Call for ideas: Do government policies promote obesity? How?
Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times recently devoted a column to an analysis of who really gets welfare in the United States. He listed policies that favor not only the wealthy, but the fabulously wealthy:
- Subsidies for private airplanes via tax write-offs and deductions
- Tax deductions for private yachts
- Tax deductions for hedge funds and private equity
- Bank rescues
- Incentives to operate locally
His column reminded me of one written in 2005 by Sean Faircloth, then a Maine State representative, “Six ways government promotes obesity and what to do about it.”
No government, Faircloth said, could have devised more effective policies for reducing physical activity and promoting junk food. Taxpayers, he pointed out:
- Subsidize oil companies and cars to the detriment of trails and sidewalks.
- Make it impractical to get basic information in foods and restaurants (menu labeling regulations: where are you?).
- Give large corporations free reign to market to children.
- Allow soda and snack-food companies to market products in schools (USDA is trying to change this).
- Direct billions in subsidies toward processed foods while neglecting fresh produce.
- Promote high-calorie foods in programs for poor people.
I thought this was an interesting way of thinking about obesity policy and over the years have added these:
- Allowing marketing costs to be deducted from taxes as business expenses
- Bans on lawsuits against food companies
- Ambiguous and obfuscating dietary guidelines (e.g. SoFAS in the 2010 edition)
No doubt there are others.
Can you think of any others? Thanks.