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October 20, 2021

How crazy of an idea is the fat tax?

I always enjoy watching a local U.S. news telecast whenever I can, if for no other reason than the obligatory “Is America getting too fat?” story a few minutes in.

You know the ones I’m talking about, the features where a reporter rambles off a bunch of stats while they show those shots of fat people from the neck down.

Those are always fun.

But we’re not exactly Tony Little-fit as a nation, either, and the plagues of obesity run much deeper than a higher risk of heart disease or the propensity to break a sweat while brushing your teeth.

In Canada, where health care costs are absorbed by government, taxpayer money is funnelled away by the millions to treat conditions brought on by something largely avoidable.

(I know, I know, many overweight people have medical conditions or genetic disorders that prevent them from losing weight. This is not a debate about that. But, I think, even those people would concede they are in the minority within the obese population.)

So, how do you fix it?

A quasi-radical solution, as pitched by Wisebread.com’s Paul Michael, is the fat tax.

Without regurgitating his argument too much (you can read it here), Michael essentially outlines how the tax could be used as a deterrent on junk food, insomuch as trying to remove it as an easily affordable purchase for people to make on a day-to-day basis.

Value menu items, he says, have become too attractive an option for people on a tight budget. When a double cheeseburger is a third of the price of a salad, where is the incentive to eat healthy?

Of course, anti-big brother, “enough government already!”-people will blast this proposal right from the start. And they’re right, it is a little totalitarian.

But you can also see there is a case to be made. More expensive junk food means, in theory, less opportunity for society to gain weight. That, in turn, means less strain on national health care. And, coupled with the decreased costs of having to mass-treat conditions like diabetes and hypertension, more tax money to use toward schools, bridges and all that good stuff.

What do you guys think? Is this somehow, someway - in some universe – not totally the worst idea ever?

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...