Because obesity and taxes are two of the best subjects to get people all riled up, in an effort to raise their Google ranking, New Jersey decided to propose a new tax on fast food. Governor John S. Corzine (the Not Gay One -- remember him? Don't feel bad, nobody does.) is proposing a 2% tax on all fast food purchases in the state. The proceeds would then go to fund struggling hospitals. How else is New Jersey going to convince Angelina Jolie to have her babies there unless they have a celebrity birthing suite?
Stealing from the rich fast food companies to give to the poor charity hospitals sounds like a great idea on the surface but according to Senate President Richard Codey, it's more like stealing from the poor and hoping that enough of them die from hunger that they won't require hospital services. Okay, those are more my words than his but the general objection is that this tax would target poor families, the subgroup most likely to rely on fast food for nourishment, and families with children, the subgroup most likely to rely on restaurants with Playlands.
New Jersey already has a precedent for this with the highest tax in the nation on cigarettes, at $2.58 per pack. This combined with the proposed fast food tax is obviously an effort to clean up the state's rednecks. Britney Spears, although not an official resident of New Jersey, commented "First they take my cigs. Now my gordita supremes. What's next, my kids?"
Apart from the second wealthiest state in the union taxing the lowest-earning segment of the population, New Jersey is opening up a whole new can of worms by trying to legislate people into better health. Since shaming people isn't making them take better care of themselves, let's try hitting them where it really hurts -- in their big, fat wallet. New York is considering a similar resolution, but even more sweeping -- encompassing not just fast food but all kinds of "unhealthy" things like DVD rentals, movie tickets and video games. New Yorkers being less altruistic than Jerseyites, they are thinking of using the revenue to fund "healthy living campaigns" which I can only assume will include classes in multi-lingual cursing and advanced jaywalking techniques.
This kind of thinking taken to its extreme ends up with a proposal by Eric Topol, chief of cardiology at The Cleveland Clinic, "[give] a federal income tax credit to slender people, while the people ruining our health care economics [the obese] would pay the standard tax. People who are able to be disciplined and lose weight should be rewarded." So, would anorexics get double the credit for both being slim and taking themselves out of the system early by dying young?
The real downfall of these types of taxes however, is that they haven"t been shown to work. While they are still new, the data so far does not support the assertion that they will lower the country's skyrocketing obesity rate. Food is a far more complex thing to legislate than, say, cigarettes, and obesity is a far trickier disease to diagnose and treat than, say, lung cancer. So, the government is proposing a new, unproven program that will suck more money from citizens and funnel it into the broken health care system. Wait, I think I've heard this one before...
Just like the government can't force you to wear a motorcycle helmet by taxing bullet bikes, they can't make someone eat healthier by taxing their Big Macs. So, who's up for a tax on thong underwear? I hear granny panties reduce teen pregnancy.