Obesity, which contributes to many health problems such as cancer, stroke, diabetes and high blood pressure, has become epidemic and affects nearly half of the US population. The number of obese people has doubled since 1985, causing health insurance premiums to increase by 30%. The overall financial costs of obesity are greater than those of alcoholism or smoking. The annual cost of treating obesity-related health problems is estimated at more than $100 billion. Reducing health costs over time will not occur if obesity is ignored.
Why more taxes?
two reasons; The first and most obvious is raising a portion of the money for what is being proposed as universal health care, a topic that carries with it a separate discussion. The second and perhaps most important reason is to increase awareness of what we eat and how it affects our bodies. The American public is woefully ignorant of the issue of nutrition.
There have been dozens of “evil food” tax proposals from a penny can of soft drink to 10% on all fast food items. Maybe it needs to be more comprehensive than that. Perhaps packaged foods with lots of sugar and starch contribute to the problem as does the entire fast food industry. It can be a sliding scale on all foods except fresh produce based on grams of fat and sugar per 100g or per serving.
What is the tax rate?
The Department of Agriculture has suggested that for “wrong food” taxes to change the way people eat, they may need to cut at least 10% to 30% of the cost of food. It is estimated that a 10% federal tax on fattening foods would generate $530 billion over 10 years. There should also be a program of tax subsidies to encourage the purchase of healthy foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables. This of course would reduce the overall income somewhat.
Most of us oppose more taxes, myself included, but there is another opposition to a tax of this kind. Here are some of the most common ones.
- I’m not fat and I don’t want to pay someone and I like soft drinks and Doritos. You can still eat whatever you want. Paying $1.10 for a 99-cent bag of Dorritos might be the cheapest way to pay for this problem. It is inevitable because of the scale of this social problem that it will not cost you in some way.
- Government must stop trying to legitimize our behavior and pick our pockets. Sorry my friend…too late. In a society this complex and generally thriving, everything we do in some small way affects others. “No man is an island.” The only way for the government not to do something is to completely abandon the idea of universal health care. How good is your imagination for that to happen?
- It is a regressive tax that unfairly affects the poor. On the face of it, this seems to be true. Low-income people eat highly starchy and fast food in an effort to increase the dollar from their food. As mentioned earlier, there should be a tax subsidy for choosing healthy foods. More public health dollars are needed for nutrition education and awareness. With the right information and a little help, people on low incomes can get by with healthy meals.
One of the glitches in pursuing a national health care problem is the political evasion of personal accountability and responsibility. We have been lulled into dependence on the government, a condition that is difficult to reverse, and the government seems to take great pride in its role. Single responsibility is the ultimate solution; Until then everyone pays one way or another.