Taxes as a motivating factor

  • MSUBioNerd

    Posts: 1813

    Mar 10, 2010 8:57 PM GMT
    According to this Reuter's story, researchers at UNC Chapel Hill are advocating charging taxes on not just soda, but also pizza, in order to steer people toward making healthier food choices.

    While I agree that tax policy can motivate people to do things that are better for them, wouldn't a far more sensible alternative be to reduce the subsidies on corn that make high fuctose corn syrup such a ridiculously inexpensive additive, and shift them instead to farmers who produce whole vegetables and fruits for direct consumption (as opposed to processing)? Instead of making less healthy options artificially expensive, make them be their actual cost (as opposed to being artificially lowered by corn syrup subsidies), and artificially reduce the cost of whole vegetables and fruit.

    It's one thing to increase taxes on tobacco products; they do no good at all for the people who consume them, they actively do harm, and there are many people who want to stop using them after they've started but lack the willpower to do so. Pizza's something else -- it will actually keep you alive in the absence of other food, and "food addiction" is just not the same thing, biochemically, as nicotine addiction.

    Yes, I recognize that this is a pipe dream; given the early place Iowa has in the presidential primary/caucus calendar, it is virtually impossible for a Presidential candidate to say anything even mildly negative about corn production. It's to the point that we're supporting biofuels made from corn even though it takes more energy to make them than they can produce. While I'm at it, I might as well hope for a reduction in the sugar tariff that makes cane sugar substantially more expensive in the US than in other countries, and further fuels our HFCS tendencies.

    Am I just completely out of touch on this?
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Mar 10, 2010 9:12 PM GMT
    I totally agree... unhealthy food is too cheap and too easy to access!
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Mar 10, 2010 9:20 PM GMT
    Look at all the taxes on cigarettes and alcohol... doesn't stop people from smoking and drinking.

    And the cost already of processed foods are ridiculous. Seriously, $5 for a box of cereal?! $4 for a bag of chips?

    Though I do agree that healthier foods (fruits and veggies) should be more affordable. When I was in college I lived on boxed mac & cheese.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Mar 10, 2010 9:22 PM GMT
    ejay79 saidLook at all the taxes on cigarettes and alcohol... doesn't stop people from smoking and drinking.

    And the cost already of processed foods are ridiculous. Seriously, $5 for a box of cereal?! $4 for a bag of chips?

    Though I do agree that healthier foods (fruits and veggies) should be more affordable. When I was in college I lived on boxed mac & cheese.


    I quit smoking and pretty much stopped drinking. People cut back or end it. As for processed foods being expensive, we have the cheapest food in the world compared to income.
  • calibro

    Posts: 8888

    Mar 10, 2010 10:04 PM GMT
    MSUBioNerd said

    While I agree that tax policy can motivate people to do things that are better for them, wouldn't a far more sensible alternative be to reduce the subsidies on corn that make high fuctose corn syrup such a ridiculously inexpensive additive, and shift them instead to farmers who produce whole vegetables and fruits for direct consumption (as opposed to processing)? Instead of making less healthy options artificially expensive, make them be their actual cost (as opposed to being artificially lowered by corn syrup subsidies), and artificially reduce the cost of whole vegetables and fruit.


    As a person deeply interested in preserving our sacred government, I am going to have to ask you to stop using "logic." There's no place for that sort of thinking in politics.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Mar 10, 2010 11:33 PM GMT
    Taxing people to death does not work in the long run. And the fact that healthy food, overall, is expensive for most budgets. I try, but I have other things that I have to concentrate on. Yea, the taxes on cigarettes and other things( here in North Carolina, it is called a sin tax) is not working and to say that people don't quit smoking because of a lack of will power is not ludicrous, but is a blanket statement that will never cover a lot of smokers, myself included. The last time I saw a physician about my smoking, he tested my blood and found that the strongest prescription med reacts as a water pill in blood and does nothing to promote lung healing or nicotine expulsion. We found that the only thing that works for me is the patch and they are no longer covered under any health insurance. That amounts to $40 bucks (a carton is cigs is half that here) every two weeks and I have been on them before, but could not complete the program because of cost. Stopping smoking is not just as simple for most (I congratulate agri_sci on his quitting. Bravo). But this thread is not about that.

    Today, before a congressional hearing, Herschel walker (NFL player) and a few other professional athletes were testifying before this committee talking about giving people incentives such as discounts for gym memberships, discounts on gym equipment and other things to get people to think in terms of wellness, starting at the beginning. People could actually save money by being healthy and the discounts would work like a Healthcare Spending Account. (alot of high deductible plans have this in place so that employees can save money for the deductible). I think this is a way to go, but food needs to be regulated and although I think this push about childhood obesity needs to be addressed (Yay Michelle O and the Trainer that is pushing this across the country), there needs to be a grassroots movement for adults that doesn't include fatass in it, but is real and truthful that shows people pretty much, if you do nothing with the shape you are in, this is what will most likely happen, this is what it is going to cost you and this is how it will impact those around you. Taxes aren't the way to go on this, IMHO.
  • Anto

    Posts: 2035

    Mar 11, 2010 3:07 AM GMT
    I think they would have to tax a lot more foods than that and also make it really high to be discouraging enough. But people are going to eat that stuff anyway and it will just make them angry. I don't think it's a good strategy just because it can be done. People don't eat pizza for example because healthy food costs a lot, they eat pizza because of how it tastes and it's convenience.

    If people realize they are being taxed for it in order to restrict their use, they could just not eat other things in an effort to be able to afford pizza or soda or just buy it anyway and be grumpy at the government.

    If we are that concerned about obesity and healthcare costs why not put similar focus on alcohol consumption and it's healthcare costs and also sex and the disease it spreads and unexpected pregnancies? There's a lot that could be regulated if we really wanted to in order to make things better.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Mar 11, 2010 6:23 AM GMT
    I want to push back a bit on the claim made in here that cigarette taxes don't stop smoking. To point out that some people still smoke as evidence of this is, I think, to be looking past the important data points. The question is not whether cigarette taxes eliminate smoking, but whether they reduce smoking. A simple Google Scholar search will bring up at least plenty of abstracts (I do wish I had access to my college's academic sources) demonstrating a strong correlation between increased cigarette taxes and reduction of smoking rates. Of course, cigarette taxes are regressive in that they impact the poor the most, but this is certainly one regressive tax that I'm not going to whine about, since there's nothing positive about giving the poor the ability to smoke.

    I do, however, have to come down on the side of those in this thread who say that these kind of taxes on junk food don't make a lot of sense, and I say this for two reasons.

    First, as MSU points out, is that the far more effective policy would be to reduce or eliminate subsidies going to agricultural industries that harm our health. I see no reasons why the meat and dairy industry and the corn-wheat-soybean industries should get the subsidies that they do, at least not in the way they do. Agricultural subsidies were originally designed to ensure that farmers did not go into dire poverty, but have morphed over the years into an entirely different entity that enriches the largest agricultural corporations and, I think, demonstrably lowers our health by making the least healthy foods the cheapest. I say either eliminate all agricultural subsidies (which, for me, is also somewhat of a moral issue considering their effect on agriculture in several ways in developing countries) or shift them to actual healthy foods.

    Second, I question the basic morality of increasing taxes on things that can be considered junk food without simultaneously increasing subsidies for healthy food. There are far greater reasons that people buy junky food like pizza than just that they like the taste. These are the kinds of foods that can be bought and quickly made for those who are among the working poor and don't have the time, energy, or access to resources (literally don't have a pot to cook in nor the money to buy good food in bulk) to devote to healthy cooking, or that actually yield the highest calories for the lowest cost. When you're on a shoestring budget, that's really, really important.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Mar 11, 2010 3:16 PM GMT

    Taxing doesn't stop cigarrette smoking.

    A carton of cigarrettes here is about 90 dollars, mainly tax.

    MSU is right. When was the last time you saw an ad that said, "We only use the finest ingredients." and believed it? lol!

    ..and yes your junk food is incredibly cheap. Last night we saw a US Pizza Hut commercial where any size pizza and 3 or 4 toppings is $10!

    That same pizza (large size) would cost you about 25.00 to 30 dollars up here.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Mar 11, 2010 6:27 PM GMT
    The United States places a great deal of emphasis on food exports, one of the few things that keeps the trade deficit from being even more unsustainable. The United States also places a great deal of emphasis on cheap calories. Unfortunately, monoculture is one of the easiest (only?) ways we can achieve both of these goals.

    It is a real travesty when poor people, who couldn't even dream of the luxury of a gym membership even if it was free, can eat fast food cheaper than healthy alternatives. Even if they were willing to spend money they don't have to get the healthy food, do they have access? Is there public transportation to the nearest quality market? Are there even sidewalks available to walk to the nearest quality market? If so, how many miles away is the nearest place to buy vegetables? Going into a grocery store or cornershop in a poor neighborhood can be quite enlightening as to the struggles of eating healthy when you have no money.

    If I was supporting children on, say, less than $10,000/yr, how easy would it be to pass up the temptation to spoil my children with bad food? I likely can't take them to the park, there is probably no yard to play in or even any grass around, I can't enroll them in sports leagues, I can't even buy them a damn toy. What can I afford to do to give them a brief moment of happiness? I can buy them a happy meal. Granted, that is not 'real' happiness, but try telling that to a young child with nothing.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Mar 12, 2010 6:45 AM GMT
    ILmarathonrunner saidThe United States places a great deal of emphasis on food exports, one of the few things that keeps the trade deficit from being even more unsustainable. The United States also places a great deal of emphasis on cheap calories. Unfortunately, monoculture is one of the easiest (only?) ways we can achieve both of these goals.

    It is a real travesty when poor people, who couldn't even dream of the luxury of a gym membership even if it was free, can eat fast food cheaper than healthy alternatives. Even if they were willing to spend money they don't have to get the healthy food, do they have access? Is there public transportation to the nearest quality market? Are there even sidewalks available to walk to the nearest quality market? If so, how many miles away is the nearest place to buy vegetables? Going into a grocery store or cornershop in a poor neighborhood can be quite enlightening as to the struggles of eating healthy when you have no money.

    If I was supporting children on, say, less than $10,000/yr, how easy would it be to pass up the temptation to spoil my children with bad food? I likely can't take them to the park, there is probably no yard to play in or even any grass around, I can't enroll them in sports leagues, I can't even buy them a damn toy. What can I afford to do to give them a brief moment of happiness? I can buy them a happy meal. Granted, that is not 'real' happiness, but try telling that to a young child with nothing.



    Quoted for truth...