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Brian C. Liss: Taxing Food Prevents Obesity

Last updated on 2011.01.29

Brain C. Liss said some silly things in his campaign for State House last year. Now Representative Liss (R-13/Sioux Falls) continues to demonstrate an odd grasp of reality.

Yesterday the House Taxation Committee killed House Bill 1131, which would have abolished South Dakota's immoral tax on food and replaced the revenue by increasing the sales and use tax on other items and services. The committee heard testimony that HB 1131 would allow families to buy more healthy food for their families.

But immediately following the testimony, Representative Liss offered this truly laughable contention (I quote his complete statement):

Most of us myself included eat too luxuriously and too much. And so right off the bat this $50 million for the most part misses its mark if we're trying to help people. And then it sets up a financial incentive to exacerbate obesity. And... to my knowledge this argument that it's a stimulus to the economy is false [Rep. Brian C. Liss, House Taxation Committee, SDPB audio podcast, timestamp 2:02:45, 2011.01.27].

Representative Liss, a purported Republican conservative, surely despises government interference in our personal choices. Yet here he appears to justify the tax on food as social engineering to keep us and himself from eating too much (fellow legislators, keep an eye on Liss at the buffet line, make sure he doesn't take too much fried chicken). This advocate of freedom and prosperity feels most of us (ah, glorious vague generalization, creating a majority of the speaker's imagination) should eat less. Liss feels that all the bread and milk and canned veggies and Ramen noodles you working folks pick up on sale at Hy-Vee are luxuries.

Oh, wait, was I laughing? I should be crying that any legislator would speak so stupidly about the realities of putting food on the table for working families in South Dakota.

But gee, Rep. Liss, if you're really so worried about obesity, and if you really want to use tax policy to engineer South Dakotans' health outcomes, why not sponsor a tax on soda pop?


  1. Curt 2011.01.28

    " every democracy, the people get the government they deserve".


  2. Vincent Gormley 2011.01.28

    This fool represents my district!? Oy!

  3. Wayne Booze 2011.01.28


    Or more likely, the higher cost of food (including tax) drives low income earners to seek high-calorie-to-dollar-value foods (McLovin it)... That's been my personal experience. Now that I'm earning a steady, respectable salary I can budget for fruits and vegetables, and focus on buying fish since I'm saving oodles through deer & pheasant hunting to provide my red & white meats.

    Between that, decreased stress, and the ability to exercise (easier to do when you're not working 3 jobs), I lost 40-50 lbs last year.

    I don't know if taxes on food make all that much difference; I'm more hopeful that WalMart will be successful in pushing the price of healthy foods down - I think that'll make a much more significant impact.

    I have no data to generalize my situation though, so I'll refrain from making policy suggestions based purely on my experience.

  4. slhart 2011.01.28

    Wow! "Better to remain silent and thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt." (often attributed to Abraham Lincoln but taken from Solomon's Proverbs)

  5. John Starr 2011.01.28

    Why is David Owen and the chamber against poor people?

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.01.30

    John: because poor people don't pay Chamber dues? ;-)

    Vincent: you'd better do some door-knocking next election. Spread the word to your neighbors!

    Wayne: I've been curious: do you really get cost savings on deer if you factor in cost of rifle, ammo, gear, travel per pound of meat? Of course, I guess you also have to factor in intangibles like the joy of the hunt and the outdoors.

  7. Darwin Wollmann 2011.01.30

    Don't forget Wayne, there's always roadkill if times get too bad. Sometimes you can find a good meal on the road.

  8. Vincent Gormley 2011.01.30

    Cory, I do that anyway. Voter contact is my specialty. Knocking on doors and making phone calls. We have spoken.

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.01.30

    Awesome, VG! Maybe the door-knocking in 2012 can include a flyer with the above Brian C. Liss quote.

  10. Vincent Gormley 2011.01.31


  11. Curt 2011.02.02

    I showed this to my wife who usually doesn't get worked up and even she said "What a f#$king idiot". And I thought Ia. Rep Steve King was a douche bag. They must be drinking the same water.

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