We take serious exception to the letter "Children's health" (Voice of the People, Sept. 29), signed by physicians associated with public and private pediatric hospital programs in the Chicago area, advocating a tax on sugared beverages to add more funds for children's care programs.The doctors claim, "Existing public programs, such as Illinois' All Kids program, are seriously underfunded."But surely they are aware that spending on health care is rising at a rapid (and some say unsustainable) rate, and that spending on current government programs threatens to bankrupt the state and the nation. Calling for even more government spending at this time is simply irresponsible.Calling for a tax on soda and other sweetened drinks is also very naive. Consumption of such drinks is a minor contributor to the nation's obesity problem. To be successful they would need to tax substantially not only these drinks but also Twinkies, bonbons, meats, fruits, vegetables and all of the other foods and products that contribute to obesity.Why people become and remain obese is a complicated matter. A review of the literature shows that without the use of medications, terminal cancer, terminal AIDS or amputation, fewer than 5 percent of people are able to lose 20 pounds or more and keep it off. Even the revenue raised by the proposed tax would be about one-half of 1 percent of the $2.4 trillion spent on health care in 2008, not enough to raise the pay of pediatricians or to solve the other problems the doctors claim exist. But the money taken from taxpayers would add to a tax burden that the Tax Foundation says already exceeds what the average family spends on food, clothing and housing combined. Much of the tax would be paid by millions of young and adult consumers who do not have weight problems, and therefore they would be punished for no reason.The government already gets enough of our money, for health care and for everything else it does for and to us. At this time of great economic hardship, the government should be trying to spend less rather than taxing more.
-- Robert F. Hamilton, MD, surgeon,
Richard Dolinar, MD, Endocrinologist John Dale Dunn, MD, Emergency Physician Greg Scandlen, Director, Consumers for Health Care Choices Mark Kellen, MD, Anesthesiologist Alieta Eck, MD, Internal Medicine Jeffrey A. Singer, MD, FACS, General Surgeon Lawrence Kneisley, MD, Neurology and Sleep Disorders Medicine James G. Knight, MD, Consumer Directed Health Care, Inc. Kenneth D. Christman, MD, Plastic Surgeon James F. Coy, MD, General Practitioner James P. Economos, DDS, Dentist Bart Farris, MD, Anatomic/Clinical Pathology Steve Barchet, MD, Physician Jordan L. Shlain, MD, Internal Medicine John L. Wright, MD, Orthopaedic Surgeon (retired) Donald Wedgbury, MD, Radiologist Finley W. Brown Jr, MD, Physician and Surgeon Anna Frueh-Malek, MD, Specialist Allan Wald, MD, Physician Robert J. Cihak, MD, Radiologist (retired) Robert F. Hamilton, MD, Surgeon Allen Potter, MD, Optometrist