Taxation as Mind-Body Control

Researchers writing in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine have suggested taxation as a way to fight obesity.

“While such policies will not solve the obesity epidemic in its entirety and may face considerable opposition from food manufacturers and sellers, they could prove an important strategy to address overconsumption, help reduce energy intake and potentially aid in weight loss and reduced rates of diabetes among U.S. adults,” commented the group led by Kiyah Duffey of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“Our findings suggest that national, state or local policies to alter the price of less healthful foods and beverages may be one possible mechanism for steering U.S. adults toward a more healthful diet,” wrote Duffey and his team.

Duffey’s group studied the diets and health of more than 5,000 young adults age 18 to 30 from 1985 to 2006. I have a feeling that the findings were heavily weighted by college students and low-income young people who ate on the cheap and on the fly. There is no proof that as they grew older, and had children of their own, they didn’t make better food choices.

The problem for them, as it is for most, is that the better choices cost more and can’t compete with the artificially low prices of processed foods that contain highly subsidized high-fructose corn syrup.

A Reuters article about these recommendations noted that Centers for Disease Control (CDC) director Dr. Thomas Frieden supports taxes on soft drinks, as does the American Heart Association.

As I was coming to the end of the article, I began to despair. Why are all these supposed intelligent people addressing cost, but not food value? You’d think they were being subsidized by Archer Daniels Midland or something. Of course, the CDC is the government, and we all know how well that works.

And where does it end. Why pizza and soda? Why not ice cream, butter, and sugar-coated cereals. Maybe that’s what they have in mind. Maybe we’ll end up with a fat tax tied to what we weigh and eat, and how we care for ourselves. Mr. Orwell, are you listening?

But there at the bottom were the words that gave me hope. They came by way of San Francisco, where Drs. Mitchell Katz and Rajiv Bhatia of that city’s Department of Public Health argued that the federal government should evaluate the food subsidies that contribute to obesity.

“Sadly, we are currently subsidizing the wrong things including the production of corn, which makes the corn syrup in sweetened beverages so inexpensive,” they wrote.

They noted that agricultural subsidies should be used to make healthful foods such as locally grown produce and grains less costly. Thank you Drs. Katz and Bhatia.

The news is filled with warnings about increasing childhood obesity. I can’t believe that TPTB don’t know why this is happening. Or maybe their pockets are lined with husks donated by the corn producers. This new initiative might be just a show, but if enough of us speak out, at least the government will know that we know and maybe stop subsidizing corn in favor of healthy fruits and vegetables. We can only hope.

If you would like to send a comment to the Task Force on Childhood Obesity.

The fourth field requires a choice. I selected No. 1 – Access to healthy affordable food.

The government has a strange way of taking care of the people. It uses money to reward us for bad behavior (financial and mortgage bailouts) and to punish us for bad behavior (taxes on cigarettes and unhealthy food). Money, not logic, seems to be the answer to everything.

It would be a happy day if our elected and appointed officials rejected influence by lobbyists, money, favors, and the rest of the SWAG (Stuff We All Get, but which lately only they get) and come up with solutions that actually benefit us.

Sheila Velazquez lives and writes in Northwest Massachusetts. Her work is informed by decades of experience with unions, agriculture, public health, politics and her support of populism. She welcomes contact by email: Read other articles by Sheila.

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  1. An Individual said on March 19th, 2010 at 3:54pm #

    Magnificent article. You struck the root. Thank you!