By CYRIL TUOHY, managing editor of Risk & Insurance®
Back in April, I trekked to a well-known New Jersey amusement park on Easter Sunday with my wife and daughter, about an hour away from my home in eastern Pennsylvania.
It was a splendid day, sunny and warm ... a perfect day to break in the spring season and introduce our growing 6-year-old to bigger, faster rides.
The day began pleasantly enough. Lines were few, the crowd relatively "thin."
As the day progressed, however, the tables began to turn. The sun grew stronger, the lines longer, the crowded lines "heavier." By the time we left, at 3 p.m., many of the park's patrons were a sight to behold--and forget.
Men were so heavily tattooed there wasn't much in the way of skin left to deface. Women were so inappropriately dressed, particularly for Easter Sunday, that I briefly considered going blind. And, of course, there were way, way too many people overweight.
It was all too much. We left the park and made it home only to turn on the evening news. Would you believe the lead story? A penny-an-ounce tax on soda proposed by city elders and the rabid opposition it had generated from Philadelphia residents.
The 2-cent-an-ounce tax, designed to raise tens of millions of dollars for public services in a city, like many others, suffering from the recession and deficits running in the hundreds of millions of dollars, was also aimed at curbing the consumption of sugared drinks.
Some on the City Council thought raising a few bucks while discouraging the consumption of soft drinks was a slam-dunk.
But the soda lobby and anti-tax activists made sure the proposal fizzled out, and the tax is not in the mayor's 2011 budget. It looks like, in Philadelphia at least, consumers are going to keep drinking sodas on the cheap and eating their fries too.
The recent defeat of the soda tax doesn't say much for strict consumer discipline, nor does it give us much hope in the nation's battle against obesity and high Body Mass Index metrics.
Why should we care? Ordinarily, many of us wouldn't give a hoot. But we should care because we pay the bill--all of us, fat and thin, young and old, rich and poor, black and white--through higher insurance premiums.
My health insurance premiums have just gone up by $96.00 a month, or just under 16 percent from the year-ago period, a percentage increase split between my employer and myself.
Now, in the height of summer, this same amusement park to which I referred above has opened its water park section. I've thought of going back to spend my remaining tickets. Fat chance; the thought is just too much to bear. We pay enough already.
August 1, 2010
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