Wait! I was only joking!

Well, doctors now want a fat tax on Coca-Cola and Pepsi. I wasn’t trying to predict anything in this post, but geez.

Doctors will this week declare war on America’s soft drinks industry by calling for a ‘fat tax’ to combat the nation’s obesity epidemic.

Delegates at the powerful American Medical Association’s annual conference will demand a levy on the sweeteners put in sugary drinks to pay for a massive public health education campaign.

I love the very idea of this “public health educatin campaign”. What, do these doctors really think that people who are fat don’t know they are fat? The idea here is that “If we just tell them that they are fat and the negative consequences they’ll get thin.” Uhhhhmmm, maybe people are fat because they’ve decided that is the lifestyle they like. Watching television, eating fatty foods, and not getting enough exercise to compensate? Nope, all this fat just snuck on people and jumped on them while they were asleep in their beds and now they don’t know what to do.

One American politician labelled it the ‘crack of sweeteners’ because it is so widespread.

I love how these things are always compared to things like crack cocaine. Is sugar addictive? No. Is it illegal? Not yet. Does is cause people to lose everything and become prostitues and criminals? No. But that high fructose corn syrup…why it is the next crack cocaine. Soon you’ll only be able to buy it in a dime bag from a shady looking fellow on some dingy street in a poor neighborhood.

Nothing is worse than a (medical) doctor when it comes to the Nanny State.

FILED UNDER: Health, US Politics,
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.

Comments

  1. McGehee says:

    I wasn�t trying to predict anything in this post, but geez.

    I was going to post a comment on that other thread, warning against giving them ideas, but I decided not to. Better you should learn that lesson the hard way.

  2. odograph says:

    So Steve, do you suppose my medical insurance rates are at all influenced by these people’s behavior?

    Your freedom to swing your arm ends at my nose, right?

    For better or worse, our health programs private and public “cost out” based on the wider demographic.

  3. Steve Verdon says:

    So Steve, do you suppose my medical insurance rates are at all influenced by these peopleâ??s behavior?

    Only if you are in a pooling equilibrium, which you likely are because of the tax exempt status of insurance/health benefits. In short, the government at work again.

    Without such government interference insurance markets would have seperating equilibria and you’d find yourself grouped with those similar to yourself. Hence high risk with high risk and low risk with low risk.

    For better or worse, our health programs private and public â??cost outâ?? based on the wider demographic.

    Only because of the way the government treats these things. Your justification is as follows:

    I pay taxes for medicare, medicaid, Social Security, etc. Therefore, I want the government to use its coercive powers to make these people behave in a way I find acceptable. Not exactly consistent with the notion of liberty, IMO.

    But that may not bother you.

  4. Steve Verdon says:

    McGhee,

    I’d love to say that my posts on this blog are really, really influential, but my guess is that this idea was in the works long before I suggested it. I figured it was coming as soon as we had the lawsuit against fast food restaurants by the people who voluntarily went there to eat.

    This country is doomed, IMO.

    The American experiment: a failure.

  5. Eric J says:

    Actually a tax on high-fructose corn syrup that would make it more expensive than (tarrifed) imported sugar wouldn’t be such a bad thing, although for completely different reasons.

  6. odograph says:

    No, I’m saying your article was a little ideolized when it suggested that the corn-sugar consumers are harming only themselves.

    I pay taxes for medicare, medicaid, Social Security, etc. Therefore, I want the government to use its coercive powers to make these people behave in a way I find acceptable. Not exactly consistent with the notion of liberty, IMO.

    Do you think food stamp users are “coerced” when the rules disallow alcohol purchase?

  7. odograph says:

    BTW, on a practical level, just cut the subsidies (corn and ethanol) … no need for taxes on this one.

  8. Steve Verdon says:

    Do you think food stamp users are â??coercedâ?? when the rules disallow alcohol purchase?

    Of course, and [somewhat tongue-in-cheek] it is a stupid policy. After all, one alcoholic drink a day will significantly reduce one’s risk of heart attack.

    No, Iâ??m saying your article was a little ideolized when it suggested that the corn-sugar consumers are harming only themselves.

    They are, it is the government that is bringing the pain (so to speak) to your doorstep. Not only that, but this tax will just increase your pain.

    As for ending subsidies…I’d go for that, but as Anderson noted in another thread:

    Great, a political non-starter! Next!

  9. Steve Verdon says:

    Eric,

    Ha! Hadn’t thought of that. However, I think it would probably be better to get rid of both than to go with duelling taxes/tariffs.

  10. Storms says:

    If the government taxes something, wouldn’t they actually want people to buy it, then.

  11. madmatt says:

    Well seeing as the state govts have been taxing the hell out of cigarettes and alcohal to raise funds when obesity related illnesses are now the top health problems in the US, I think it is a great idea…screw that fat f…ks for awhile and it will also be much more equitable than picking on addicts.

  12. Anderson says:

    From this week’s News of the Weird (top story):

    In a May dispatch from Atlanta on Southerners’ notoriously unnutritious, fat-laden cuisine, a Chicago Tribune reporter watered readers’ mouths with descriptions of the “hamdog” and the “Luther” (prized dishes of Mulligan’s restaurant in Decatur, Ga.), which are, respectively, “a half-pound of hamburger meat wrapped around a hot dog, which is deep-fried and served on a hoagie topped with chili, bacon and a fried egg,” and “a half-pound burger served with bacon and cheese on a Krispy Kreme doughnut.” The 11 states from Washington, D.C., to Florida, west to Texas, have the nation’s highest mortality rate from strokes, but, said a University of Mississippi professor, “Food is a strong emblem of identity for Southerners,” uniquely shared across racial lines. [Chicago Tribune, 5-16-06]

    Perhaps the best way to improve America’s health is to reconsider that whole “no secession” thing?

  13. floyd says:

    unfortunately we tend to reflect heredity in our bodies as much as we reflect our habits, punishing people with stereotypes is not supposed to be acceptable in this modern age , is it?

  14. odograph says:

    Your position isn’t exactly symmetrical there Steve.

    You fault “eliminate the corn subsidies” for being impractical, but this entire thread depends on eliminating another set of subsidies … those for health care.

  15. jpe says:

    Actually a tax on high-fructose corn syrup that would make it more expensive than (tarrifed) imported sugar wouldn�t be such a bad thing, although for completely different reasons.

    My thoughts exactly. We’d do well to cut out the middle man and just end ag subsidies.

  16. Steve Verdon says:

    You fault �eliminate the corn subsidies� for being impractical, but this entire thread depends on eliminating another set of subsidies � those for health care.

    I thought I was pretty clear on the point of ending all subsidies…and that all of them are politically non-starters. Hence my rather fatalistic view of the future of this country. In another generation or two it will no longer be the United States of America save in name only, IMO.