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Bullet point

By Tom Toles


Second Helping

I want to go one more round on the Junk Food Tax. It's a good idea. Maybe not an EASY idea, but a simple one. Ronald Reagan believed in those. Yesterday Jack Kemp, today RONALD REAGAN. But now see here what one of the commenters writes:

So that eventually Governments [sic] primary source of income is taxation from wrong living. But isn't your ideal Government one that fixes wrong living Mr. Toles? And what if the Government succeeded in fixing wrong living. [sic] Where would you get the money from then? I would guess that your form of Government would label more things as wrong. Your Government penalizes and rewards. That is totalitarian government Mr. Toles. No thanks.

There is a thought in here, but it is buried in a lot of really loaded language. And the language piles up like a double order of fries and a supersized drink to cover up the bad thinking. The government could get a LOT of revenue from a Wrong Thinking tax.

But this issue is not a busybody's idea about "wrong living;" it's a huge and growing health crisis that is going to cost Mr. Libertarian here either directly or indirectly. But he'll have the ideology, with a side order of pretending. Oh, and a government that penalizes or rewards is "totalitarian"? In what dictionary? In what UNIVERSE?

Adults identify genuine problems and work together to solve them in the simplest, most direct and effective way. A country that cannot even begin this process because it will be labeled totalitarianism is weird and dysfunctional and headed for bad things. --Tom Toles



By Tom Toles  | April 20, 2010; 3:43 PM ET
Categories:  DC, Guns  
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It's just a matter of time that the liberals will win. The government will have 90% of your paycheck, issue us coupons for our food and clothing, assign us to squalid little apartments and tell us what are jobs are. The intelligentsia will have all of the finest goods and foods, an the summer home on Cape Code and the winter palace in Florida while the serfs mutter and toil to support the lifestyle of the people that are smarter then us. Thank God I'll be dead when my grandson reaches my age...he'll be a serf for the liberals.

Posted by: Blyleven4HoF | April 22, 2010 6:31 PM | Report abuse

If the government starts taxing our junk food, then what's next: our cigarettes too?

Posted by: dudeupnorth | April 22, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Dear Mr. Toles, here is a dictionary definition of Totalitarian State. A modern autocratic government in which the state involves itself in all facets of society, including the daily life of it's citizens. Goal of the state is the replacement of existing society with a perfect society. I guess it does exist in this universe. Food is part of our daily life. I don't wish to be penalized by the state for what I choose to eat.

Posted by: bobbo2 | April 21, 2010 6:14 PM | Report abuse

There is no talking sense or moderation to some people. People hoard guns for the same reason that they indulge in their supersized "value" meals. They don't realize that they have enough as it is. In America we want more, more, more. Big isn't as good as bigger. And yet some wonder why government keeps growing along with our waistlines and the gun nuts' arsenals.

Posted by: dlwjunior | April 21, 2010 5:28 PM | Report abuse


Congrats. You managed to fit a False Dilemma and a Straw Man in the same post. What other logical fallacies can you include?

On a more serious note, is anyone willing to answer my original questions.

1. What is the legitimate role of government in society?

2. What limits, if any, should be placed upon government power?

We argue about details all the time and avoid the real discussion here represented by the above questions.

Posted by: BradG | April 21, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

whisperonthewind: "I'm tired of the government assuming that we are stupid."

I'm tired of us proving the government right.

Posted by: QuiteAlarmed | April 21, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Looks like there's a lot of conservative and libertarian opposition to junk food taxes.

But as conservatives frequently say, if you tax something, you get less of it.

So by that logic, doesn't it make sense that the government should attempt to get as high a proportion as possible of its revenue by taxing things that we WANT less of?

Like junk food, or highway congestion, or CO2 emissions?

Just sayin'.

Posted by: rt42 | April 21, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

So Mr Toles, you were saying something about hyperbole and adults? Seems that many posters here can't stay focused on the argument. The idea is to put a tax on things we wish to dissuade people from using. The idea is NOT to prohibit people from using it. Taxing junk food does NOT equal the FDA controlling food nor is it telling you what you can and can't eat. You can eat McDonalds until you explode (or your heart does) but you will be taxed to recoup what your terrible choices have cost society.

That being said, the (imaginary) day that Congress starts doing what your paranoid fantasy suggests that they will... I will be right beside you to protest that. But.... it's not going to happen, because that is NOT the proposal.

Posted by: Lalas | April 21, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse


re: "I'm tired of the government assuming that we are stupid."

The government, as a whole institution, is incapable of characterizing the nation one way or another. Individuals characterize. Perhaps some individuals characterize the nation generally in this way. Firstly, you don't know that. Secondly, it doesn't matter.

You don't know that because you aren't a mind reader. It doesn't matter because good policy is the proper crucible, not the supposed inner workings of legislators minds.

Laws are rightly passed that protect the general well being of the people. That is the moral authority of a democratically elected government.

To address the slippery slope argument: At what point is enough enough? Turn-about is fair play. At what point is enough anarchy enough?

To answer the question on my part: it's based on a wrong premise. It assumes that the primary measure of success is the total size of government. I think that it is instead proper to measure success in terms of the general well being and happiness of the people. Liberty is a proper measure as well. However, to say that you only have liberty if you can purchase at market price and no more, is an extreme "entitlement" form of liberty that I think is false.

Posted by: jeffreyvest | April 21, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse

A promoter of Tom Toles for years, I'll say a short note:
Going back to the Wild West years, is like sucking your thumb: it may feel good, but there is no nutrition.

Civil life is a balance between too much and too little.

Posted by: Tony-KS | April 21, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Libertarian Heaven: Somalia. Weak central government with unregulated guns and entrepreneurship everywhere!

Here, the government should get back to its core principles: controlling women's wombs, outlawing the teaching of Evolution and strictly regulating who --and how -- we are allowed to love.

Posted by: Bodoc | April 21, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Toles, you are so full of crap that it's beginning to fall out of your mouth. The government doesn't need to control food, nor does it need to control guns. The government needs to get back to the idea of governing. The FDA needs to do a better job of educating people, not controlling us. And controlling the amount of salt (or sugar or whatever the next substance will be) will only encourage us to buy our own over the counter.

I'm tired of the government assuming that we are stupid. Perhaps the government needs to rethink that too. If we're so stupid, what does that say about our decision to elect the people currently in control of the government? Hmmm. On second thought, perhaps those voters really ARE stupid...

Posted by: whisperonthewind | April 21, 2010 9:00 AM | Report abuse

We are going to see more and more of the Federal Government interest in our diet. People who eat poor diets and some foods to excess create health problems. The Government will want to control those costs by controlling foods it deems as dangerous. Personal responsibility should take precedent over Government intrusion. I don't want the Government telling me what I can and cannot eat.

Posted by: bobbo2 | April 21, 2010 8:13 AM | Report abuse

Who judges what is and what isn't junk food? Is junk food some new thing that has caused all these kids to get fat or is it something else? 30 years ago how much of our food had corn replacements in it? How about 50 years ago? We often blame sugar but how few products actually use real sugar today?

Then there is the whole salt thing; look at how the vast majority of salt intake for the normal person comes from pre-made prepackaged foods versus the salt they put in their own cooking.

But in the end is it governments place to punish people for how they chose to eat? I don't think it is.

Posted by: flonzy3 | April 21, 2010 7:50 AM | Report abuse

When I was in Vietnam as a civilian in the Foreign Service, my post was a house in the province. I was in charge of my last line of security. I started a collection of weapons for short range defense. My boss said "You can get anything you want. But remember one thing. You can shoot only one at a time."

So I got a gas mask, gas grenades and a shotgun. If over run I would pop a grenade and shoot anyone that coughed.

But I did see that one could over do the process. You really can shoot only one at a time. And there are times you do not want to do that.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | April 21, 2010 5:16 AM | Report abuse

Claiming to be Libertarian is a cop-out. It's like saying, "I'm not even IN this fight. Has nothing to do with me. If people would have listened to me, we wouldn't be in this mess in the first place."

So, maybe not. But, like I said, it's a cop-out. "I'm for going back to the days before social problems. I prefer to just bury my head in the sand. I would rather not think about solutions to the problems facing our society because I prefer to go back and rehash the problems facing the founding fathers."


Do people who hate "Government" somewhere forget that it is BY The People? Also FOR The People? They always come out of the woodwork when Republicans get the boot from Congress, too. Barely hear a peep about taxes or deficits until the Republicans are out of work.


Maybe Libertarian is what out of work Republicans refer to themselves as. Kinda how the unemployed can elevate themselves to "self-employed" without getting a job.

Pick a side, Libertarians. You're no better than anybody else.

Posted by: Thinker_ | April 21, 2010 4:39 AM | Report abuse

Since when did libertarians become the voice of reason?

If the people, through their elected representatives, decide to impose a tax on certain interstate commerce on a finding that it will promoite the general welfare (Art 1 sec 8) then it's legit.

Posted by: simpleton1 | April 20, 2010 8:32 PM | Report abuse

Tom, Maybe it's because a picture gives the illusion of 1000 words
I've misinterpreted some of the words in your cartoons.
I've thought of you and Harold Meyerson as the last progressive
voices remaining on the WP - by progressive I mean "equitist"; not
some neo-liberal, trickle-downer.

Lower waged Americans can't afford any more socially directive taxes
(cigarette, liquor, congestion pricing, toll roads) - for
so many reasons:
1. They're mostly regressive.
2. They reek of "the poor slobs need to be told what to do."
3. They help to preserve resource use for the well-to-do while
excluding the others.
4. These taxes are used to avoid increasing taxes on the wealthy
further enhancing the regressive nature, because:
5. If the revenues are used for their intended purpose, they still shift
the tax burden onto the lower income classes.
6. They aren't used for their stated purposes - they are used to avoid
increasing other taxes.
7. Why are the wealthy rewarded with "carrots" - tax-free bonds, 15%
capital gains tax - for behavior that is spuriously claimed to benefit
everyone? But we need to take "sticks" to lower income people - who
already pay regressively into payroll, sales and property taxes and
numerous other societal fees?

If you want a simply-stated (but tough to implement) way to make inroads
against obesity, require all chain stores that open in medium and large
cities to also run equivalent stores with the same produce of the same
quality and price in both wealthy and impoverished neighborhoods.

If you want a simply-stated and -implemented method to fix a lot
of ills - have a high progressive income tax. Use "earned income
credits" - i.e., cash to lower income folks because societal laws have
transferred most of the nation's resources to the haves and will continue
to do so. If you want, demark some of that cash as restricted to be
used for purchase of fresh, unprocessed foods.

Posted by: catch911 | April 20, 2010 8:30 PM | Report abuse

The big question that is raised by libertarians is "Is it the Government's JOB to fix these issues?" Of course the libertarian answer is usually no. Exceptions being for public goods.

So, my question to you, Mr. Toles, is this: What are the legitimate duties of the Government? At what point, if any, should its powers be limited?

Posted by: BradG | April 20, 2010 7:35 PM | Report abuse

forget Tom Toles...

Posted by: hphil7149 | April 20, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

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