By Mark David Blum, Esq.
In response to the never ending war against Americans who smoke, I have written innumerable essays arguing that we should institute a Fat Tax. In making the case for a Fat Tax, I was using a parable to enlighten folks as to the foolishness of a cigarette tax. I had no idea that my idea would be taken seriously. But just recently, New York’s governor Paterson has proposed a 15% tax on non-diet soda as a Fat Tax. He argues it will help childhood obesity and help make New York healthier. Use of the tax code will not effect social change and does nothing but become a more oppressive agent of change.
Here is how a Fat Tax should work: Every April 15th, we should all line up at a government office, step on a scale, get issued a tax bill based on our weight ... and oh yeah, step straight into a voting booth. Targeting the food and not the irresponsible citizen is the flaw in the governor’s logic.
Torn between the annoying constant banter in society about weight or quitting smoking, and the forces that “know better”, the lectures have got to stop. Either we are a people who pride ourselves on personal responsibility or we are not. It cannot be both.
Before I go further, I want to make it clear that some of my best friends are fat people. A lot of them are pretty cool. I have found they are just as kind and honorable and intelligent as are skinny people. Tolerating their Twinkie stained teeth or the stank of cooking grease on their clothes can at times churn my stomach. But, I do not object to working with them or dining with them or when I have had too much to drink, having sex with them. Recent medical news suggests that a sedentary lifestyle is healthier. Because there are so many fat people, one can only assume they are seen by many as beautiful and worthwhile. I know I do. If they were not, we would have bred them out long ago; as they did in Beverly Hills. This has nothing to do with fat people.
What really brings me to a boil is the greater hypocrisy in society. Fat people and smokers make the perfect example of how we have gone berserk in our thinking. We banish smokers, we tax them as hard as we can, they are looked down upon, frowned, ignored, disregarded, and considered “dirty” amongst the general population. At the same time, America is SUPERSIZING up for the new millennium. Airline seats are growing larger. So too are movie theater seats, household and office furniture, and automobiles. More food, fry it well, slather it with something, and don’t forget dessert.
Addiction is nothing more than an excuse. I choose to put that cigarette to my mouth. Only from my pocket can come the fire that burns away the cilia in my lungs. Same too with a Big Mac; unless there is a gun at your head, you are the one taking that next bite of mouth-watering savory deliciously greasy salty fatty carb-loaded machine-separated animal parts. You choose to spend your two free hours per night in front of the television instead of running laps around the block. The same rule applies to alcohol, heroin, and crack. We all make choices in our lives; not all are productive. It is simply ludicrous to blame the drug, the casino, or the Twinkies for our actions.
The day we accept this principle will be the day we move forward intellectually as a species. There will never come a time of absolute uniformity. Nobody can live a perfect lifestyle where everything done is for the betterment of the mind, body, and soul. Even if you did manage to perfect this ideal, still one day you will get very sick and die. Assuming you are not first hit by a bus. They say (whoever ‘they’ are) such a lifestyle is the goal for a longer more satisfying life. A point is made, however, that the years gained come at the end of your life. Personally, I would prefer the extra ten years or so to be between my 20’s and 30’s. Giving me my 80’s and 90’s may or may not be such a good idea depending on my savings and physical condition. It could be a living hell.
We are beating each other over the heads with taxes, insurance, and ostracism as we struggle through the confusion. If I smoke, my medical insurance premium is higher assuming I can get any insurance at all. Life insurance premiums are obnoxious in comparison to a non-smoker. The combined taxes on my drug equal to more than half the cost of the product. Yet, only regular sales tax applies to a bag of Doritos.
Taxation is a means of enforcing social change. We use it to offset losses and raise revenues. “Sin” taxes help moralists and religionists ease their consciences by bringing down the mighty hammer of the Lord upon those who would choose to sin. We want smokers to quit. Excuse upon excuse is made to legally justify enforcement of this simple edict. The governor wants fat people thin.
Consider the impact fat people have upon our medical system. Heart attack, stroke, diabetes, blah blah blah blah blah. What about early demise? I hear fat people don’t live very long relative to their skinny counterparts. Fat people require development of special equipment for hospitals and rescue crews. Recently I heard a NYC firefighter discussing his tale of the alleged recovery of a corpse weighing more than a few hundred pounds. It was not a pretty tale. The pressure fat people put upon our medical system is unbelievable and unbearable.
Also consider the “Dutch” experiment. Reported to me by my friend Christ, the Dutch government experimented with eradication of smoking in society. Performing very well, smoking dropped significantly in their nation. Over ten years, there was a marked decrease in smoking related illness and consumption of medical services. But over twenty years, the backsplash took back all the gains. With more people living longer, consumption of more expensive geriatric, long term nursing care, Altzheimers and other age related ailments, they lost money.
How much longer are we all going to be subsidizing fat people? Why should my taxes be higher? I do not deserve to suffer higher insurance premiums. Or, do I deserve it? Do we all?
I say we do. There are certain common purposes around which humans congregate in societies. Nobody should object to mollycoddling fat people. In New York, for example, we just passed a car seat law that exempts fat kids from having to use special car seats. Insurance companies offer all kinds of incentives for policyholders to lose weight. Heck, there are even stop smoking programs that can be covered by insurance policies.
But the reason we Americans have congregated and organized our society is so that we can provide for each other’s health, education, and welfare. I am all for free choice in how one lives their lives. Lifestyle choices do not have to always be healthy and good. There is a lot to be said for those who choose to thin the herd early on. We should, however, make available 100% education and 100% health care for every citizen. Part of that should include the cost of helping those who choose to be idiots though it may drive up costs.
The fundamental reason why we should support this position is that we too retain for ourselves that very same freedom. Breaking a leg skiing is a lifestyle choice and we all share the costs of medical treatment and lost productivity. We want the opportunity to break our leg, clog our arteries, or fry our brain. It is not necessary that we do, but to deny ourselves mutual help and protection for doing so limits to a great extent the freedom we all enjoy.
Recently, one State legislature was considering the question of dental care for prisoners. Specifically, a side effect of smoking cocaine and speed is the way it rots your teeth. Under our current system of Prohibition, drug users face a high probability of coming under the scrutiny of the criminal justice system. When drug users end up behind bars, we the taxpayers become responsible for prisoner’s health. Right now, legislators are considering ending dental care for inmates on the theory that damaged teeth and gums are a self-inflicted injury and thus no more taxpayer money should be spent. Let these prisoners gum their food if they want.
So why at the same time, do taxpayers have to fund fat people?
Of course we should fund fat people. Let them eat their cake and their bread. Let our hospitals and airlines burst at the seams from fat people. I have no objection to paying for their sins; so long as they do not object to paying for mine.
Liberty and freedom are at the core of what we believe. If we love our fellow man, then we should step aside and let people enjoy that liberty; even if the decisions made are stupid. The stupidity we protect is our own.