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Taxpayers pan New York 'fat tax' & video

Back in my middle- and high-school classroom days, we were subjected to various videos on subjects that teachers either didn't want to or didn't feel qualified to address. Usually it was in classes taught by coaches, who used the time while we students were dozing to work on their game plans.

And in many cases, the taped topics were of a health or hygiene nature.

Why am I mentioning my educational experiences of yore? Because I flashed back to them as soon as I saw the video, "Soda vs. Milk," put out by the New York State Health Commissioner.

In support of the proposed fat tax, Commissioner Richard Danes drones on for five minutes about the value of healthy eating and how paying more for sugary sodas will help New Yorkers make the move from junk beverages to healthier drinks.

Good luck with that, Commissioner.

The video is getting mixed reviews from New York taxpayers. It's earned, as of this morning, a three-star rating, which is better than some big budget movies released in 2008.

However, most of the more than 600 comments (so far) tend to give a big thumbs down to the subject matter. Yes, New Yorkers are just as accepting of the video as they are of Gov. David Paterson's proposal to add an 18 percent tax to their regular Cokes. Which is to say, not very.

There are the obvious, visceral reactions against any type of tax whatsoever. But some "reviewers" delve a bit deeper into the subject matter.

One wants to know whether the tax applies only to drinks that contain sugar vs. high-fructose corn syrup.

Another urges health-conscious Empire State officials to check the calories in fruit juice, as well as sodium content in milk and saturated fat level in products. The video, and by implication the tax itself, says this viewer, seem to be "a publicity stunt of little serious value."

Still another video commenter takes a bigger view of the state of the state's waistlines:

"A Big Mac and fries has 1200 calories alone!! That is about equal to 3 Liters of Mountain Dew! It's all about taking in too many calories and not enough exercise. About 15% of obesity is genetic. Kids spend 8 hours a day playing video games and not outside playing like the good-old-days. Bad parenting all the way around. Taxes won't cure the problem. An idiotic proposal. I have yet to see a politician with any common sense or a sense of decency. It all starts with parenting."

And several video viewers are concerned about the reasoning behind such "sin" taxes. Are they truly designed for the health of residents or simply a relatively easy way to put a bit more money into the state's coffers?

If the fat tax is enacted, one commenter asks, "What happens when tax revenue drops because sales drop? And then where does the state get their monies from then? Well, they just tax something else."

"I never understood the logic of a government to tax a so called 'sin' item," writes another video viewer. "The gov wants people to stop drinking sugared drinks but then they start a program that depends on people drinking said drinks to maintain the revenue. What am I missing here?

"It sounds like the tobacco farce doesn't it? We don't want people to smoke but we want the revenue from the tobacco.

"I guess you have to be in politics to understand it.....not."

At least the New York health department didn’t get any state film tax break for the production of its video … I don't think!


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I wonder how much of an impact new sites like Youtube have in a situation like this. Traditionally, the way you'd find out how people felt about this might be to pick up the New York Times and the New York Post, and see if the man-on-the-street the Times quoted sounds more enthusiastic about liking the idea than the Post's guy sounds about hating it. Now we can compare a few hundred average-person quotes instead. Progress! (I think).

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