National Fat Tax could fund health care

Published 9:18 pm Friday, July 31, 2009

If you are among those of us who think the government is already too involved in our day-to-day lives, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

Once Washington does, in fact, take over health care (Think about that for a moment; think about what a mess Washington has made of everything else it has ever touched; don’t you find that just a bit frightening?) it will result in greater and greater invasiveness on the part of the bureaucrats.

(And, of course, they will multiply.)

Things that have, until now, been none of the government’s business, will be.

A friend of mine, Dolph Tillotson, the publisher of The Galveston County Daily News, suggested recently that much of the impending, government-managed health care system could be funded by doing things like taxing people for being fat.

With his tongue in his cheek, Tillotson suggested that if all Americans were charged $50 annually for every pound by which they exceed a government-established BMI (Body Mass Index), the new tax would generate $345 billion a year.

He based his proposed new tax and the accompanying revenue calculation on a recent Wall Street Journal item that said: Americans are getting fatter all the time. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the cost of treating obesity-related diseases “may have soared as high as $147 billion in 2008,” more than doubling in a decade.

The average American is 23 pounds overweight. $50 per pound times 300 million Americans totals the $345 billion.

That would cover about a third of the coming “I’m the government and I’m here to help you” health care program’s estimated 10-year cost.

Thomas Frieden, Obama’s pick to head the CDC, speaking in Washington a week or two ago, said the facts on fat indicate “the urgent need for deeper interventions in society.”

Read that again. That’s really what he said.

Translated from bureaucrat-speak, it means: “We want to do a whole lot more meddling in your personal life.”

Frieden has suggested a national campaign to eliminate obesity. He would totally eliminate transfats and dramatically tax things like sugary soft drinks. (Picture yourself paying $5 for a doughnut or $7.50 for a Coke.)

Tillotson’s proposal to tax fat people directly is much simpler.

Instead of paying an additional $4.40 every time you bought a doughnut or an extra $6.50 every time you bought a Coke, you could ante up in one fell swoop, once a year.

You would simply go to your county weigh-in station on National Weigh-In Day, probably on or about St. Patrick’s Day, stand on the Official Government Fat Monitoring Device, multiply your personal overage by $50, and pay your personal fat tax with your income tax by April 15.

Dolph, after playing with that whole concept for a while, finally admitted that he was just kidding, that he did not really think a “fat tax” was a very good idea.

But the Galveston publisher did not make up Thomas Frieden.

And Thomas Frieden was not kidding.

And national health care is a big step in the direction Thomas Frieden would have us go.

David Sullens is president of Roanoke-Chowan Publications LLC and publisher of the Roanoke-Chowan News Herald and the Gates County Index.