June 19 2013
Vicki E. Alger
According to preliminary findings from the CDC America’s obese population is 50 percent greater than it was in 1997, 28.9 percent in 2012 compared to 19.4 percent back then. As the Washington Examiner’s Paul Bedard writes:
Despite first lady Michelle Obama's four-year campaign to wean the nation off Big Macs and Big Gulps, obesity in America rose last year, continuing an unbroken 15-year streak. … Obama has been on a non-stop campaign to get the nation, especially children, to eat healthy and shed pounds. She has been joined on the dieting stage by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg who has even tried to limit the size of portions and drinks, notably the Big Gulp, sold in his city.
But the Obama administration isn’t alone in its failure to micromanage people’s weight. Christopher Snowdon of the Institute for Economic Affairs reported last month that Denmark’s saturated fat tax has been a hefty failure:
Denmark’s tax on saturated fat was hailed as a world-leading public health policy when it was introduced in October 2011, but it was abandoned fifteen months later when the unintended consequences became clear… It was blamed for helping inflation rise to 4.7 percent in a year in which real wages fell by 0.8 percent. Many Danes switched to cheaper brands or went over the border to Sweden and Germany to do their shopping. At least 10 percent of fat tax revenues were swallowed up in administrative costs and it was estimated to have cost 1,300 Danish jobs. …
The economic and political failure of the fat tax provides important lessons for policy-makers who are considering ‘health-related’ taxes on fat, sugar, ‘junk food’ and fizzy drinks... As other studies have concluded, the effect of such policies on calorie consumption and obesity is likely to be minimal. These taxes are highly regressive, economically inefficient and widely unpopular. Although they remain popular with many health campaigners, this may be because, as one Danish journalist noted, ‘doctors don’t need to get re-elected.’
Once ObamaCare goes live next year, expect a sharp rise in government nannying. We should also expect that along with the pricetag, our collective weight may likely rise because government is trying to shield us from the consequences of our own actions (or inaction when it comes to losing weight).
Most of us take personal responsibility seriously, so if we pack on a few extra pounds from overindulging, we do our best to return to a healthy weight. Tisk-tisking from politicians, taxes on french fries and sodas, or other gimmicks won’t motivate the minority of people who don’t take personal responsibility seriously. Worse, all those gimmicks accomplish for most Americans who do try to be healthy is to raise our blood pressure.