The New York state health commissioner, Richard Daines, and I were guests last night on the "Inside City Hall" program of New York City's all-news cable channel, NY1. Dr. Daines made the case for Governor Paterson's proposed new penny-an-ounce tax on sugary beverages. I argued against it.
He said it would help fund New York's health spending. I said New York already spends a lot of money on health care, more on Medicaid than California and Texas combined, but that our people aren't any healthier as a result. I said the politicians in Albany should be trying to figure out ways to cut our taxes, not inventing new taxes to impose.
Dr. Daines said "sugary sodas are unique" because, unlike other caloric foods, "it doesn't fill you up." This point, about what researchers call satiety, is also made by Coca-Cola Co. investor Warren Buffett in this video.
I responded that if soda is really so bad for you, the state should ban it, rather than going into a revenue partnership with the beverage companies.
I also made the point that the hundreds of millions of dollars the tax is supposed to raise would be better off left in the pockets of New Yorkers than taken from them and given to the corrupt politicians in Albany to spend on special interests.
Toward the end of the program, we switched to talking about the health care overhaul passed in Washington. Dr. Daines was more cautious than you might expect for an official in a Democratic administration, saying that the bill "doesn't do a lot to address the costs of the system" and "doesn't do a lot to keep people healthier."
I made the point that the law will hurt New York by taxing high-income New Yorkers and using the money to pay to extend health insurance coverage in other states. I also warned that the law would transfer wealth from people who work outside the health care industry to people who work within it. And I said that the law could bring New York-style high premiums to other states, because New York already has "guaranteed issue" and "community rating," two provisions that make private individual health insurance policies expensive here.