There has been a lot of press lately about whether or not to tax junk food. Advocates say it will discourage people from eating it and the revenue raised could subsidize healthier food, which is more expensive than junk food. Detractors say it will just be another tax on the poor, the biggest consumers of such foods. As in any debate, there is more than one argument for or against. The idea initially sounded like a good idea to me, but then thinking about it, I realized that it is not strictly an economic issue. Rolled into the equation are culture, the influence of the processed food industry, lifestyles, lack of education and the mother of all barriers to good eating – changing behavior.
Then there is the bureaucracy element. Would those taxes actually make their way to those who would need the subsidy or would they be rolled into the pot to offset budget deficits? If so, that would certainly support the theory that it would burden the poor with higher taxes. Would it go to mega food processing companies to calm their ire?
It seems to me that education is the place to start. People need to understand just what bad food is doing to them, before it makes them sick. Since the effect of poor nutrition begins in the womb, generations must be educated. If a mother to be knows that what she puts in her body as her baby is developing, directly impacts the child’s health and predisposition to adulthood disease, she might think more carefully about her choices. Investing money in nutrition programs for pregnant women, of all classes would be a good place to start. It would save us huge sums in future medical costs over the life of their unborn children, as well as their own health. For another perspective, read the article in the from the NY Times: