Gov. David Paterson, Meet J. Eric Oliver

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

How I dream of locking those two in a closet together, after hearing about Gov. Paterson’s belief that charging 15 cents more for a can of nondiet soda will totally slim down all the New York fatties, all of whom obviously bathe in the stuff. (As a giant fatass who will gladly pay $2 for a Mexican Pepsi and have that be my only soda consumption for weeks, and screw ALL major-brand American soda whether it’s diet or not, I can only snortlaugh.)

Anyway, this passage is from Oliver’s Fat Politics, page 174 in the hardback (and yes, I had to type it out):

The reason why snack taxes don’t work is that the demand for food is relatively insensitive to price; economists generally predict that a 10 percent increase in food prices would only reduce food consumption by less than 1 percent. That means that if you want to reduce soda consumption by just 10 percent, you would have to impose a 100 percent tax; if you wanted to reduce soda consumption by half, you would have to make a can of coke cost about four dollars. Not only do such taxes do little to deter demand, but they would take more money out of the pockets of the poor. Nutritionist Adam Drewnoski has shown that when food prices rise, poorer people eat fewer fruits and vegetables and eat more processed foods. Ironically, snack taxes might actually have the opposite effect — they might encourage people to eat more junk.

Okay, big fat hands in the air: How many people think this tax is a money grub from the working class, rather than something that’s actually motivated by Concern For Our Healthy Health Health?

And P.S. Governor, if you don’t want to make big fat bullseye targets out of fat kids, you could have imposed this tax in a way that wouldn’t make thin kids gang up on them because “now we have to pay extra for our soda just ’cause you can’t control yourself, fatass.” I hope you’re putting some of that extra loot towards self-defense classes for those fat kids. But somehow I think not.

And P.P.S. Cigarettes cost about TEN TIMES AS MUCH as they did 30 years ago. That’s why fewer people start smoking and more people want to quit, gov. That, and having to go outside when it’s freezing out to light up. I guess as soon as scientists figure out a way we can be fat outdoors only, and become magically thin when we come inside, you’ll finally be able to get fat people to quit leaving the house and blighting everyone’s eyesight.

(And if you haven’t read Oliver’s book, what are you waiting for? The “Obesity Policy” chapter, which contains the above quote, is especially kickass.)

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10 Responses to “Gov. David Paterson, Meet J. Eric Oliver”

  1. twilightriver Says:

    There is no way I could read that book if it’s as poorly written as that excerpt.

    It looks like he’s saying poor people spend more money on more expensive food just because it’s junk. When food prices rise, poor people tend to eat more “junk” because the price tends to stay stable or drop while the price of produce and other “healthier options” climb beyond their means.

    Put the price of junk beyond their means and they’ll probably starve for lack of affordable options of any kind. I don’t know who this Mr. Oliver is, but I have no use for people who go around babbling about things they didn’t even bother to research before making their absurd claims.

    Honestly. Who throws a shoe?!

  2. lilacsigil Says:

    In Australia, we have a sales tax on just about everything EXCEPT unprocessed food (though the definition of some unprocessed food could be debated). Basically, fruit, vegetables, milk, bread, fish and meat are untaxed; everything else, from store-bought ice cream to take away food and restaurant meals is taxed. A neat way to tax less healthy food and support local producers without reducing food availability.

  3. meowser Says:

    Twilightriver: For what it’s worth, I don’t think Oliver would disagree with you at all on the reasons for low-income people eating more processed food when prices rise. In fact, he actually as much as says this later on the chapter.

    Lilacsgil: I actually don’t have a problem with nonessential goods being taxed IF the tax money is being used for something that is an added benefit (universal health care, for instance), and IF you’re going to make the “healthier choices” accessible to everyone (which, in the U.S., they certainly aren’t).

  4. lilacsigil Says:

    We have universal health care, and part of the money from the sales tax goes towards hospital maintenance and staffing. Healthier food choices are not, however, available to everyone – for the 10% or so of the population living in rural areas and outside the big rural towns, it’s quite random what you can get. My tiny town has fresh, cheap meat, honey, olive oil, strawberries (in summer) and dairy – but other fruit and all vegetables are expensive and poor quality because they are sold only by the tiny and poorly managed supermarket.

    If you live further out, transport costs mount up drastically and the population is thin on the ground, so all foods are expensive and fresh foods often unavailable. If you live in an Aboriginal community with dodgy electricity and poor housing, your food choices are even worse. When I lived in a small town in the Mallee, meat could only be bought once a week unless you travelled 80km to the next town. You’d think this would be okay, with modern refrigeration, but in fact all the power lines were above ground and dust build-up meant that the power went out for hours at least weekly!

  5. Rachel Says:

    Calorie for calorie, processed foods are much cheaper than fresh fruits and vegetables. If Paterson’s concern is with the health of New Yorkers, he’d be better of subsidizing these products and ensuring that even the most poor of neighborhoods have access to them. But Paterson’s concern is more so for the state budget — as all govs are in this national recession — and calling this an “obesity tax” is an easy way to rally the forces to support the tax so that the soft drink industry lobby have more weight to counter when trying to fight it.

  6. tara Says:

    Processed foods may be much cheaper calorie for calorie, but they contain far more calories than people need. Fruit isn’t that expensive. Bananas are 50-69 cents a pound and if you buy in season most fresh fruits are less than $1.50/lb.

  7. DaisyDeadhead Says:

    Love your writing, Meowser. You keep me sane. I work in the supplement/herbal industry, which as you know, is likewise guilty as hell. I must get asked 50 times a day about which “natural” product is best to lose weight…I have to say something or get fired, so I point people to healthy things like Omega-3s and CoQ-10 (that I believe everyone would benefit from).

    And this 12-step-fiend days, when I feverishly went to meetings for pretty much every program I “qualified” for (which was almost all of them, other than the ones for alcohol, drugs, gambling, and sex addiction)

    Too bad you didn’t, because in standard AA groups they sharply criticize OA as not analogous to alcoholism, since you can swear off drinking, drugs gambling, sex, but you certainly CAN NOT swear off eating. In fact, old timers used to just snort derisively at the very idea.

    I’m grateful they did, too. 🙂

  8. DaisyDeadhead Says:

    Well damn.

    My brain is fried and I posted that on the wrong date. You can delete these two posts if you so desire! I meant that comment for 12/23, the one linked by Ampersand.

    (I please Christmas-in-retail, she gibbered!)

  9. leapetra Says:

    I live in NY and laughed when I heard about the tax. I don’t eat fast food, I drink water, or diet soda, and guess what? I’m fat. (Giving up the sugary soda did drop me below 300, but I have not seen 250 in years, yet)

    So if they think it’s a deterrent, like it has been hyped, they are wrong. It’s just a way to raise money and make is sound like a good idea.
    We have already had our gas taxed (one of the highest in the country and I don’t drive), Cigarettes are nearly half tax (I don’t smoke), now to raise more money, they are going after another “unhealthy” habit. They just need to make money for the state and have to give some explanation why they are doing it.

    Personally, IMHO, if they want to help people become healthier. Support public transportation outside of NYC. I walk over 4 miles a day, due to my work and taking the bus. But that would cut into the gas tax…

  10. If You Get Too Fat, We’ll Tax Your Seat (Or Is That “Eats”?) « fat fu Says:

    […] lose weight, I think they’re full of tush-mush, frankly. I already banged on that drum here, so I won’t unduly repeat myself, but here’s the thing about all this “fat […]


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