Government officials at all levels have become more saavy at trying to disguise taxes as something else. But, it seems Democrats are especially adept at the practice.
However, voters/taxpayers are also getting better at recognizing the camouflage.
Gavin Newsome, Democrat mayor of San Francisco, is trying out a tax with a double disguise: first, it's called a fee; and second, it's dressed up in the now-familiar costume of preventing a health problem.
As an added touch, the tax is supposed to help alleviate a children's health problem.
...San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has set his sights on soda - working up a plan to charge a new city fee to big retailers of sugar drinks.
"The bottom line is that there is a direct nexus between high-fructose corn syrup drinks like colas and Big Gulps and obesity among schoolkids," Newsom said Friday.
The idea of taxing soda to combat obesity - which is being touted as the first in the nation - has been roiling around in health circles for some time, including backing from the American Medical Association.
The size of the fee (it won't be billed as a tax) is being worked out, but it may include a sweetener - namely giving the stores some other kind of fee break.
First of all, it's not a tax, it's just a governmentally creative way to combat obesity.
Besides, it's not even a tax, it's a fee.
And, to top it off, it's going to hit "them" not "you"; i.e., the tax is to be on Wal-Marts and other businesses, not really on consumers.
That's a lot of camouflage.
Now Newsom wants the soda sellers - primarily big-box retailers and chain drugstores - to chip in for his "Shape Up San Francisco" program and for media campaigns to discourage the soda habit.
The mayor further states that sodas "account for millions of dollars in city health care costs.
One might point out that personal habits other than sodas probably account for more money in city health care. Perhaps some of these personal habits also should be subject to "fees".
But one realizes that even government creativity in taxation has its limits.
Don't be too harsh on the mayor: he's only a sign of Democrat restlessness with the stagnation of the rates of taxation.
The mayor's plea for a fee was detailed in the San Francisco Chronicle and its website. It drew 181 comments, mostly taxpayers not fooled by the mayor's attempt to dress up the tax as something completely different.
Here was a sampling of the readers who pulled the mask off of the mayor's "fee". They try to help the mayor out and suggest some other ways government can "help".
* Let's tax hair gel so Gavin Newsom can contribute to scalp health. Let's tax lattes and organic free trade coffee because they give people jitters and contribute to all kinds of heart ailments.
- Paul Kim, 40, Mission
* Why not tax "oversized" clothes? Video games? Butter? Air? Heck, wait until city (over)government drives all of the small business out of town and see how they handle the loss of THAT tax revenue. They better start considering a BIG tax on U-Hauls.
- Fritz Frisbie 49, Potrero Hill ("Restaurant owner dba 'Connecticut Yankee' ")
* How about a special tax for any restaurant tab over $100 with a sliding scale at $250 increments all that way up to $5,000. If you can afford to drop $2,500 on a dinner for 4 then you can definitely afford a higher "tax," right? Besides, eating all of that kobe beef and foie gras is so BAD for your health.
- Rob Kennelson, 36, North Beach
* Well don't stop there. The city should give tax breaks to Asian food cafes and restaurants which serve vegetarian-heavy menus over Europeans types which are heavy in creams and sauces. Garlic, which could cause Muni accidents, should be next. Pizza dough and fat cheeses followed by Super Burritos full of cheese, red meat and sour cream. And all St. Patrick's Day goodies from beer and corned beef to Irish whiskey, and fish and chips of the English.
- Hank Bellomo, 50, Fillmore
* Better tax that Vitamin Water stuff all the pseudo health conscious parents are feeding their kids. A bottle has 32 grams of sugar - almost as much as a can of Coke.
- Jeff Schwartz, 45, Sunset
* Remember when coffee was bad for you? Turns out it's the biggest source of anti-oxidants for Americans. Is wine good or bad? How about milk? Wheat germ? Eggs? Get out of the micromanagement of San Franciscans' lives, Newsom. My doctor doesn't even know if these things are bad or good.
- Brendan Taylor, 35, San Mateo ("ex-Mission & 18th resident")
* Mayor Newsom is on the right track, sort of. Drinking too much soda is not a good thing, but neither is excessive taxation. I used to drink 3 or 4 sugary sodas a day, for more than 10 years. All that has changed. I lost 15 pounds this year by drastically reducing my soda consumption. In addition to feeling better, I saved at least several hundred dollars - and that's without the mayor's soda tax.
- Darren Richardson, 43, Berkeley
* I recommend a 2-cent tax on all fried hamburgers within San Francisco city limits, for obesity research at UCSF Medical Center.
- Robert McCullough, 56, North Beach (a.k.a. "Captain Democracy," former mayoral candidate)
* I like the idea. I would support higher taxes (whatever they're called) for soda, junk food, and other destructive products (cigarettes, alcohol, gas, meat, plastic, Styrofoam, toxic chemicals, etc.).
- Dan Brook, 40, Parkmerced
* If the city is confident that excessive consumption of high-fructose corn syrup by schoolkids is linked to poor health and chronic obesity, then a surtax on beverages sweetened with HFCS should have the effect of discouraging excessive consumption while generating incremental revenue.
- Henry Walker, 44, Castro
* Anyone out there have a better idea, without taxing fuel, tobacco, alcohol, fast-food-to-go, meats, produce, utilities? Since San Franciscans pride themselves with having the highest property values, let them show it by upping the property tax on their faux-Victorians, high-rise condos, and baron-owned slum rentals. This is one solution. I like your mayor.
- Keith Schmidt, 53, Medicine Lodge, Kan.
* Great tax proposal. But it will drive people to buy soda from San Mateo.
- Gerald Chu, 32, Burlingame
Good civic-minded people, all.
But don't think that some of their ideas might not be proposed in the future
Once you start taxing in the name of what accounts for health care costs, there's no logical stopping point.
Most of the above readers are trying to propose ridiculous examples of fees.
If they're not careful, the mayor, and other Democrats, might just hire them to write new "fee" proposals.
* 12-17 Newsome considers sugary fee for sellers of soda
* Reader's Platform
Death by 1000 Papercuts Front Page.