Arthur Garson continues to lead a normal life, walking among us, working, meeting his obligations as the Dean of University of Virginia's School of Medicine. Yet he is an admitted mass murderer. A mass murderer of such epic proportions the overused term, epic proportions, hardly does it justice. He has admitted to killing more people than all of the serial killers in US history combined. He has admitted to killing more people than who lost their lives in 9/11 and the Iraq war combined. He has publically admitted to killing over 100,000 people. And he says he does it every year!
An article in the September 6th Chicago Tribune quotes Dr. Garson as stating, “We are killing 100,000 people per year so something needs to be done.”
Yes, something indeed needs to be done.
We need to capture this man before he continues killing anymore. Once we have him in custody, we will turn him over to Chicago’s finest who will use their billy clubs (I mean law enforcement batons) on his head as if they were practicing the Gene Krupa rim shot. He’ll soon tell us who the other person or persons are that he is referring to in his confession when he said “We are killing….”
What Dr. Garson is really referring to is that the abundance of inexpensive calorie rich food is killing hundreds of thousands of people per year. So the “we” is actually the royal “we.” No, wait. Just the opposite. The “we” is you and me and the average plebian who really enjoys a deep fried Twinkie or his fried pork rinds covered in nacho cheese sauce. And speaking of that nacho cheese sauce, am I crazy of does that stuff you get at quick marts, ball parks and various festivals resemble the stuff found in infected body cavities?
But I digress.
So Dr. Garson and a gaggle of do-gooder politicians, misguided civic minded citizens and probably some lobbyists from the UFDA (United Fresh Produce Association, I kid you not) are all revving up that legislative engine, that has had the governor stripped out by an all Democratic Congress, to issue a penalty or a “fat tax.” Their intent is to increase the cost of these foods to reduce consumption. The theory that it will work is based in proven economic concepts. The higher the price, the lower the demand. Hell, it’s worked for booze and cigarettes so why not?
Well, as you may have guessed by now, I have just a few reasons why not.
So as not to disappoint those that know me, let’s start with the one that everyone expects.
Government should not interfere with people’s lives and tell them what to eat and what not to eat.
Do I have to whip out the “slippery slope” line? People, get with it. Look about you and see what is happening. First there is prohibition on drugs. Yes, I said drugs because its prohibition is also intrusive and not effective. Then there was prohibition on alcohol. That worked out about as well as the one on drugs so it was repealed. Then they decided to tax it. Why? To help reduce its consumption so that “we” would all be healthier? Nope. They hit booze with a tax to hide the fact that it is a tax. A large portion of the population does not consume that much liquor so why not? Then they taxed the hell out of tobacco products (and don’t forget about the silly label requirements). Why? Same reason. And now they are talking about junk foods and sugared pop (soda for all you non-Midwesterners). Where will it stop? We have had various local governments try to stop the consumption of froix gras (Chicago) and transfats (NYC). Could it go beyond that? Yeah, real easily.
Could affect poor people disproportionately.
Rich people can afford the tax or the cost of the more expensive alternatives. Poor people can’t. This concept is just like the people proposing the tax, pretty simple.
Additional bureaucracy is undesirable.
What is the definition of “junk food?” OK, I got the Snickers and Twinkies. How about those Pork Rinds? They were touted as an excellent snack by the Atkins people. What about dried fruit like raisons? OK, raisons are not a junk food. How about that invention I love, the Craison? It is a dried cranberry but sugar coated. Does the sugar override the dried fruit? Would it matter how much sugar is on it to be called a junk food or not? And if raisons are OK, what about chocolate covered raisons. And for that matter, the frozen chocolate covered banana? I know the answer, the FDA needs to establish a panel of experts that will issue rulings about what qualifies as junk food and what does not. Perhaps they will use a “calories per ounce” concept. No, then something like olive oil would be considered junk food and we now know how healthy that is for us versus the olive oil of our past which was deemed unhealthy…by the same people who deemed the current stuff healthy. Are you getting that subtle point?
I see a manual akin to our tax code, to the point and easy to read.
And speaking of tax codes, an entire new industry was born to help people deal with filling out the tax forms and to figure out the best ways to avoid paying taxes. And so there will be if this legislation is passed. There will be experts that companies can pay to make sure their product is not labeled as “junk.” Remember this, individuals looking to maximize their own wealth are smarter than the government, every time and without fail.
Interfere with personal liberties and freedom of choice
For me, this is the Big Kahuna, and I don’t mean the role played by Cliff Roberston in that 1959 classic film, Gidget. It is a bit redundant with my first point about the government not interfering, but it is worth mentioning again. I understand all the arguments. Either you are paternalistic and believe you should help those poor dolts who don’t know any better or you are self engrossed and claim that the extra costs for health care are causing your rates to go up. Either point is so lame I cannot muster up the energy to tell you why. Figure it out.
Let us return to the slippery slope for a moment. Today the do-gooders jump on sugar and snack foods. What will tomorrow bring? Seriously. Do you think it is improbably that they start to tax other dangerous activities like rock climbing, motorcycle riding, white water rafting? How about taxing loggers? There are an average of 117 deaths per 100K of those folks. Should be a law against them, don’t you think?
But let’s get to the final point which is the most important.
IT WILL NOT WORK.
Several economic studies of the effects of actual price increases have concluded that a 10% tax on sodas would prompt consumers to reduce consumption by 8% – 11%. How impactful is that? A clinical trial of 810 adults found that reducing soda intake by 100 calories per day was linked to a half pound weight loss after 18 months.
1/2 pound after 18 months? Great! That new Speedo I got will finally look good on me!
Wait, we have more. How about the State of Maine’s experience? They imposed a snack tax of 5.5%. They did it to raise money. But what happened to the weight of Mainers (or would that be Mainiacs?)? The rate of adult obesity in the state doubled from 10% to 20%. Shot and a goal!
Or is that a shot and a beer?
As was stated in the Economist (http://www.economist.com/businessfinance/displaystory.cfm?story_id=14120903), “The distance between junk food and the medical costs of obesity means that a calorie tax could have unintended consequences. A new theoretical paper in the Journal of Public Economics even suggests that a tax on junk food could increase obesity, especially among physically active people. If junk food, which is quick and easy to obtain, becomes relatively dearer, people will spend more time shopping for fresh ingredients and preparing food at home. That could leave less time for exercise.”
Here comes that recurring theme of mine. The government has more important things to occupy their time with than what I eat. If Dr. Garson and the rest of the misguided citizens who have enough time on their hands to look over my shoulder while I quaff a 12 pack of Moon Pies really want to help, let them spend their own money educating us about the impact of eating those Little Debbie delights. That lesson will hopefully stick to us as well as consuming those snack cakes adhere to my hips and thighs.