While I may reside in the outdoor sports mecca of Aspen, Colorado, — a place where having more than 9% body fat qualifies you for a handicapped parking spot — I’m not immune to the country’s growing obesity problem. I’ve been in a Walmart.
America’s growing fatter, and to curb our expanding collective waistline, some health experts have proposed adding a 20% surcharge to the purchase price of “unhealthy” foods and drinks. This, it follows, would force individuals to clean up their diets.
A recent study by the British Medical Journal lends credence to such a proposal, concluding that a 20% tax is a meaningful enough penalty to initiate change, with the study concluding that the additinal cost on fatty foods would drop obesity rates by 3.5% and prevent 2,700 heart-related deaths a year.
The proponents of the bill point out the obvious: health care costs are skyrocketing, and a good deal of those costs are dedicated toward treating the obese. The tax would not be precedent setting, supporters argue, because other items deemed unhealthy — specifically, tobacco and alcohol – have long been subject to tax.
On the flip side, there’s the “I’ve got every right to pound a bucket of fried dough without having to pay a penalty, even if it means I have to wash myself with a rag on a stick,” argument, which is, of course, 100% accurate and tremendously difficult to overcome. After all, the Supreme Court just spent three days debating the constitutionality of Obamacare — which required that each individual obtain health insurance or pay a tax — and it’s likely that some powerful people (Ronald McDonald) would view a fat tax as imposing on our civil liberties.
Of course, given the tenuous ground on which our current tax regime stands — what with the Bush tax cuts set to expire in six months and no clear path to Code reform — a fat tax would appear to be relatively low on the priority list. So in the meantime, feel free to supersize it.