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Fat tax?
April 24, 2000 9:37 PM   Subscribe

Fat tax? Any Metafilter readers like to "weigh in" on the proposed fat tax?
posted by Lynsey (27 comments total)

 
It's ridiculous. No doubt in my mind.

While we're at it, why don't we have a tax for anything that can be viewed as "bad" by at least one person? I don't think Kenny G's music is good for people. Can we get a tax on that?

posted by hijinx at 9:41 PM on April 24, 2000


god this place scares me. America, don't make me have to move to Canada to buy candy. Why the heck would I want my government to decide whether I can or cannot stuff my face full of crap? My decision! My decision only! I don't need a tax to keep me from overeating, and even if it WOULD help, why the hell would the government care? Obesity may be a problem, but people in this ridiculous country need to take responsibility for what they're putting in their mouth that's making them fat, and if they can't do it, well, we have a thriving health and fitness industry just itching for their money.

God, this country pisses me off so much.
posted by annathea at 9:55 PM on April 24, 2000


Calm down, calm down, it's only some freak-ass Yalie nutritionist. The govt is doing nothing, and is not going to.
posted by EngineBeak at 10:10 PM on April 24, 2000


Phew. I can't imagine if y'all had to pay an extra $0.20 for your daily dose of salt, fat and triphosphablahblahblah. I know it's the principle of the thing, but the holy moral outrage of the responses still tickle me.
But when you think about it: (legalize the ganja) + (slap a tax on cheez-mallow-balls) = everlasting budget surplus.
posted by sylloge at 10:32 PM on April 24, 2000


Bwahahahaha!!! Cheez-mallow-balls, mmmmmmmm....
posted by Dean_Paxton at 10:43 PM on April 24, 2000


Hmmm... a chance to be on the unpopular side of an argument for a change... :-)

The topic at hand here is "does the health insurance industry (ie: *us*) pay for treatment of conditions related to a behavior that is unhealthy?"

Looks to me like the answer is yes.

So, the resulting logical conclusion is: the government shouldn't be charging a tax on such foods... the insurors should. They, after all, are the people who have to pay out the money.

And we should encourage them. It is, after all, our money they're paying.

So, did you like *that* approach better?

I didn't think so. So the real answer is the rational one: insurors should make diet and weight a risk factor in their underwriting. This will, of course, be unpalatable to the people whom it costs more money (I would be one of them, at 6'1.5", 235 is too much for me to weigh), but you know what?

Tough shit. You have a higher risk of health problems, insurance *ought* to cost you more.

And stupidity is supposed to be expensive.

I dunno, maybe it's just me.

So many things are just me.
posted by baylink at 7:41 AM on April 25, 2000


I think baylink has a point...I don't want to pay more for health insurance than someone who eats McDonalds 6 times a week.

But you've gotta admit, the whole idea is pretty extreme.
posted by Succa at 8:02 AM on April 25, 2000


How about a tax for just being fat. Everytime we go to buy "junkfood," the acne-prone gas station attendent could have us step onto the scale and add on any "extra" taxes corresponding to our plentiful weight.
Or instead, how about we just give all of the overweight, out-of-shape people futures where they have a high risk for heart problems and other health complications, have a low self-esteem, and are mocked for their appearence. Oh wait...they already have that.
posted by mc_barron at 8:33 AM on April 25, 2000


Ah, I *love* Slashdot and Metafilter.

You have so many wonderful opportunities to see the various forms of fallacious argument in the wild.
posted by baylink at 9:22 AM on April 25, 2000


I don't know how I feel about this idea, but here are some things to think about. Liquor and cigarettes already have "sin taxes" in place. Is junk food somehow different?

In Arkansas, there's a tax on soft drinks already: 2 cents per 2 liter or six pack. Court challenges didn't work, local bottlers started placing propaganda on the product saying, in effect, "The reason this is so damn expensive is because of your state legislators!" Although prices didn't immediately go up. I think grocers just ate the difference. I don't know if other states have a similar tax, but there is precedent.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't Canada have awfully steep sin taxes for cigarettes at least? Since they provide free health care to all citizens, I figure it would only make sense if they tax products that tend to cause health problems. But that's just my initial reaction. What do I know?
posted by daveadams at 9:49 AM on April 25, 2000


The sin tax for cigarettes in Ontario dropped quite considerably after we elected our current Prime Minister, because people smuggling cigarettes was becomming an issue, but the current tax rate is province-dependant. I believe Quebec and the eastern provinces have the lowest tax rates in Canada, and they get higher as you go west.


posted by cCranium at 10:07 AM on April 25, 2000


I'm not against sin taxes but in the case of junk food it's somewhat redundant. Lots of peoples' health care already charges them more based on pre-existing conditions, and increasingly obesity is being counted as a pre-existing health condition that jacks up your insurance costs. I believe that makes more sense anyway since plenty of thin healthy people are lucky enough to be able to scarf down cheesecake at a rapid clip yet still remain svelte & healthy.
posted by wiremommy at 10:54 AM on April 25, 2000


As someone who could easily stand to drop at least 20, and probably 30, pounds, I'd rather pay more on life insurance than force everyone to pay more for their pringles.

posted by cCranium at 10:58 AM on April 25, 2000


I'm betting a "fat tax" would be, much like cigarette taxes, nothing remotely *like* an actual deterrent to buyers... junk food addicts like smokers would shake their heads in disgust and pony up the extra twenty cents for that economy-pak of twinkies just like I seem to do every damned year for my Marlboros. So it goes from being a financial incentive toward healthy living to being just another way for the government to plunder our pockets, and I'm betting some of the same pattern you see in cigarette taxes where it winds up being people of lesser means being hardest hit would hold true here as well. Seven-roommate households of college bachelors everywhere would have to take money out of the collective porn-mag pool and apply it to the Taco Bell Excise pool. The long-term economic implications are staggering.

Along these same semi-serious-but-not-really lines, I'm still eagerly awaiting a damning report in the Lancet or New England Journal of Medicine which incontrovertibly prove the public health hazard posed by second-hand doughnuting; we smokers are damned tired of blazing new trails in social pariah-hood all by ourselves and would adore some company.
posted by Sapphireblue at 12:09 PM on April 25, 2000


I really can't believe we pay money to these idiots so they can argue about things like Fat taxes.

I say we use that money to pay a guy to sit in congress with a pipe. His job will be to bash in the head of any politician who brings up stupid things like Fat Taxes. This would inevitably lead to anarchy, but is that so wrong?
posted by Nyarlathotep at 12:26 PM on April 25, 2000


Well, ok, Michelle, maybe it *wouldn't* change people's behaviors... but that was only a side point anyway, no?

The actual argument fronted was *that it would help pay the health care costs* engendered by the bad habit, and it would actually do that *more* efficiently if it did *not* change the behavior in question, because it would make more money...
posted by baylink at 12:48 PM on April 25, 2000


I have to disagree with EngineBeak on his early post. The government has consistently shown tendencies toward legislating our daily lives. There really is very little difference between a "fat tax" and what we have now with tobacco and alcohol. We really should be worried.
posted by Popstar at 1:04 PM on April 25, 2000


mmmmmmm... economy pack twinkies....

If we add a snax tax, does that mean we can write off our gym memberships? Will we finally see impulse-buy fresh fruit options? Will this eventually lead to some sort of baked goods prohibition to prevent black market ding-dongs from hitting the streets? Will we finally reach some sort of smuggling equity with Canada, as people run back and forth across the border, swapping Lucky Strike for Tim Hortons? What about Lowfat Snax? Will they be taxed at a lower rate, or will decreased enjoyment have to be it's own reward? Clearly there are many questions that must be asked before this can ever be introduced in Congress!
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 1:18 PM on April 25, 2000


yes, and what about olean? will they tax you when you buy those vile "wow" chips and then reimburse you a day later?
posted by bluishorange at 1:28 PM on April 25, 2000


First of all, how does one determine what constitutes a taxable food item? Calorie count? Saturated fat? With alcohol and cigarettes there's no real gray area, one has tar and nicotine in alarming levels, the other has, well, alcohol.
Secondly, why would the government create a tax to cover health insurance costs when there is no national health insurance, unlike our neighbors in the Great White North. This will never happen.
posted by Awol at 1:30 PM on April 25, 2000


I was a smoker when British Columbia introduced sin tax (or higher sin taxes) on smoking, and all it did was make me a little poorer, and a lot crankier. I still smoked the same amount though, so it wasn't much help.

Government cannot regulate eating habits.
posted by sperare at 1:58 PM on April 25, 2000


Blah. One thing I notice on my visits to the US is that the big grocery stores tend to sell fresh fruit, vegetables, bread etc at much higher prices than I'm used to in the UK, while highly-processed foods (generally higher in fat, sugar, salt etc) are much cheaper. My girlfriend admits that she lives on "packet crap".

(Also, food in the UK is generally exempt from sales tax, unless it's considered a "luxury" commodity.)

Don't double-tax Pringles: instead, give tax breaks to local suppliers and farmers' markets, and encourage grocery stores to stock locally-produced food without upping the margin.
posted by holgate at 2:06 PM on April 25, 2000


Jay (mm, first-name basis, please hold for warmfuzzies) --- maybe, but "we're helping them help themselves" sounds a lot more innocent than "damn those expensive fat people". Therefore I find it somewhat more dangerous :>

I'm not impressed by that "helping pay the health care costs" mess either. You live in Florida too, perhaps you've heard a bit about what plans are for our share of the tobacco settlement? I'm fuzzy on this (being only a half-ass Floridian) but I seem to recall that someone wanted to use that money for elementary education? I heard someone make the point that if that's so, should we *encourage* people to smoke "for the children"? All beside my actual point, which is specifically: I'd supply you with a lifetime of Twinkies myself if even 50% of the money collected from such a tax in the first year actually turned directly into federal health-care funding. really, our government's proven they're pretty inept with money; I can't understand why people want to keep entrusting more and more of its (re)distribution to them.

I think people should be responsible for their own choices. Smoking, binging on pork rinds... it's all good so long as you understand it's going to hurt you in the long run and that hurting will be expensive, and it's no one's fault but your own.
posted by Sapphireblue at 2:45 PM on April 25, 2000


Yep, if you believe taxes really discourage people from engaging in an activity, then DON'T fund anything valuable with the sin-tax money - at least, not as valuable as the benefits of discouraging the activity.
But then, I was already in the work force when the early 1980's income tax cuts came down. The supply-side economists said it would encourage people to work more and make more money, but, when I saw a bigger take-home check with no additional efort, I just thought: "Okay, now I don't have to work as much overtime to pay my bills!" But then, I AM fat and lazy...
posted by wendell at 2:55 PM on April 25, 2000


The original idea behind all kinds of insurance is to spread out risks... but the ultimate effect is often to spread out the costs of one's personal choices. So the effect (at least financially) of unhealthy behavoior is not all born by the unhealthy actors (even if they pay more, it's rarely enough to cover it all) and the healthy actors feel (justifiably?) that they have a stake in the unhealthy's behavior. And that's when the real complaining starts...
posted by wendell at 3:05 PM on April 25, 2000


Oh, that is just plain silly.

On the other hand, I'd like to heavily tax clients that waste and disrepect my time. PITA tax.

Did you know that many lenders have sections on the forms that they may later on add various fees for items previously overlooked? Well, that is there for clients that are impossible to work with, do not hand over required information, or simply make a live a living hell.

Go figure.
posted by velvett at 8:43 PM on April 25, 2000


"Damn those expensive fat people". :-) I like that.

Let's face two things here, shall we:

1) Health insurance is you betting someone else you'll get really sick. "I'll bet you $800 that I'm going to cost you more than that in medical bill reimbursements this year."
"Ok."

2) The insurance companies have most of the money in the US.

These tend to skew our perceptions on the topic, doncha think?

posted by baylink at 7:44 AM on April 26, 2000


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