Fat Tax? Fat Chance!

Posted on May 09, 2005
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Revenue-hungry cities are always looking for taxes to levy. The latest is the so-called "fat tax," which is a tax on foods the government deems unhealthy. 

Detroit, recently ranked as the third fattest city in America by Men's Health magazine, is considering a new 2 percent tax on fast food restaurants like McDonald's to help it balance a $300 million budget gap.

Like other "sin" taxes ? taxes on tobacco and alcohol, for instance ? fat taxes have a lot of intuitive appeal. Polls show roughly 40 percent of Americans believe a fat tax is wise policy. After all, many people probably have the sense that Americans consume too much fat. What better way to reduce fat consumption than to raise the price through taxes?

But like other sin taxes, a fat tax has the potential to disproportionately harm the poor because it is a sales taxes paid by consumers regardless of income. And, there's something un-American about government policy that takes away an individual's responsibility for his own health.

After all, a government that gorges itself on tax money should hardly instruct its citizens on how to exercise moderation.

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