Soda tax? Fat chance
Re “Soda tax fizzles,” Feb. 7
Beneath the clever puns about the fizzling of a proposed soda tax is actually a rather ugly lesson in modern American values.
When a modest attempt to discourage the consumption of carbonated sugary drinks is seen as a threat to the health and general welfare of the soft-drink industry rather than an opportunity to promote a more healthy lifestyle while generating revenue for public health programs, the real meaning of healthcare, as it is understood by our lawmakers, comes into stark and tragic focus.
Michael Toohey Heilig
I was saddened to read Rep. John Lewis' (D-Ga.) comments on a proposal to tax soft drinks.
He argued that the soda tax could lead to taxes on other foods (sure, John!), raising prices for hard-pressed consumers during a severe recession. Then he asked, if you begin taxing one sugar product, where do you draw the line?
It has been confirmed that the consumption of soda is a major factor in the rise of childhood obesity and diabetes.
In the 1960s, when he was on the outside, Lewis was concerned for the well-being of his constituents. Today, as a congressman, he represents Atlanta, the corporate headquarters of Coca-Cola. His concern has shifted.
As a scientist, I believe public policy should be influenced by facts. Research can be helpful, but it isn't always necessary. Sometimes common sense and basic math skills are enough. The proposed soda tax is a great example.
We don't need research to prove that high-calorie drinks contribute to obesity.
The financial burden of a tax of 1 cent per ounce would fall disproportionately on the poor, but obesity disproportionately is a poor person's disease. Perhaps 1 cent per ounce is too much when a "small drink" is at least 16 oz. -- but that's the whole point. A small drink should not be 16 oz. (200 calories for most regular soft drinks). It should be 8 oz. or 10 oz. A tax would promote portion control and save most Americans thousands of calories -- and at least a few pounds -- per year.
This is just another example of checkbook science, in which companies with the checkbooks control the science and the public debate. But those of us who can add know that taxing high-calorie drinks with negligible nutritional value would reduce obesity and improve health.
The writer is president of the National Research Center for Women & Families.
Healthcare reform, again
Re “Obama calls for health summit,” Feb. 8
It's interesting that President Obama said that in his planned health summit, he wants to examine "all the best ideas that are out there" for health reform.
Does that mean the tremendous cost savings and benefits of expanding Medicare to everyone under 65 will finally get a hearing? Or will single-payer advocates continue to be sidelined?
If Obama is really serious about looking at all the best ways to fix our broken healthcare system, he needs to put his money where his mouth is.
Re “A plan in search of a strategy,” Opinion, Feb. 7
Doyle McManus says House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) is pressing for enacting the Senate version of the healthcare bill and then making adjustments that would need only a simple majority to pass.
If that is what it takes, then do it. I'm tired of supporting pristine, pure but gutless Democrats who can't get anything done.
Fighting over foster care
Re “County to end emphasis on family over foster care,” Feb. 5, and “County child welfare official backs off comments,” Feb. 6
If the Department of Children and Family Services is giving greater preference to the placement of children in foster care rather than helping parents build safer environments, that ignores every major study about what such removals do to the child.
To be sure, better monitoring and caseloads that make frequent home visits possible are needed in both family and foster care settings. But removal of a child from his or her family leads to higher rates of delinquency and crime, school absences and dropping out, physical and mental illness, unemployment and homelessness for those who age out, and pervasive emotional distress.
It has been reported that 70% of the inmates in California prisons have been in foster homes.
Homeless parents are increasingly found to be negligent because of their homelessness, and the department removes their children at a far greater fiscal, personal and social cost than it would take to subsidize their housing and provide services.
Ralph D. Fertig
The writer is a clinical associate professor at the USC School of Social Work.