WashPost Hypes Study Pushing 'Calorie Tax' to 'Reduce Obesity'

"There may be an economic cure for the nation's obesity," the Washington Post's Peter Whoriskey exulted as he opened his page A17 story in today's edition. "Hike the price of food," with a tax on calories. "Raising the price of a calorie for home consumption by 10 percent might lower the percentage of body fat in youths about 8 or 9 percent," Whoriskey noted, citing "new research from the National Bureau of Economic Research." [The deceptively named organization, by the way, is in fact a "private, nonprofit" outfit.]

Of course, "taxing calories might push the price of staples beyond the reach of the destitute," Whoriskey noted, but he buried that fact in the 15th paragraph of the 16-paragraph story. Additionally, Whoriskey failed to consult any critics of calorie taxes who view such a move as an intrusive nanny-state pipe dream. And then there's the fact that taxes are supposed to exist for the purpose of raising revenue, not engineering society to politically correct ends.

But who knows, maybe a calorie tax might raise alarm bells even among liberals, as apparently a calorie tax would have wildly different effects depending on the race and gender of the consumer:

The research showed that people from different groups — males and females, whites and nonwhites — react differently to increased food prices.

Raising the prices of fast-food meals, for example, reduces the body fat of males more than of females. On the other hand, prices of fruits and vegetables have a greater influence on females, who tend to gain weight when those prices rise, presumably because of a resulting change in diet.

“The price of fruits and vegetables never has a significant effect on male percentage of body fat,” wrote the authors, Michael Grossman, director of bureau’s health economics program; Erdal Tekin, a Georgia State University economist; and Roy Wada, a health policy researcher at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The study also found that the percentage of body fat for whites is more responsive to the price of fruits and vegetables than that of nonwhites.

It would be amusing if, as such ideas inevitably are pushed by the Nanny State left, if the only way the liberal media finds fault with the idea of a calorie tax is that it would be "racist" or "sexist."

Oh, and for what it's worth, the Post is conducting an unscientific poll on its website about the propriety of a calorie tax. As you can see in the graphic above, at time of publication, more than 8 out of 10 respondents answered in the negative.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters