Food Fight: MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski Advocates Tax on Meat, Soft Drinks, and People Who Consume Them

I rise today in defense of bacon, as well as consuming hamburgers on Independence Day.  And, most importantly, in defense of my mother's awe-inspiring pot roast.

Mika Brzezinski, co-host of MSNBC's Morning Joe, wants the government to make these classic American foodstuffs, as well as soda, alcohol, and being overweight, cost more.  I apologize in advance for the long length of the transcript snippets – while Brzezinski is pontificating by reading the ‘New York Daily News’ editorial, the rest of the Brew Crew is making fun of her.

No, really [emphasis mine]:

BRZEZINSKI: Some people actually cares about their health, so I'm going to read that for those people. [reading] "A tax on sodas containing sugar has also been under consideration by Governor Paterson, among others."

SCARBOROUGH: Now when we say 'sugar,' do you mean coke, cocaine, or is that code for sugar with Paterson, or is it actual sugar?

BRZEZINSKI: [ignoring Joe, continuing to read] "In view of our obesity epidemic and the extra burden it places on our health care system - not to mention the problems it causes on a crowded New York subway when your neighbor can't fit into a single seat - it is a reasonable proposal." He goes on now to talk about red meat.  And you all need to think about this.

[snip]

BRZEZINSKI: No, people who want us not to just be an obese, sick country.  I’m going to read one more, Peter Singer again, Professor says –

SERWER: It’s the tofu lobby.

SCARBOROUGH: Who are against choice.  Why were you anti-choice?

SERWER: I like bacon.

SCARBOROUGH: Oh, I love bacon.

BRZEZINSKI: – “Meat eaters impose costs – first, eating red meat is likely to kill you. Large studies have shown the daily consumption of red meat –

SCARBOROUGH: Mika, carbs kill you.

BRZEZINSKI: – daily consumption increases the risks that people die prematurely of heart disease or bowel cancer. This is now beyond serious scientific dispute.

SERWER: That's not a good phrase to have an television.

BRZEZINSKI: “When the beef industry tries to deny the evidence, it is just repeating what the tobacco industry did 30 years ago.”

SERWER: [tongue in cheek] They're all the same, meat, cigarettes. They're very similar.

BRZEZINSKI: You should know what red meat, if you eat it consistently, does to your body. You should know.
The rationale for this sort of food tax, of course, is forcing these unhealthy people to pay their fair share of health care costs.  After all, Brzezinski argues, why should she have to pay for Joe's bad diet and nonexistent exercise regimen?

This is a classic case of a tax-happy liberal succumbing to the knee-jerk desire for control.  The idea is to make undesirable behavior (in this case, eating a hamburger and washing it down with a Coke) cost too much to be a feasible lifestyle.  What is not considered - nor has it been in the month-long saga of Mika's food fight, as far as I can tell - is the alternative of making a healthy lifestyle more affordable.

Governor Piyush “Bobby" Jindal of Louisiana, a conservative fellow whom Oxford University says knows quite a bit about health care, proposed (among many other things) moving away from an employer-based insurance system, and toward a behavior-based insurance system.  How would this work?  Currently, you (if you have health insurance) most likely get your insurance through your employer - as a benefit for holding down a productive job.  Brzezinski, for example, most likely pays for health insurance through the NBC corporate health plan.  Brzezinski's health insurance risk pool, then, includes Joe Scarborough, who is (at least from appearances) not nearly as healthy as she.  Thus, when Joe's unhealthy eating habits drive up his risk for disease (and therefore, risk for the insurance company to have to pay for his medical treatment), he drives up the overall risk for the entire pool of people - in essence, his bad health is subsidized by all of the more healthy people.

Now, if Brzezinski were to be able to form her own risk pool, as Jindal proposes, here's how it might work by alternative.

Brzezinski starts (or joins) an insurance pool for the Vegetarian Non-Smoking Long-Distance Runners of America.  Since these people are (ostensibly) extremely healthy, the risk of them needing medical care will be very low - thus, the insurance company will give that risk pool a very low premium.  Brzezinski and her meatless, nicotine-free, exercise-nut cohorts will no longer have to subsidize Scarborough's Big Mac habit.  And Joe, continuing to enjoy his deep-fried, bacon-wrapped Twinkie-munching heaven, will have to pay more for health insurance than he does now, because he can no longer subsidize the health-insurance consequences of those delectable bits of Americana.

So instead of a tax, Brzezinski will get to pay less than she does now - and Scarborough will have to pay more, just like she wanted.  And this is the point:  Higher taxes just make the cost for the unhealthy people higher.  Freeing people to form their own risk pools does the same thing - but has the additional benefit of lowering the costs for healthy people.

The Brew Crew has been arguing themselves into a full Windsor knot for roughly a month over this issue.  And so far, Scarborough, the alleged conservative, has yet to discover that there is an alternative to badgering Brzezinski over her nagging nanny-statism.  In the interest of viewer sanity, he might try this.

The full transcript is below.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: From the New York Daily News – and I know you're going to be tired, but it's in support of not only a fat tax and a soda tax, which we should have, but this guy goes even farther to say there should be a meat eater tax.

WILLIE GEIST: How about the Tide Saturday?

ANDY SERWER: Right.

BRZEZINSKI: He's a professor at Princeton, and he says this.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: We barely got away with a victory, there. Cody blocked two.

GEIST: He blocked two punts.

BRZEZINSKI: Would you be quiet for a second?

SCARBOROUGH: Thank God he eats a lot of meat.

BRZEZINSKI: Some people actually care about their health, so I’m going to read that for those people. [reading] “A tax on sodas containing sugar has also been under consideration by Governor Paterson, among others.”

SCARBOROUGH: Now when we say ‘sugar,’ do you mean coke, cocaine, or is that code for sugar with Paterson, or is it actual sugar?

BRZEZINSKI: [ignoring Joe, continuing to read] “In view of our obesity epidemic and the extra burden it places on our health care system – not to mention the problems it causes on a crowded New York subway when your neighbor can't fit into a single seat – it is a reasonable proposal.” He goes on now to talk about red meat.  And you all need to think about this.

GEIST: [bewildered, to Joe] What can we eat?

SERWER: He's a professor of tofu studies.

BRZEZINSKI: We are not – we are so impacted by the beverage industry and the meat industry, that nobody really knows about what they're eating.

SERWER: There's a difference between meat and soda, though, right?

BRZEZINSKI: No, actually. Let me read on.

SCARBOROUGH: This is where –

SERWER: Meat good, soda not as good.

BRZEZINSKI: [patronizingly] No, meat not good.

SERWER: Meat is pretty good.

BRZEZINSKI: Not good.

SERWER: You don't eat meat?

BRZEZINSKI: Can't eat too much meat.

SCARBOROUGH: Andy, this is the problem. And I'm dead serious here. When they started with cigarettes, there were a lot of conservatives that said these do-gooders that want the government to get in and tell you what to do, you watch, next, they'll go after fast food.  This was back in the 1990's –

BRZEZINSKI: They should.

SCARBOROUGH: And we said, no no no, that’ll never happen.  So what’s happened now?  Then they go after soda.  Then they go after sugar. Now – and I’m dead serious here Mika – now you're talking about red meat. After red meat, I promise you it will be something else and then it will be something else. People who want us to live just like they live.  Who are intolerant.

BRZEZINSKI: No, people who want us not to just be an obese, sick country.  I’m going to read one more, Peter Singer again, Professor says –

SERWER: It’s the tofu lobby.

SCARBOROUGH: Who are against choice.  Why were you anti-choice?

SERWER: I like bacon.

SCARBOROUGH: Oh, I love bacon.

BRZEZINSKI: – “Meat eaters impose costs – first, eating red meat is likely to kill you. Large studies have shown the daily consumption of red meat –

SCARBOROUGH: Mika, carbs kill you.

BRZEZINSKI: – daily consumption increases the risks that people die prematurely of heart disease or bowel cancer. This is now beyond serious scientific dispute.

SERWER: That's not a good phrase to have an television.

BRZEZINSKI: When the beef industry tries to deny the evidence, it is just repeating what the tobacco industry did 30 years ago.

SERWER: They're all the same, meat, cigarettes. They're very similar.

BRZEZINSKI: You should know what red meat, if you eat it consistently, does to your body. You should know.

GEIST: Why are you worried if I die sooner?

BRZEZINSKI: You know, because I'm paying for it, Willie.

GEIST: You’re paying for me to die?

BRZEZINSKI: I'm paying for your health care issues. Okay?  Everybody is.

SCARBOROUGH: I have been eating – I'm going to set myself up here.

BRZEZINSKI: Let's not talk about your physical state just because – just because you can, I don't know, stay up for 13 hours does not mean you're healthy.

SERWER: He’s looking good!

SCARBOROUGH: Don't get mad. I can stay up for actually 20 hours consistently, but the thing is I haven't had a great diet my whole life. Okay, I've probably eaten more Big Macs than most human beings alive, and I'm serious about it. But at the same time, I lead an active lifestyle. My blood pressure is 120 over 80. My cholesterol is fine. They've done one of those scans. I have no plaque. I want to live that way. That's up to me.

BRZEZINSKI: I'm glad for you. This isn't about you.

SCARBOROUGH: That's up to Americans.

BRZEZINSKI: Look at America.

SCARBOROUGH: That's the problem, Mika. It's not about you. You want to project your values on everybody else. We don't want to live like you. We think you have serious issues with how you treat your children. I want my children to eat a Big Mac. I want my children to have pizza. Now, afterwards, I'm going to take them outside, and I'm going to run them, and they're going to be healthy.

BRZEZINSKI: So just run it off, and the calories will burn, and there won't be plaque building up in their heart.

SCARBOROUGH: No, what I’m saying is, I also want them to eat well. By the way, if I decide that I want to buy my kid a Big Mac once a week, that's my decision. It's not yours. It's not the government's. Back off.

BRZEZINSKI: If you really want to do that, pay a little more to help us pay for the health care costs to pay for the obesity epidemic that plagues this country.

SERWER: Shish kabab, pot roasts, hamburgers, prime rib, it's all good.  Bacon, pork chops.

SCARBOROUGH: You know what else?  Cars, Mika.  Do you think more people die eating a Big Mac or driving cars? So do you want to ban cars too?

BRZEZINSKI: People are forced to wear their seat belts, and they don't seem to have a problem with that.

SCARBOROUGH: Do you want to ban cars, though? They still die.  Cars still kill.

SERWER: Bee stings, people die from bee stings.

BRZEZINSKI: You can eat your darn Big Mac. I just want you to pay a few cents more to help equalize the health care costs. You can. I just want you to pay a little more for it.

GEIST: So if I eat one Big Mac, say once a month, for example –

BRZEZINSKI: It’s not about you eating one, Willie.  It's about America eating way too much and all the things they shouldn't be eating and America being completely obese. And us pretending –

SCARBOROUGH: America, meet your new nanny, Mika Brzezinski.

BRZEZINSKI: – because it’s not P.C. to say you're fat.  Fat and unhealthy.

SERWER: Tofu, bean curd, that’s where we end up.  That's okay.

SCARBOROUGH: In Mika's world, we end up eating tofu and bean curd.

BRZEZINSKI: No, in my world, we actually talk about what we're putting in our bodies.

SERWER: Tofu, bean curd, I think it’s the same thing.  Vegetables.

SCARBOROUGH: [waving a paper file folder] This is what Mika wants us to eat! [rips a corner off and starts to chew]

SERWER: Put some salad dressing on that, balsamic. Look at him!  There's no dressing on that! You're eating very healthy! The paper companies love that.

BRZEZINSKI: Stop it. Spit that out right now.

SCARBOROUGH: It's got good fiber.

SERWER: Fruit and fiber.

BRZEZINSKI: It's just awful, seriously.

SCARBOROUGH: It's good for your constitution.

BRZEZINSKI: You all know I'm right.

SERWER AND SCARBOROUGH, together: No, we don't!

SCARBOROUGH: We know that you are trying to foist a nanny state on the rest of us.

BRZEZINSKI: All I want you to pay a little more so I don't have to pay for your big butts, okay?

SCARBOROUGH: I want you to pay a little more for your Ambien.  I don't think you're abusing Ambien is good for the rest of us. I don't think you abusing vodka is good for the rest of us.

GEIST: Should people who drink pay more?

BRZEZINSKI: Absolutely. You shouldn't have to pay for my drunkenness.

GEIST: You should pay more if you take an occasional drink?  Little whiskey on the weekend?

BRZEZINSKI: If you drink soda?

SCARBOROUGH: No no, vodka.

GEIST: Alcohol, which kills people.

BRZEZINSKI: I have no problem with that. I'll take a vodka tax in exchange for a soda and a red meat tax and everything else that kills this country and makes us weaker and fatter as a nation. Yes, I'll pay more for the vodka.

GEIST: Good, I'm glad you're in a position to afford to pay more.

BRZEZINSKI: I'm not. I'll just buy less.