If We Have to Tax Food…

November 9, 2011

We don’t. It’s not a good idea, but bear with me here.

Michael Pollan was on Colbert the other night, where he stated that he supports a soda tax. While I don’t think anyone should drink soda ever (it’s not people food), I’m not a fan of taxing food, for a few reasons.

First and foremost, I don’t think the government should have any influence over what we eat. They already do, and it’s a disaster. Farm subsidies are no one’s friend (save Cargill, PepsiCo, etc.), the USDA MyPlate recommendations are not based on science, and food laws have resulted in disgusting abuses of power.

Second, if we tax soda, food that I like (think saturated fat) is not far behind. We all know that in drafting legislation, money is power – corporate lobbyists wield the heaviest swords. In food, the powerful lobbies represent the wealthy companies, those who turn big profits with value-added food products. In short, we’d end up with taxes that favor processed foods.

Saturated fat is an easy target because these companies can easily work it out of their products (think fat-free muffins), while real foods like meat and eggs are stuck with the tax. Bad news bears.

So, yea, taxing food is a bad idea. As a thought exercise, let’s try to come up with a food tax that we could get behind.

As so eloquently put by Sean Croxton (I’m still jealous), the key to health is Just Eat Real Food, or JERF. So let’s tax the fake food.

As we’ve seen above, the makers of value-added food products are the ones with the power here, so a “processed-food tax” would never get passed.

If it did, it would be a great lesson to shoppers about what “real food” means. Also, it would be convenient for grocery stores – they could just have the aisles in the center of the store be the “Tax Zone”.

Again, I don’t want to tax food. Don’t go around saying I want to tax food. Just go around the outside of the grocery store and buy the real food. Warning: no value has been added to this real food.

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