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Archive for February, 2011

So, I saw a commercial this morning that’s railing against the idea of taxing certain food items. Please note that I’m using the word “food” very loosely here. I’ll explain that in a moment.

The commercial, which is paid for by a group called Americans Against Food Taxes, features a woman in the grocery store complaining about the once-proposed taxes on some foods. Known as the “fat tax,” it targeted, basically, junk food. It’s important to note that this tax is no longer being considered on the national level, though some states are still contemplating it. In the commercial, a two-liter bottle of soda is placed in the woman’s cart, and then shown again, in a close up, as she starts to check out her groceries. Here’s the commercial:

Now, here’s what bothers me about this commercial. First, the actress states:

“…trying to control what we eat and drink with taxes. Give me a break! I can decide what to buy without government help.”

Can you? Really? Statistics would tell us that in fact you can’t. More than one third of American children are overweight or obese. Did you catch that number? One third – as in 33% – of the kids in the United States are overweight or obese. Almost every expert on the planet will tell you that this is the result of the kinds of foods kids eat and a lack of adequate exercise. As a nation of adults who grew up on fast food now begins to have children of their own, more and more junk food is being stuffed into the mouths of kids who are more and more overweight.

So, please don’t tell me that parents can make responsible decisions about what their kids are going to eat. Too often, it’s completely out of their hands; if it’s not, then too often those parents give in to the whining and let their kids demand to be fed a diet that consists primarily of utter crap. If taxing that garbage will help cut down on how much of it kids consume, then I’m all for it. We already tax tobacco and alcohol because of health issues, so why not junk food? It makes sense to me.

After seeing the commercial, I decided to go and take a look at the group’s web site. A couple of things became glaringly clear to me. Remember, the food item focused on in the commercial was a bottle of soda. When you visit the site, this is one of the first bits of reading material that greets you:

Our coalition members are doing their part, too. Beverage companies have cut calories from beverages available in schools by 88 percent by removing full-calorie soft drinks and replacing them with lower-calorie, smaller-portion beverage choices. They have also committed to placing new labels clearly listing calories on the front label of their beverages. Not to mention they are producing fewer total beverage calories for the marketplace through the innovation of more no- and low-calorie beverages. From 1998-2008, industry cut the total beverage calories it brought to market by 21 percent.

Visit the web site by clicking HERE

So, guess what? A little more digging for facts, which aren’t exactly concealed on the website (How many people actually read those “About Us” links on a web site?), turns this up:

The group [Americans Against Food Taxes] is spearheaded by the American Beverage Association, which represents the makers of sodas and other drinks. According to Advertising Age, the American Beverage Association decided to form the coalition in June 2009, when the idea of taxing sodas and other sweet beverages was being considered as a way to fund the Democratic health care bill. The coalition includes dozens of members, including 7-Eleven, Inc., Burger King Corp., Domino’s Pizza, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, McDonalds, the National Association of Convenience Stores, Snack Food Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Wendy’s/Arby’s Group, Inc.

From Politifact.com – read the full article by clicking HERE

You’ll forgive me if I tend to be cynical about the motives of these companies. They are profit driven; the health of the people who consume the crap that they produce really doesn’t enter into their business model, except when it might affect those profits. I mean, please – are you shitting me? McDonald’s as a champion of healthy eating by kids? Yeah, and I was abducted by aliens last night who performed all sorts of interesting and invasive experiments on me before returning me to my bed this morning.

I’m not a fan of having to pay more taxes, believe me. Let’s face it, though, if something isn’t done to stop the epidemic of childhood obesity in this country, the long-term costs are going to be a whole lot more expensive than the couple of percentage points in taxes that might be placed on junk food. Bluntly – and harshly, I admit – parents need to grow a pair. They need to get firm: “No, you cannot have a Happy Meal for dinner again. Now, be quiet and eat your broccoli!”

Unfortunately, it seems that the parents of 33% of our children just can’t find it in themselves to do that. Until they do, perhaps the government needs to step in and make them pay for it.

If you’re going to neglect your kids to that extent – and I do consider it to be, at the very least, neglect – then you deserve whatever price you have to pay for your inaction.

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