Junk food tax, obesity and class warfare (oh my!)

Daniel Engber on Slate (Let Them Drink Water!, 9/21/2009 ), recently raised the issue that a tax on sugar or junk food, is tantamount to food snobbery and paternal imposition of economic burden on the masses.  But, is a sugar tax really the class warfare that Engber claims? Do we just ignore the problems and let the market sort it all out? No tax policymaker is ever going to entirely shed this paternalistic image put on (repeatedly) by anti-tax fundamentalists. Yes, the distinction between edible delicacy and junk-food is often rooted in class. So, tax the brioche just like the Mars bar. Heck, make it a progressive tax and hit it at a higher rate.

The junk food tax is policy yet to be crafted, but heaven knows that we can’t ignore the burgeoning health crises associated with obesity in the US. When kids in various demographic categories are statistically more likely to develop type II diabetes than not, something needs to be done. The more I ruminate on it, anti-tax fundamentalism has no place at the table, if it means any delay in addressing a public health emergency.

Negotiations – yes. Delay by fundamentalists – save it for another issue.

Let Them Drink Water!What a fat tax really means for America.

By Daniel EngberPosted Monday, Sept. 21, 2009, at 5:29 PM ET

Not long after the attack on Pearl Harbor, in the winter of 1942, physiologist A.J. Carlson made a radical suggestion: If the nation’s largest citizens were charged a fee—say, $20 for each pound of overweight—we might feed the war effort overseas while working to subdue an “injurious luxury” at home.


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