So if you raise the price of “junk food” with a Twinkie tax and subsidize the price of “healthy food” with money from the Twinkie tax so that the “healthy food” is cheaper than the “junk food”, then people will buy more “healthy food” and all will be right with the world?
That’s the spin Twinkie tax originator and Center for Science in the Public Interest board member Kelly Brownell and other nannies are putting on a new study of food pricing by University of Minnesota professor Robert Jeffery. Brownell, in renewing calls for the Twinkie tax, says, “This is tremendously good news. This study is a powerful demonstration that making healthy foods cheaper will increase their attractiveness to consumers.” (“Study hints surcharge on junk snacks could improve eating habits,” Florida-Times Union, 1/2/01)
Taxing “junk food” to raise its price so that “healthy foods” are more competitively priced is nonsense. If enough people choose to eat what nannies deem “healthy food,” (i.e. mainly overpriced organic products) producers will flood the market with products to meet the need and prices will adjust themselves accordingly.
The real reason nannies want a Twinkie tax is because they don’t want you to be able to buy the foods you enjoy. They want to make you eat what they think you should eat. When Brownell originally proposed the idea of a Twinkie tax, he said it should be designed specifically to increase the cost of high-calorie foods so they would be priced out of reach.
The Florida Times-Union sums up our argument against the nannies’ motives for a fat tax nicely: “If high taxes actually had any effect other than providing politicians with more money to spend, liquor and cigarettes rarely would be sold in America. But to Utopians, the idea of making people do what they want them to do, instead of what the beneficiaries want to do, is irresistible.”