As Americans rush to finish off their tax forms and get them in the mail by midnight, the Internal Revenue Service is rushing ahead with plans to allow deductions for weight loss — yet another way the so-called “obesity epidemic” is insinuating itself into our culture.
“By designating obesity as a disease, the IRS widens the possibility that government programs and insurance companies will treat obesity the same way, and could also fatten the arguments of legislators anxious to legitimize serving fat taxes to taxpayers,” The Washington Times editorializes. “Since IRS accountants have suddenly become nutritional experts, perhaps they should also allow deductions for athletic equipment and grant non-profit status to (presumably public-spirited) sports-equipment manufacturers.” [To find out if the federal government thinks YOU are obese, click .]
As The Baltimore Sun writes in an editorial, “the annual trek through the numbers of our lives could now involve one more awful calculation: that of our body mass index… If a doctor says you’re obese, then the cost of weight-loss programs could be tax deductible — even if your extra pounds haven’t yet made you sick… Among some health professionals, there’s still debate over whether extra weight is a medical problem by itself.”
The IRS obesity scheme is quite literally a case of “government pork,” writes Thomas J. Bray in The Wall Street Journal: “The real meaning of the IRS’s sop to hard-pressed taxpayers may be to validate a gathering campaign against everything from the corner hamburger stand to the family automobile. As with the anti-tobacco campaign, it may not end before legislatures force insurance companies to include obesity under existing health policies, plaintiffs’ lawyers wring multibillion-dollar settlements [from restaurants], and Congress enacts a vast education programs urging people to exercise and eat sensibly.”
“When states first started raising cigarette taxes to confiscatory levels, many Americans supported it,” writes columnist Bruce Bartlett. “All along, there were a few people warning that if the campaign against tobacco was successful, it would inevitably lead to special taxes and lawsuits against other products.”
Now, he continues, “the campaign against Big Food is following the attack on Big Tobacco almost to a tee… Just last week, California State Sen. Deborah Ortiz introduced legislation in that state hiking taxes on all sugared soft drinks, whether carbonated or not… Other states are eliminating sales tax exemptions for snack foods in the name of fighting fat [in some states raising] their cost by six percent.”
Concludes Bartlett: “It will be too bad if most Americans react to the campaign against Big Food the same way they reacted to that on Big Tobacco. They may think that using taxes to discourage obesity is reasonable. But if the zealots are successful, we will have lost a little more of our freedom.”