‘Fat tax’ would not translate to US


Americans are familiar with the high taxes on items such as cigarettes and alcohol — conversationally referred to as “vice taxes.” Taxes of this type serve a twofold purpose. On one hand, they raise revenue for the state, like any other tax. On the other, they attempt to deter the abuse of such substances, which are or can be dangerous to the body. Denmark levied a similar new tax on saturated fats on Saturday, which the country hopes will bring in revenue and make unhealthy foods a less attractive item to consumers. The tax is 16 kroner — which translates to $3 U.S. — per kilogram of saturated fat in a given product. It’s an interesting idea, and we can see where they’re coming from, but such a tax would probably never work here in America.

Like our own vice taxes, the so-called “fat tax” is imposed on a product — in this case, saturated fat — which many consider to be a luxury, not a necessity. That’s certainly true of saturated fat. Far from being a necessity for life, saturated fat is more of a detriment, if anything. In this light, the tax makes sense. The government of Denmark wants both revenue and longer life expectancies. The “fat tax” theoretically gets both of those jobs done.

We would like to call attention to the use of the word “theoretically” in the preceding sentence. It is for precisely this reason — that the “fat tax” theoretically works — that such tax could not be employed in America. As it is in this country, anti-tax rhetoric is at an all time high. President Barack Obama’s recent “Buffet Rule” proposal, for example, has met with widespread resistance. People don’t like the idea of taxing the rich, even if they themselves are unaffected by this new tax. Now, consider how much saturated fat the average American consumes. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 15 percent of the calories in an average American’s diet come from saturated fats. A tax on these fats, then, would affect everyone, and there is no reason to think the people would take kindly to this. Instead, they would most likely react rather nastily.

As we said earlier, we do think Denmark’s fat tax is an interesting and quite rational idea. That being said, it probably would not translate well to American soil. At least, not in the current political climate, where taxes are unpopular and the increasingly prevalent libertarian-leaning political ideologies would decry the government’s attempts to tax fatty foods as the work of a “nanny state.”

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