I’m sure many of you have noticed the price of groceries have gone up.  And prices aren’t going down anytime soon.  Due to food shortages and greater worldwide demand, food prices are expected to rise as much as four percent next year.  The Christian Science Monitor reports

Nan Braun knows. Since Thanksgiving, “I’ve been paying at least another $50 a month more for food for the family,” says the Kokomo, Ind., resident. She’s responded by purchasing some foods in bulk when they’re on sale – and buying flour for making bread. 

Susan Unger-Grossman of New York City has noticed a change. The price of the box of single-serving coffee packets she often buys hasn’t changed, but the number of packets per box has dropped from 24 to 18. “That means if you’d buy three boxes of the coffee, you’d be losing the equivalent of a whole box,” she points out.

These changes are early hints of a much broader increase in food prices that should come later this year. The rise in commodity food and energy prices will boost costs at the grocery store this year anywhere from 2 to 4 percent – or possibly even higher, analysts forecast. That’s not unprecedented. A rise of 2 to 3 percent in consumer food prices would mark a return “toward the historical average” food inflation rate, according to the US Department of Agriculture. It just feels huge because last year, consumers’ price of food inched up only 0.8 percent – the lowest food inflation rate since 1962, according to the USDA. 

But for many Utah lawmakers, food prices haven’t gone up quite enough. 

Yesterday, the Utah Senate passed a bill raising taxes on food items from 1.7 percent to 4.4 percent.  That is a significant increase.   The bill’s sponsors counter criticism by saying sales taxes on other items will be reduced.  But the sales taxes on those “other items” would only be lowered from 4.7 percent to 4.4 percent.  Again, legislators are proving they have poor math skills.

Why would these lawmakers consider this increase?  Are they unaware that people are having a bit of trouble making ends meet?  Are they unaware of the high unemployment numbers?

According to one of the bill’s sponsors–republican Senator Stuart Adams–your individual food costs and your struggles to stay within a budget are not his concern.  Rather, he’s more concerned with stabilizing the state’s revenue stream.  The Salt Lake Tribune reports

Adams argues that when the economy soured, sales tax receipts dropped sharply because households ratcheted down their spending. Restoring the sales tax on food would stabilize that revenue stream, Adams says, because people have to buy food. 

Just take a moment to consider the insanity of that statement.  He acknowledges that the economy is in trouble but knows he can still raise revenue by targeting the very thing people can’t do without: food.  And what will these new tax revenues fund?  Public education.

Which brings us to a fascinating intersection of issues.  We raise taxes on food in order to pay for government programs which makes it harder for parents to provide food for their children while simultaneously increasing funding for the school lunch program so that parents don’t have to buy food for their children.

We live in strange times.