Alright, here it is – the third and (perhaps) final installment of my “how do we cure obesity” series.

For those that missed, here are parts one and two.

In part one, I made the argument that if government intervention into our collective problem with obesity is ever going to work, we need to….

  1. Enact junk food taxes
  2. Implement tax credits that promote health/fitness and a rocking set of abs.
  3. Keep the junk food taxes separate from general tax revenues
  4. Funnel those tax revenues to the sort of grassroots projects that are close to the people that actually need the support and who can do it cheaper & better

In part two, I argued that if we let the government and their “experts” make the decisions about which foods get taxed and which programs get funded…this program is doomed. Political agendas trump common sense.

It’s our government and our tax dollars. And if we want to change how those tax dollars are being spent, we need to get more involved and force our politicians to make the changes we want. And thanks to the evolution of social media, we already have the technology required to create an effective political campaign driven by “normal” people. It’s already worked for the Obama presidential campaign and the Tea Partiers.

But first, we need some ideas to rally around.

So, in today’s post, we’re going to do a bit of a brainstorming session. Hopefully we come up with some great ideas.

Junk Food Taxes

  • Which foods get taxed?
  • Who decides what is “junk food” and what isn’t?

These are the two big questions regarding junk food taxes that I keep bumping into around the internet. Here are my suggestions:

  • At least initially, we tax only the most obvious junk foods – potato chips, candy, twinkies, soft drinks, pizza, nachos, ice cream, deep fried nuggets of all sorts…
  • Those obvious junk food choices are made by the general public via online polling.

Tax Credits / Government Spending

What do we do with all of that junk food tax money?

  • We fund programs and activities designed to improve our health & reduce our obesity
  • We base funding on participation & results rather than promises & expense

That way we end up funding the programs that give us the most bang for the buck.

For example, the idea of tax credits for gym memberships is being discussed in jurisdictions all over North America. Unfortunately, legislators are taking the approach of offering a flat rate tax credit to taxpayers who purchased a health club membership.

My problem with that approach is that health clubs thrive on members who sign up, show up for a month or two and then disappear…while continuing to pay dues. That’s good for the health club but bad for the health & waistline of the health club member.

My suggestion is to base the tax credit on participation.

With this model, we would see the creation of grassroots fitness clubs all around the country.

What else can we do with the junk food tax money?

We can fund:

  • Urban farming
  • Urban grocery stores that carry healthier food choices
  • Farming designed to produce nutrients rather than calories
  • Organic farming
  • Drug free meat (or at least almost drug free meat)

We can also amend our current food subsidies in order to promote “healthy” food production. A little less corn & soy and a little more fruits & vegetables. A little less factory and a little more farm

Anything else?

If we are going to spend tax dollars on feeding our kids at school, we should make sure that that food is designed to promote their health. The current setup doesn’t work. Too much bureaucracy and political interference.

Bring the decision making process back down to the grassroots level. Get parents involved. Get the kids involved.

Keeping the junk food taxes separate from general tax revenues

Up here in Canada, politicians sold us on a gasoline tax by promising that the money generated by this tax would be plowed back into the infrastructure of our roads.

Makes sense right – drivers paying for the roads they travel on via a consumption tax.

The only problem is that the tax revenue was dropped into the black hole of general tax revenue…and our roads continue to crumble.

If we’re going to increase taxes under the guise of improving health & reducing obesity, then we should demand that those tax dollars be spent as promised.

Grassroots Projects v.s. National Programs

Perhaps it’s the libertarian side of my personality, but I firmly believe that the best type of charitable or social service programs are those that are community based.

For example, in my hometown of Toronto, a number of urban farming groups and farmers markets have sprung up in the last couple of years. People are plowing under their backyard lawns and planting rows of organic vegetables. Some people are even pushing for bylaw amendments so that they can keep chickens in a backyard hen house.

All in an attempt to improve their own health.

Meanwhile the federal Canadian government spends millions on advertising (online, print, radio & tv) telling us that exercise is good for us. As if we didn’t already know that exercise is good for us.

And they do such a half-assed job with this advertising.

seriously…does this get you excited to exercise?

How do we get people excited about health & fitness?

Last week, a billion or so people skipped work so that they could stand in line for hours and hours just so they could buy an Apple iPad. And most of those people bought the iPad because it was the cool thing to do. They already owned an iPod and an iMac. They didn’t need an iPad…but they sure as heck wanted one.

What Apple did was turn that want into a need.

That’s what we should be trying to do.

  • Make health & fitness sexy
  • Make us crave that fit body
  • Make us need to have a six pack.

If the government is going to spend money on using media to motivate us to exercise & eat right, maybe they should hire the marketing gurus at Apple to design the marketing strategy.

So, what do you think?


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