The jeans in my dresser fit a little more snugly this time of year and the belt is usually a notch looser. It’s winter and like most other mammals, I find the need to eat too much to ward off the cold. So, I sit here pounding out this missive with a bag of pretzels nearby with a giant package of Nibs to wash them down.
I’m fat. Or overweight. At least that’s what the charts and diagrams tell me. At 5-foot-9, 166.5 pounds (usually it hits about 170 in the winter before I start seriously getting back on the track and treadmill and anything else the Y can throw at me), I’m overweight by 6.5 pounds. I should be between 147 and 160, I’m told, although only in my most anti-eating, living in a hot-as-hell climate days did I ever come close to the low end of that scale.
I thought about my burgeoning gut the other day when I ran across this. For those of you who haven’t been following this, Gov. David “Man, I wish Spitzer hadn’t gotten caught until after the budget was fixed” Paterson is proposing a tax on beverages. The point of the tax is to help fix a $15.4 billion budget gap while simultaneously passing this off as a necessary step in fighting childhood obesity. Paterson compares this to the way in which we’ve taxed cigarettes in an attempt to get people to quit smoking.
OK, here’s my problem with this. In many cases, we do things that are bad for us that really have no impact on others. Smoking isn’t one of those. You smoke a pack and a half of Lucky Strikes near me each day, you make me smell like an ashtray, irritate my lungs, increase my chances of asthma and essentially play a game of “pin the tumors on my soul.”
Same thing with drinking. We don’t have laws that prevent me from opening every bottle of booze I have in my house, pouring them into one giant glass and drinking from it as I watch the ESPN Classic replay of my Indians losing the 1997 World Series to the FloridaCarpetbaggersMarlins. However, the minute I’m still thirsty and get in my car, then I’m totally screwed (unless you live in Wisconsin where being shithammered behind the wheel draws you very little in the way of punishment). The idea is pretty clear: Mess yourself up all you want. The minute you hurt other people, that’s when we’ve got a problem with it.
I’m not going to get fat by watching a guy pound a gallon of Coke out of his backpack-sized 7-11 mug. The kid who can’t breath because his neck has succumbed to 88 chins doesn’t hurt me by ordering a giant vat of PowerThirst. I’m not somehow harmed when the giant woman in oompah loompah pants decides to order everything to the left of the bacon cheeseburger on the McDonald’s scoreboard menu (of course, if you’ve ever been in one of these places, you know what actually happens here: “Uh, yeah… I’d like a Big Mac Extra Value meal, with six extra cheeseburgers, three extra large fries.” And to drink? “Yeah, give me a Diet Coke please…”)
I guess this really brings home the point for me. While we consume an insane amount of calories from high-calorie beverages, many of them appear to be uncovered. Anyone want to guess how many calories are in a vanilla shake and Mickey D’s? How aboutmore than half of what the average woman is expected to take in during a single day… What about those great candy coffees Starbucks has been pumping at us lately? A white chocolate mocha is packingmore than twice the calories of a can of fully leaded Coke, with almost half of those calories coming from fat.
The fast food industry has been oversizing and overfattening us for decades. Why not drill them to shore up the budget? Actually, New York City, the heart and soul of the state, has beensupporting these businesses with tax breaks which seems to run contrary to the health initiatives at the state and city level.
The governor has two very good intentions here: fix a foundering budget and keep kids from becoming obese. That said, using the beverage tax to try to do this makes little sense. It has the likelihood of having little to no effect on the obesity epidemic and will likely force the poorest among the state’s citizens to once again pony up for something that brings a little joy into their lives.
The only way to get people to slim down is to offer alternatives and let them make the choice. I know eventually I’ll hit the point where I’m back to that one pair of 36 x 30s and I’ll be sick of washing them so I’ll hit the gym and get back into shape. When I was really out of shape a few years back, the relatives who told me at family gatherings, “Wow, you’re a little heavy, aren’t you?” only made me want to say “Fuck you. Please pass the potatoes.” Taxing my soda wouldn’t have had much affect either (I was a 54-can a week guy on regular soda until I switched to diet a few years back).
Would taxing high-priced hookers have made the governor’s predecessor reconsider a roll in the hay with Ashley Dupree?
Yeah, that’s what I thought…