posted by meowser
I’m sure it must have everything to do with the fact that I get stupider and stupider with each pound I gain — IT’S SCIENCE! — but I am still not getting the point of taxing sweetened drinks and “junk food.”
Is the purpose to increase revenue? I don’t have a problem with any nonessential-for-survival item having a surtax on it if the tax is actually going to be used for something useful, although if the purpose is to create more billboards telling me my fat ass should have cut off my circulation forever by now and also my mother dresses me funny, then they can bite me with extra mustard. But if they’re going to use the money for something like universal health care, I don’t really have a cogent argument to make against taxing sugar-sweetened drinks specifically for that purpose, other than that implementation would be a pain in the keister if you’re going to make C-stores put the sugar-sweetened drinks in a separate fountain from the non-sugar-sweetened ones and charge extra for them, and make restaurants charge for refills on everything except Diet Coke. If you’ve got something else you think I’m missing, though, feel free to say so.
But if what they’re trying to do is decrease consumption, and even more so if they’re doing it especially to make fatties 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 tax” talk, whether it applies to beverages or anything else. If you (and you know what “yous” I’m talking about here, readers) don’t want me consuming that stuff because you think its availability makes me a giant inflatobutt, know this: I have never in all my almost 46 years consumed fewer sugar-sweetened drinks than I do today, I have never consumed less fast or processed food, I have never been a “healthier” eater than I am today — and I am fatter than ever. Yes, that’s right — when I ate and drank way more “junk,” I was a lot thinner than this. BECAUSE IT’S NOT ABOUT THE FUCKING FOOD, GODDAMNIT. IT’S NOT.
Screw taxing that stuff, screw it to the wall. You could BAN all those things and I’d still stun you with my ginormitude. I will repeat that for emphasis: You could burn down every fast food restaurant, clear every sweetened or alcoholic beverage off every shelf, sweep all the processed food on earth into a ten-mile bonfire, ban every form of candy, cookies, cake, donuts, muffins, ice cream, you name it, and I would still be a huge freaking child-frightening oxygen-sucking flapping-in-the-breeze Shamu McLardypants. My weight would not change at all, I wouldn’t even come close to losing the “magic” 10%, let alone approach “normal” weight. Those foods are not staples of my diet; they are occasional treats. Banning them would not do anything for me except make my life slightly more annoying. Fortunately, I do know how to cook and bake, and I have time to do it. (What are they going to do, ban cookie sheets? I know, don’t give them any bright ideas.)
But unlike gasbags like Mr. Pollan (oops, I named a name), I understand that not everybody is exactly like me, and not everyone has the time, money, or spoons to do what I do. (They say we aspies lack empathy, but lemme tell you, there’s nothing like being autistic to remind you on a daily basis just how unusual you really are.) Shannon wrote very cogently about this the other day, the idea that it’s all well and good to scream “BUY LOCAL! BOYCOTT BIG FOOD!” at people, but if you don’t understand that there are millions of people who would just love to do that but simply can’t, you’re basically gonna be stuck preaching to the yuppie choir and that’s it. (That’s one reason I prefer Lisa Jervis as a source for the fresh/local/sustainable stuff; she hasn’t forgotten what it’s like to have to punch a clock, or that the burden of “cook at home more!” disproportionately falls to women. Michael Pollan, on the other hand, probably thinks “being written up” means something like, “the Times just did another interview with me.”)
I’m surprised, frankly, that nobody has seized upon the fact that so many fat people don’t drink sugar-sweetened drinks at all, and millions of skinny teenaged boys drink gallons of it, and surmised that we’re so fat because we’re not drinking enough soda. I mean, look at me! I went from three cans of soda a day to two a month, and look at the dent I make in the cushions now! Seriously, though, does anyone really think that banning fast and processed food would mean everyone would eat healthier? No, it’s more like millions of people wouldn’t eat at all. Does anyone remember scurvy? Rickets? Beri-beri? Pellagra? Kwashiorkor? These are dangerous diseases of true nutritional deficiency that used to devastate poor people in this country; now, even the poorest Americans rarely get them, largely due to the readier availability of big bad Big Food.
“But we’ll drop off a big organic veggie box FREE to every household! Give them cooking lessons! We’ll even give them pots and pans and olive oil!” Great. Are you going to cut their working and commuting time to less than 40 hours a week and give them free protein too, enough to feed everyone in the house? And babysit the little ones, too, while you’re at it? Last month, The Well-Rounded Mama wondered aloud why so many people refused her offers of free veggies from her garden; like I told her, lots of people just don’t cook or prepare food much at all now. Some people don’t like to cook or don’t have an aptitude for it, and others aren’t physically or mentally able to do it, and still others are just slammed and don’t have the time, especially if nobody else in the house besides them will eat the veggies. (And anyone who thinks you can “make” kids eat what they dislike, check the dog’s poop for telltale leftovers and you may find out otherwise. Besides, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “My mother made me eat that shit when I was a kid, I’m not touching it now,” especially from men.)
I don’t think not cooking is a crime, personally, even though I like it and I’ve been doing it since I was 7. And I’m all for more quality and variety being available to more people, but I don’t see how punishing people for not being affluent — which is what a “junk food” tax really amounts to — is going to do it. Hungry people will eat what’s there and what they have the money for. Tired AND hungry working people will grab what’s easiest. If you’re going to replace the cookies and chips in the vending machine with fruit, you’d better make sure the bananas aren’t green and the apples aren’t mealy, and that you’re not going to charge more for them. If you’re going to insist everyone pick the salad over the fries at lunch, you’d better provide for an extra snack in the afternoon because they’ll be that much hungrier. And if you’re going to tax the shit out of soda, that thing young America frequently wakes up on because they can’t afford or don’t like coffee, you’d better make sure the drinking water (and by extension, everyone’s tea) doesn’t taste like a swimming pool. (When I lived in Phoenix, I used to joke that the tap water there was so hard you didn’t have to freeze it to make ice cubes.)
I’m not going to congratulate the shit out of myself or demand a Good Fatty Badge because I get Spud deliveries and don’t live on McDonald’s. I made certain choices, like not having kids and not driving much or having a commute, that not everyone’s in a position to make. And I’m not even part of the El33t Koastal Kreative Klasses, but I’m still more privileged than a lot of people, including the me I used to be — the one who had soda farts all day and weighed 30% less.
(And speaking of gasbags, yes, I read what that flamebaiting buttcyst said on Huffington Post about what a great idea it would be to tax people based on body weight. I’m not even going there.)