Yes. Hungary. Like the word "hungry." We know. We think it's funny, too. But these so-called sin taxes should play a bigger role in our tax code, as well.
The nation of Hungary introduced a "fat tax" today, as headline writers across the English-speaking world struggled to come up with clever, just-shy-of-obvious puns to apply to the news.
After you Tweet out the headline, check out the actual news. This is the most comprehensive tax sweets in the world, Spiegel reports. Starting today, Hungarians will have to pay the equivalent of 50 U.S. cents on fatty foods plus higher tariffs on soda and alcohol. The proceeds will go health care costs. Hungary obesity rate is 18.8 percent, higher than the EU average but lower than the United Kingdom's 24 percent rate. In the U.S., one third of adults are obese.
This could quickly turn into a debate about Big Government (another inevitable pun, given the news), but it doesn't have to. I'd rather see it as an example of what we could do with our tax code if we started with scratch rather than the status quo. Taxes raise money, but they also discourage activities. We should agree on activities we want discouraged, and find acceptable ways to tax them so that we can reduce the burden on activities we want to encourage.