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U.S. Politics

Researchers Propose Calorie Tax

The National Bureau of Economic Research has come up with a great new idea: let’s tax calories to make people thinner! “Raising the price of a calorie for home consumption by 10 percent may lower the percentage of body fat in youths about 8 or 9 percent, according to new research from the National Bureau of Economic Research,” writes Peter Whoriskey for the Washington Post.

This is just another example of how liberals, in an effort to make a better society, abhor, and often actively confute, market forces to promote their own social agendas.

“The new research, which focused on youths, reinforces the idea that prices affect obesity and that raising fast-food prices would help, while pushing up the prices of healthy foods, such as fruit and vegetables, may hurt,” writes Whoriskey.

Why don’t we just mandate what foods that people on food stamps eat, while we’re at it? After all, research shows that the poor are more likely to be obese.

“Obesity and its related illnesses, as we know, disproportionately affect low-income communities,” reported Ginia Bellafante for the New York Times this March. “In Brooklyn, for instance, the rate of heart-attack hospitalizations among adults 35 and older in East New York is nearly twice the rate in wealthier Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope.”

So the solution is to make low-calorie food more economical? That may sound good, but not if it means that fast food is going to be the purview of the rich. Picking winners and losers in the marketplace is not the government’s job.

“The research also showed that people from different groups — males and females, whites and non-whites — react differently to food price increases,” reports Whoriskey. “The price of meals in fast-food restaurants, for example, influences the fat weight of males more than females; by contrast, females respond more to the price of fruits and vegetables, gaining more weight when those prices rise.”

“The study also found that the percentage of body fat for whites is more responsive to the price of fruits and vegetables than that of non-whites.”

“Such research in recent years has spurred an array of proposals to make food, or at least some foods — such as those with high sugar and fat content — more expensive,” he reports. “But the most direct means, economists say, is to tax calories.”

When did calories become a vice like cigarettes or alcohol? To take food directly like this would be to subsidize production (tobacco and food staples) and then punish those who consume them (cigarettes and fast food), all in the name of health policy. At least cigarettes are not necessary to life–food is. “It’s probably not politically feasible,” concludes Abigail Okrent, an Agriculture Department researcher, according to the Post.

Let’s be grateful it isn’t, for the moment.

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