A Fat Tax Is Not the Solution for Obesity

fat pizzaRecently I read an article advocating for the extreme taxation of junk food and increased farm subsidies as a solution to America’s obesity problem. The only link I can find between those things is that further socializing the food industry will make sure everyone is equally hungry, and therefore equally (involuntarily) skinny.


The author wrote in support of an opinion piece by cookbook author Mark Bittman calling for a tax on junk food. His premise is this:

Rather than subsidizing the production of unhealthful foods, we should turn the tables and tax things like soda, French fries, doughnuts, and hyperprocessed snacks. The resulting income should be earmarked for a program that encourages a sound diet for Americans by making healthy food more affordable and widely available.

I’m not here to argue that Americans have problems with over-eating and junk food. I’m saying that what someone decides to eat or drink is his or her business -- not mine, and certainly not Uncle Sam’s. If another person wants to eat fried chicken and Milky Way bars all day long, they have to deal with the consequences of obesity.

But what about the argument that it leads to increased health care costs?

A better solution to saving on health care costs is to stop socializing health care. If people paid their own medical bills, they’d be more likely to live a healthy lifestyle, since they’d be responsible for paying for their own type II diabetes medication. When the things I do directly affect my financial situation, you better bet that I make careful choices.

Besides, the whole raising-sin-taxes-will-increase-tax-revenue is a falsehood. People will cut their consumption, or producers will limit their supply and jack up the price, which means more people would decrease their intake, and the whole thing deteriorates while the black market for the product flourishes. Do you think people stopped drinking during prohibition?

Who even decides what junk food is? Is a chocolate chip cookie junk food? What if it’s organic? Does that cancel out the junk factor? Clearly, we’re going to need a U.S. Department of Junk Food to figure this all out. Lovely. More overpaid Washington bureaucrats making decisions for me. That’s exactly what this country needs right now (insert eye-roll here). 

Certainly, people would be better off limiting their intake of junk food. But it’s hardly the government’s job to be our food police.


Image via PaullYoung/Flickr

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