NYT's Bittman Finds Enthusiastic Comrade for Junk Food-Tax Crusade in MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan

August 2nd, 2011 6:02 PM

New York Times food writer and junk food sin-tax advocate Mark Bittman took to the August 2 edition of MSNBC’s “Dylan Ratigan” show as part of his promotional tour for “Bad Food? Tax It.” He found a receptive, uncritical audience in the former CNBC business reporter.

“It’s like, do you want to use taxes to help people or do you want to use taxes to hurt people? It seems to me right now we’re doing just about everything wrong, at least when it comes to food,” Bittman complained, adding "we’re subsidizing, we’re directly subsidizing the crops that produce junk food, bad meat, hyper-processed food, and we’re not subsidizing the foods that we know make us healthy.”

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While Ratigan almost constantly rails against how crony capitalism and “banksters” have ruined American capitalism by working in tandem with politicians to pervert market incentives, he easily discarded that concern to praise the notion of punishing junk food consumers with higher taxes while rewarding healthier choices by subsidizing vegetables.

Ratigan accepted without criticism all of Bittman’s premises and failed to raise the libertarian/conservative argument that it was none of the government’s business to either subsidize or tax food as a grand experiment in social engineering.

The MSNBC host also failed to raise the point that studies have proven that sin taxes on junk food are in fact counterproductive.

Far from being skeptical, Ratigan took Bittman's idea off the deep end, positing that farmers, doctors, and pharmaceutical companies have a vested interest in obese Americans with diabetes and were in turn funneling their profits into campaign contributions to politicians who “ensure a rigged tax code that keeps them profitable and you sick.”

Bittman, of course, failed to call Ratigan out on his loopy conspiratorial rant.

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