Tax Fat People, By The Pound

Studies show that fat people are driving the obesity epidemic.  

New York Governor David Paterson has proposed a barrage of new “sin taxes” on the people of New York in the compassionate name of saving them from such deadly sins as cigars, wine, beer, malt liquor, sugary soda, music, television, sporting events, jewelry, cars, gasoline, massages, shoes, and income.  In a remarkable coincidence, New York’s government is a bit short of money just now.

Apparently, nothing can deepen the compassion of a Democrat like a budget deficit.

Of course, budget deficits also seem to inspire a puritanical streak in Democrats as well — looking at the list of “sins” that New York’s Supreme Leader has decided to fight and fine, he may be taking his cue from the Taliban.  We can’t have young people dancing around to music at sporting events!  All that’s left is for him to go after education.  Oh wait, he’s also raising tuition at State Schools.  That’ll learn ‘em!  

As the newly puritanical Mullah Paterson explains, “We’re going to have to take some extreme measures,” to plug the hole in the state budget.  Extreme measures do not appear to include cutting government spending, however.  That would just be nutty and unthinkable.  As far as I can tell, extreme measures consist mostly of demonizing normal behavior so that it can be punished with new taxes.  Hey, votes don’t buy themselves.  Taxes have to come from somewhere.

Other than his tax on massages, which seems a cruel swipe at Paterson’s predecessor Eliot Spitzer, the most interesting of Paterson’s proposed taxes is the one on sugary soda, the enemy within.  Paterson contends that since sugar is bad when consumed in excess, he should be able to put an 18% tax on every sugary soft drink.

Most sugary soft drinks, however, are consumed by non-fat people – including innocent writers who will often consume like three Cokes and a “family size” bag of M&M’s while writing a single 892-word commentary.  OK, perhaps such innocents as the hypothetical writer get a bit pudgy during the holidays, maybe, but not fat. And even if you believe that Paterson is crusading against love handles, instead of merely collecting revenue, taxing food to fight obesity is like taxing oxygen to fight hyperventilation — it’s not a problem for most people, it’s a necessity.  And why only tax sodas instead of M&M’s and other non-nutritive crap?  It’s internally inconsistent.

Plus it’s all woefully indirect.  No, “extreme measures” need to be direct (otherwise we’d call them circumspect measures, or meandering measures or some such).  If Paterson wants to tax away obesity, then he should tax obesity.  

He should just tax fat people — by the pound and in person.  After all, studies show that it is fat people that are driving the obesity epidemic.  Getting a few pounds off the rest of us won’t help them at all, even if it would bring down the average weight of the country.  (In a similar way, if Ann Coulter were to meet Michael Moore, the average weight of those in the room would be reasonable.  Michael Moore would, however, still be as fat as a Honey Baked Hutt.)

Besides, avoiding a fat tax would be much harder than avoiding a soda tax.  Fat New Yorkers could always waddle into New Jersey and stock up on Liquid Crystals Brand Sparkling Syrup Drinks.  But imagine New York revenue agents wandering around in little cop outfits pushing a portable scale down the sidewalk.  How are you going to avoid that, Porky?

“Excuse me, sir.  The posted weight limit here is 250 pounds, do you know how fat you were going?”  Step on the scale for a mass audit, and Voila!  They could fine the overabundant right there on the spot.  The Fat Patrol need not wander around randomly either, they could use the proven law enforcement technique of profiling and concentrate on target-rich environments like Big & Tall stores, Oprah’s Book Clubs, Pie Houses, and Police Stations.  The svelte and mildly pudgy majority can then be left in peace to enjoy a Dr. Pepper now and then.

Food is not like tobacco.  We all have to eat and moderate intake of food has been medically proven to prevent malnutrition and significantly decrease the incidence of starvation.  Taxing food as a sin is a bit much, even if it is sugary.  Sugar is a treat, not a toxin.

If Paterson wants to fight obesity, let him take the fight to the obese and leave the rest of us alone.  Never mind the obvious fact that over-eating is a largely involuntary disorder and taxes on it will only succeed in making those already fat poor as well.  Where’s the compassion in that?  The same party that has sponsored free-needle exchanges for junkies now wants to prohibit Pixie Sticks and Zingers.

By far though, the best comment in the debate has come from New York State Health Commissioner Richard Daines, who defended Paterson’s nanny state “fat tax” with this nugget: “The message here is moderation, not abstinence,” “I’ve seen lives ruined and controlled by things like obesity and tobacco and other addictions. If you really want your life controlled by that, it’s like having a dominatrix instead of a nanny.”

And Daines should know.  He was appointed by Eliot Spitzer.