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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Emboldened Democrats Move to Pass "Broccoli Tax"

In the wake of their victory in NFIB v. Sebelius, the Obama Administration and its allies in Congress are looking to build upon health care reform by encouraging healthier eating.  In a press conference held after the Supreme Court's decision, President Obama endorsed legislation to mandate the purchase of vegetables, particularly broccoli, by all Americans.  The bill would require the purchase at least three pounds of broccoli each week, as well as one pound of broccoli for each dependent.  (Parents would have to buy broccoli for their children up through the age of 26.)  Those who do not buy sufficient broccoli will have to pay a fee for the equivalent amount to the federal government.

In promoting the new legislation, President Obama also unveiled a plan for "food exchanges" where Americans could buy their vegetables from private retailers on state-sponsored websites.  "These health initiatives, when combined with exisiting programs like ChooseMyPlate and Let's Move, will not only insure a healthy America, but they will also reduce the deficit by bringing down health care costs."  The OMB estimated that the broccoli mandate will save the U.S. $320 billion over the next decade.

The president refuted Republican claims that new taxes were being imposed.  "It's not really a tax," said the President.  "For us to say that you’ve got to take a responsibility to eat healthily is absolutely not a tax increase.  What it’s saying is, is that we’re not going to have other people carrying your burdens for your diet of Red Bull and Cheetos."  

Senate Democrats, however, acknowledged that the mandate could act as a tax.  "I can't imagine anyone would not want to buy broccoli -- it's delicious!" said Senator Schumer.  "But for Supreme Court purposes, the fee for not buying broccoli is a tax.  It's definitely not a penalty."  The Senate version of the bill would require the fee to be paid in pennies at the IRS office in Anchorage, Alaska.  Schumer called such a process "a relatively normal means of taxation."

Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney vowed to repeal any effort to mandate the purchase of healthy vegetables such as broccoli.  Reporters questioned him about his Massachusetts brussels sprouts program that was enacted during his term as governor, but Romney claimed that the two were quite different.  "States are free to propose vegetable-eating initiatives," Romney stated.  "But for the federal government to do this violates our fundamental maxims of liberty.  Will kale be next?  Nobody likes kale."

Posted by Matt Bodie on June 28, 2012 at 07:29 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink

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Comments

This post may position Matt to take the Samuel Adams role in "The Boston Broccoli Party" to challenge this tax. (By the way, when in Boston's North End on the way to the Boston Harbor Broccoli Dump," I suggest Matt go to one of its fine Italian restaurants and order sausage with ziti, broccoli and garlic, to be washed down with a Sam Adams in lieu of chianti. And Matt might give a high-five to Justice Scalia if he shows up.)

Posted by: Shag from Brookline | Jun 29, 2012 6:02:50 AM

"Interestingly, many countries in Europe have mandated the purchase of broccoli for years," noted Professor Cauli of Harvard Law School. "Though whether there is a causal link between that phenomenon and the collapse of the Euro remains to be definitely established."

Posted by: Thomas Nz | Jun 29, 2012 8:44:56 PM

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