42. says

    chrislawson @#40

    Also, most public health researchers also want the tax on sugary drinks to apply to fruit juices (which from a sugar point of view is almost as bad, even unsweetened)

    Some juices are better than others. For example, last time I bought one, it was made from carrots and sea-buckthorn berries. The latter are rich in vitamins, but for most people they seem too sour to eat on their own without mixing with something else.

  43. Dunc says

    Would it not be better if they spent more money on wholesome things like oranges and wholemeal bread or if they even, like the writer of the letter to the New Statesman, saved on fuel and ate their carrots raw? Yes, it would, but the point is that no ordinary human being is ever going to do such a thing. The ordinary human being would sooner starve than live on brown bread and raw carrots. And the peculiar evil is this, that the less money you have, the less inclined you feel to spend it on wholesome food. A millionaire may enjoy breakfasting off orange juice and Ryvita biscuits; an unemployed man doesn’t. Here the tendency of which I spoke at the end of the last chapter comes into play. When you are unemployed, which is to say when you are underfed, harassed, bored, and miserable, you don’t want to eat dull wholesome food. You want something a little bit ‘tasty’. There is always some cheaply pleasant thing to tempt you.

    George Orwell, The Road To Wigan Pier

  44. chrislawson says


    Fruit juices would be taxed by their sugar content, so carrot juice (not a fruit!) with only 4g of sugar per 100g would do a lot better than pineapple juice (14% sugar by mass — which is higher than Coke’s 10.6%!).

  45. chrislawson says

    Andreas, have you considered buying a juicer and making your own carrot juice?

    1 kg of carrots should give you about 500 ml of juice. In Australian supermarkets you can buy juicing carrots for $1.20 per kg, so you can make juice for around $2.40 (€1.50) per litre. With a $130 juicer, you’d be ahead once you made 18L of juice. This depends of course on the price of carrots and juicers in your area.

    Just be aware that we should limit our sugar intake to roughly 55g per day and possibly lower (there is evidence that limiting to 30g or less is better, but that evidence is not very strong). Drinking a 250ml cup of carrot juice is about 10g right there. Of course, it’s still better than orange juice, where a 250ml cup is nearly half our daily sugar in one hit.

  46. Porivil Sorrens says

    Sin taxes are absurd garbage that penalize poor people for trying to enjoy their shitty lot in life.

    Fuck off, if I want to have a burger and a soda after working absurd hours for shit pay that barely covers rent, and your big concern is making sure I can’t afford the one high point of my day rather than any of the dozens of other, more pressing societal factors, you’re no better than the republicans that try to pass status crime laws to hurt homeless people.

    Maybe in some hypothetical socialist Utopia I might support them – though, said Utopia would almost definitionally not have currency, so that’s a moot point. As it is, all this would do is punish poor people for wanting a nice meal once in a while.

  47. OptimalCynic says

    Pigou taxes are an entirely valid way of changing incentives and therefore behaviour. They should be revenue neutral though. Sugar tax raised $3bn this year? Everyone in the country gets $15, regardless of income. Same with a carbon tax.

  48. patricklinnen says

    I’m with Jaws @24. While I don’t have the metabolism issues, artificial sweeteners and fats are really unpleasant for me.

  49. patricklinnen says

    As a concept, ‘sin taxes’ sound good on paper. That raising cigarette taxes reduced consumption sort of elides past that smuggling cigarettes past the tax authorities is a thing. That it targets the poor is reinforced by the missing discussion about taxing cigars and pipe tobacco as well.

    Like raising the price of gasoline really reduced the amount of recreational driving. /s

    History like the Prohibition and the ‘War on Some Drugs’ gets swept aside.

  50. birgerjohansson says

    Mme Guillotine is too mild.
    Two phrases: “Inca Indians capturing the priest who baptised Atahualpa before he was burned on a stake ”
    and “molten gold”.
    (I had to say a final goodbye to my cat Cicero today, and is in no mood to preach mercy to the vampires who squander the resources that should go to health care, climate management and education)

  51. marylinmagdalene says

    I am extremely poor. I am on permanent disability in the deep south, and I became unable to work in my mid-thirties. This means my monthly income is $1,100. Out of that comes my Medicare premium (I am not eligible for Medicaid in this state because I am childless: not by choice, I’m infertile), my personal bills (internet & mobile) plus the utilities, etc. I pay to my Mother and her Husband to live in this house they own. They do have a guest apartment on their property, but let’s just say I don’t get along with her husband, who was and is extremely abusive. In their great wisdom, the State alots me $64 per month in food stamps. I also have to pay the co-pays for my meds, which can run from $250-$400 to I simply can’t afford that and will have to go without I don’t care how important it is. It also costs me $80 per month to go to the doctor once a month which I will do tomorrow. I need to be tested for Mixed Connective Tissue Disorder and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. I’ve already been diagnosed with several other autoimmune conditions, plus Bipolar Affective Disorder and Sever PTSD. I am mostly bedbound because of POTS and Of course I can’t afford a mobility aid, The one I need cost two months disability payments. I lost the ability to wear contacts several years ago-I have no idea why- but have not been able to afford a new pair of glasses in ten years. Of course, I have a ridiculous script. The absolute worse thing though? The secret I try to keep? The godsdamn incontinence. and not the urinary kind either. Have you ever shit yourself 50 times in a night? Have you ever just stopped eating for a few days because you know you are just wasting food and you can’t afford to waste food because it will just go straight through you in less than 3 hours? I won’t even get into the pain here, because all the doctors think you want opiates’ when opiates don’t work and you need antispasmodics but the just can’t seem to hear you. Sorry for getting emotional all over the place, but it tends to wind me up when people talk about “the poor” and really don’t know how bad it can get. I am lucky, very lucky to have what I have, and I try not to forget it.

  52. ospalh says

    It is literally us vs them for him, with “us” == rich and “them” == poor. (“they will drink less ”, even “those people”)
    And, make them live longer so they can afford an education? I got two ideas there: tax based health system and tax based education system.
    I think the Democratic party has moved from center right to far right, by European standards.
    (Other things to consider: pro death penalty, pro weapons, pro war stances.)

  53. says

    In the UK we have a number of these forms of taxes and there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of evidence as to whether or not that they work. I would suggest that instead of this paternalistic and overbearing approach, I would suggest working on the basis of evidence rather than “it seemed a good idea at the time”!
    Still, the smell of corruption and illiberality chokes the air and it would be nice if the notion, that making a lot of money does not mean having any political sense, could be promulgated.