And Then the Government Came for Your Nose Job

More

Call it the Botax. Congress is considering a tax on cosmetic surgeries, a $12 billion industry, to help pay for health reform. That's a significant mountain of money to grab deficit-fighting bucks, and as Catherine Rampell notes, the Botax could also be seen by parents as a so-called "sin tax"  to reduce needless cosmetic surgeries for their daughters. But really: Taxing breast augmentation? Instapundit counters: Why not tax abortion?


Cosmetic surgery and abortion: They're mostly both elective procedures by doctors for women (according to Cosmetic Plastic Surgery Research, women accounted for 91 percent of all plastic surgeries in 2007). So what's the difference? Well, the law for one thing. As Jonathan Adler, a professor at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law, writes at the Volokh Conspiracy blog:

My own view is that, under current law, a tax targeted at abortions would be difficult to sustain. Under Casey, states may not impose regulations that place an "undue burden" on a woman's constitutional right to terminate her pregnancy. A law creates an "undue burden" where it has "the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus." Any abortion tax large enough to raise a meaningful amount of revenue would likely increase the cost of abortions sufficiently to constitute an "undue burden" under this test.

The most important similarity I see between taxing nose jobs and taxing abortions is that neither is likely to happen. A Democrat-sponsored abortion tax is out of the question, and proposing a tax on cosmetic surgeries will -- as we have seen -- stir the ire of plastic surgeons and their patients just as Obama is trying to calm the hysterics among wealthy Democratic districts and doctors' lobbies.

If we're going to see Botaxes, they will likely be state Botaxes. New Jersey has passed a 6 percent tax on certain procedures such as Botox and nose jobs in 2004, while excluding less elective procedures like reconstructive surgeries. How has it worked out on the revenue side? Disappointingly. Malcolm Roth, vice president for health policy and advocacy at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, said a botax in New Jersey raked in only a quarter of the expected revenue, according to the LA Times.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Business

Just In