Some Members of Congress think they are better parents than you are.
Under the tax code, companies are able to take deductions for business expenses, including marketing. Recently, however, Representative Rosa DeLauro (D–CT) introduced H.R. 2831, which would prohibit businesses from taking tax deductions for marketing “food of poor nutritional quality” to individuals under 17 years of age.
Specifically, the bill would prohibit tax deductions for business expenses when (1) a company markets “poor nutritional quality” food, as determined by the government, and (2) such marketing is directed at an audience that consists of 35 percent or more of individuals age 17 or under.
Under the guise of protecting children against obesity and unhealthy eating, the bill attempts to extend the authority of the government into the private lives of Americans. Parents, not Congress, raise children. Parents supervise and influence their children’s eating habits and decide what food will come into the home. Children may pester their parents for less nutritious foods, but it is the parents who ultimately decide what foods their children consume and in what amounts. This bill is thus implying that parents are not smart enough to make these decisions or strong-willed enough to withstand pressure from their children to buy less nutritious products.
It is unclear which foods would be classified as having “poor nutritional quality,” as the bill defers judgment to the government and its interpretation of federal dietary guidelines, which are very general. Thus, excessive and broad discretionary power would be granted to bureaucrats in determining what constitutes “poor nutritional quality.”
Another problem is the government’s attempt to determine if marketing is directed at an audience that consists of at least 35 percent or more of individuals age 17 or under. The bill covers not only television and radio but displays at retail sites, character licensing, toy co-branding, and other cross-promotions that are very difficult to measure.
This legislation would also insert the government unnecessarily into the marketplace, picking winners and losers and distorting the market.
From a tax perspective, it would be a terrible abuse of the tax code. Marketing is a legitimate business expense. It shouldn’t be curtailed because some politician doesn’t like the product a business makes.
The federal government should not be making parenting decisions for children. This type of arrogant policy represents the dangerous government-knows-best mentality that permeates Washington, D.C.
Luke Beckmann is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.