Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Renaming New York's "Obesity Tax"

As the NYTimes notes,

New York Governor David Paterson is trying to reduce the size of the state budget by reducing the size of the average citizen. With obesity rates soaring, he has proposed an 18 per cent tax on non-diet sodas or sugary juice drinks. That’s a good idea for two reasons. It will raise money for health care. And it might lead consumers to drink healthier beverages.
Surprisingly, Fosco isn't opposed to such obvious social engineering through the tax code--after all, non-diet soda (and even, strangely enough, diet soda) are seriously damaging to public health. It's kinda like increasing taxes on cigarettes (which is also a good thing).

But, Fosco does have a problem calling such a move an "obesity tax." For one thing, it's more than a little misleading. After all, there are plenty of non-obesity-related health threats from the high-fructose corn syrup that is found in these beverages. In addition, the phrase "obesity tax" raises the possibility of future taxes and fees that are designed to single out obese people for punishment and ridicule. Once you start "taxing" obesity, eventually you're going to end up with world where fat people pay extra for basic health care, access to public space, and fundamental social services. And this is a problem.

So what if we stopped calling this an "obesity tax" and started calling it something more accurate: a diabetes-prevention tax. This would recognize the fact that, although obesity and diabetes are correlated, they are not the same thing (as Fosco's Uncle Dick--a life-long skinnybones and recent Type II diabetic--proves). I think that everyone can get behind a tax that tries to cut down on an expensive public health epidemic.

As for Fosco, he's been drinking sparkling mineral water in lieu of soda and fruit juice for three months now...

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