If You Get Too Fat, We’ll Tax Your Seat (Or Is That “Eats”?)

meowser-48.jpg 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.)

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24 Responses to “If You Get Too Fat, We’ll Tax Your Seat (Or Is That “Eats”?)”

  1. lilacsigil Says:

    Australia taxes processed food and not unprocessed food and basics (milk, bread, cereal, fruit, vegetables) – it makes it cheaper to prepare your own food, but I’ve yet to see a change in our rate of fattitude. I think making healthy food cheaper is a good step – but it’s only one step. Fresh food distribution in very rural areas (especially Aboriginal communities) is a major problem here; a 10% price drop is not going to change that.

  2. randomquorum Says:

    Actually, if you believe the stats, Australians have gotten EVEN FATTER recently (we will sink our island soon, you watch) so technically I suppose the tax has made us fatter, if anything.

    But that’s only the GST at the moment isn’t it? Surely the fatty-mcfat tax will be on top of the GST, so we can get that rate up to about 250%?

    Tyring to improve food distribution is actually one of the suggestions from the Preventative Health Taskforce that I whole-heartedly agree with. Not because I think it will make a shit of a difference to people’s fat asses, but because I believe that everyone should have access to cheap fresh foods.

  3. buttercup Says:

    People just will not believe we’re fat for any other reason than that we sit on the couch eating baby flavored donuts and chugging mountain dew all day.

    I mean hell… when I was raising two kids alone, we could never have eaten the good, low-process, fresh, mostly local stuff we eat now because I was the sole breadwinner and the sole breadcooker too. There are only so many damn hours in the day, and yes, then I was probably 50-75 pounds lighter because I smoked and was younger. (And I was usually trying to starve my body into submission too but that’s another story.)

    Shorter version, that was great. Especially getting to the gist of why Pollan and his ilk annoy me so much.

  4. bigliberty Says:

    “…stuck preaching to the yuppie choir and that’s it.”

    OMG, I was just ruminating on the train yesterday about the Cambridge yuppie attitude (I challenge anyone who thinks they’ve got it worse than us!) — the whole package. The way that people dress, to merely look like they bought their clothes cheap and recycled from Planet Aid or Sally’s, but really they got it at top dollar from Anthropologie or something… and especially their attitude about food.

    People, I need to write a post about Cambridge and its nuttiness about food. It’s just plain irrational. I’ve been out with regular, normal smart people, and suddenly they’ll start talking conspiratorially about the froyo place we’re at, about how the honey they put on their plain froyo was so “bad” but they “had to do it.” ?? Just. Nuts. And trust me, it’s not just the people I’m with. Also, I want to note that there is a huge segment of the Cambridge population that *isn’t* nuts when it comes to food — and you guessed it, they’re not members of the yuppie (or alternately, student) population.

  5. spacedcowgirl Says:

    Nobody rants like meowser. Thank you for laying it all out like this.

    I agree with lilacsigil–making healthy food cheaper is a decent idea. But most proposed interventions involve making “unhealthy” food more expensive instead. Instead of adding fat fu to their feed reader like they should and reading until they finally get it through their heads that people and situations are complex and a little bit of sympathy is usually the best initial reaction, people instead assume that all fat people have every resource, ability, and genetic potential to become thin at their fingertips, and they simply choose not to take advantage of all these things because they are ten times as lazy as everyone else and also just love being hated by society, causing everyone’s insurance premiums to skyrocket, and being fat at everyone they see. It never ceases to amaze me how hateful, small-minded, and judgmental many, many people truly are in modern society.

  6. rachel Says:

    “Flamebaiting buttcyst”

    LMAO

    OMG I think I love you.

    Theres so much in this post I absolutely love! I agree wholeheartedly with all of it.

    Thanks for a great read.

  7. Trabb's Boy Says:

    I don’t have any brilliant input like the above commenters. I just had to say that that was a rant of true beauty!

  8. wriggles Says:

    now, even the poorest Americans rarely get them, largely due to the readier availability of big bad Big Food.

    Exactamundo.

    BF has also allowed many to truly believe that eating is a hobby, unrelated to your existence.

    I personally do not want them to put one penny(or one red cent) on soda pop or any other so-called ‘junk food’, let them surcharge pate de fois gras, caviar and champers, they’ll never notice.

    If they want to make fresh produce cheaper and it doesn’t put the farmer’s in schtuck, I’m alright with that.

    Otherwise, if they want to increase veg/eating, how about taste.

  9. meerkat Says:

    George is my favorite Beatle 🙂

  10. Mhorag Says:

    I LOVED this rant! Can I use the “Shamu McLardypants”? That cracked me up!

    I totally understand the bit about eating healthy and being fatter than ever. I don’t drink sweetened drinks of any kind (no soda, no Snapple, no bottled fruit juices, no tea, no lattes, etc.), I prefer my vegetables to be fresh, I seldom fry anything (my favorite cooking methods are baking, roasting, broiling, and steaming), I don’t add salt when I’m cooking (only at the table to taste and really only on eggs), a pound of butter (margarine gives me heartburn like you wouldn’t believe) lasts a month in my house between my husband and I, I only drink skim milk and have for years, I cook with canola or safflower oil, I don’t smoke and never have … the list goes on. Hell, I haven’t had fast food of any type in almost a year!

    But I’m still “Shamu McLardypants’s” twin sister. I weigh over 300 pounds without eating everything in sight. But if you compare me to pictures of my mother’s siblings when they were my age – damn, you can sure tell we’re related!

  11. meowser Says:

    Can I use the “Shamu McLardypants”? That cracked me up!

    Oh, please do!

  12. lifeonfats Says:

    Most of these “experts” (okay, all of these experts) need to take the silver spoons out of their hands. In all their assuming and blaming and shaming fat people for their size, they either forget or don’t know that a lot of fat people don’t have the money to buy the food or the diet plans “they should be buying” to not stay fat.

    Taxing soda and junkfood isn’t going to stop people who want those items from buying it either, especially if they can afford it. This does include thin people.

  13. Rosa Says:

    I’m not anti taxing soda because I’m not anti-tax in general (though the whole “we tax some foods but not others” is confusing. I’ve lived in this state a decade and I *still* don’t understand which things are sales tax exempt – good thing I have at least a 7.5%-except-in-certain-neighborhoods-it’s-higher cushin in my food budget, huh?)

    But you’re completely right that it won’t change consumption habits. If people were buying on price nobody would drink soda because in most places in the US water is FREE. The markup between water from the drinking fountain and anything in a bottle is pretty much infinite already.

  14. Rachel Says:

    I just read this article on MSNBC about proposed “fat taxes” on soda and found this verrrrrry interesting:

    A national tax of that amount would generate nearly $15 billion in its first year, said proposal author Kelly Brownell, director of Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

    The money could be used for child nutrition and obesity prevention programs, the authors suggested. The tax also would lead to a yearly 2-pound weight loss for soda drinkers, on average, they estimated. For people who drink who drink a lot of soda, it could be more, Brownell said.

    TWO POUNDS? Are they serious? Let’s call a spade a spade and see this for what it is: a fiscal opportunity to close the ever-widening gaps in state budgets.

    I actually have no problem with taxing soda, considering that it isn’t essential for life and it’s relationship to diabetes and tooth decay (on this last point, it’s interesting to note a recent Dateline piece on Appalachia, in which mostly thin poor kids drink Mountain Dew like it’s water and all have rotted teeth). What I do have a problem with is it being dubbed a “fat tax” (as if only fat people drink regular soda) and pretending that it’s all about health when it really boils down to money.

    And to echo Rosa, I don’t think it will change consumption habits, either. The price of soda has steadily increased through the years, and so too has consumption of it. What’s another six or eight cents to someone who craves a Coke?

  15. living400lbs Says:

    Rosa –

    I’m in Washington state. We had a general sales tax, and then a food-and-baby-supplies exemption was passed by initiative. So at the grocery store juice, milk, baby formula, fruits, veggies, pasta, meats, hamburger helper, etc aren’t taxed, but soda (diet or non), beer, wine, deli (aka “take-out”) are taxed.

    What this means, of course, is that juice is marginally cheaper than diet pepsi. 😉

  16. O.C. Says:

    There are so many other things I get angry about that it’s almost a relief not to care much about the OBEEEEESITY TAX on sugared sodas. Ok, fine, tax ’em. I don’t know a single fat person who drinks ’em! As Meowser said, it’s skinny teenaged boys who drink sugared sodas and kool aid. This tax is wrong in so many different ways, and isn’t going to make a lick of difference. Except to poor mothers who now will have trouble giving their children an occasional sweet treat. But we as a society don’t really care about poor mothers, do we?

    (Sarcasm there. Dammit.)

  17. Piffle Says:

    Huzzah for Meowser!

    And I’m all for making fruits and veggies more available to people who want them; also pots and pans and other kitchen stuff, but that doesn’t mean everyone will have time etc. to do that.

    Heck, I’m married and with three hyperactive (yes, diagnosed) kids, I’m still often too tired to make the healthiest dinners every night. We’ve all had a cough for weeks now, with occasional vomiting; and I’m just now starting not to be exhausted all the time. We’ve had more sandwich and/or breakfast dinners than in the previous year in the last three weeks. I have the utmost respect for single parents, I think I’d be crying every night from sheer weariness.

  18. Rebecca Says:

    Re your point about them serving only Diet Coke in restaurants: I’m allergic to caffeine – it makes me nauseous and dizzy and hungover the next day – so I have to have full-sugar drinks in restaurants.

  19. Fellmama Says:

    Brb, changing all my online aliases to “Shamu McLardypants.”

  20. Blimp Says:

    The obesity tax is: So didactic. So “moralizing”. So behaviorist! So much like Obama’s cabal of behaviorist economic advisors (Larry Summers, Peter Orszag, the Emanuel brothers, Cass Sunstein) The obesity tax denies the creative power of the human imagination (when willfully employed in pursuit of the truth). These psycho sociopaths really believe that they can coerce us to be what they would like us to believe to be virtuous!

    I like Meowser’s rant because she exposes the caste system behind this garbage, as well as the insanity of the idea that virtue can be coerced.

  21. meowser Says:

    TWO POUNDS? Are they serious?

    Dude, I know. I’ve had sneezing fits that weighed more than that.

  22. wriggles Says:

    I think it’s right to say it’s not a “fat tax” but a shame tax. Regarding whether one should care about taxing skinny teenaged boys-who last time I looked still counted as human- there’s the question of precedent, once they get it in place, what’s the betting they’ll stop there? They’re counting on no one caring about it, that’s how they’ve sold the obesity crisis in the first place, bit my unimportant bit.

    If we are shocked by how dunder headed people can be wallowing in fat hate because they don’t take a minute to explore the potential ramifications for themselves, because they’re so above it, we should avoid indulging in that same habit.

  23. DaisyDeadhead Says:

    Well, that link kinda blew my mind. People really DO refuse free veggies? Yeesh! Nobody I know, thats for sure!

    I wish I lived closer to her, I’d be there with the proverbial bells on!

  24. Meowser Says:

    Yeah, Daisy, and notice all the people reading the Fatosphere who said they’d love to have those veggies. Yeah, we who are supposedly encouraging all fatties to live on baby-flavored donuts and bathe in Pepsi and never touch anything that grows in the ground. Take that, Michael Pollan.


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