business news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB took note yesterday of a Forbes report that a compelling argument is being made in some Washington corridors for a “fat tax” that would both raise needed revenue for the government and promote greater wellness among US citizens.

My comment: The general consensus seems to be that taxes are going to be raised…and that Congress is seeking the most politically palatable way to generate more revenue without its members losing their jobs.

There are ways in which I think that people who don't take care of themselves can and should be penalized; I do believe, for example, that people who behave irresponsibly in terms of their own health ought to pay more for health insurance…just like people who are lousy drivers pay more for auto insurance.

But you can't just heap all of these taxes and fees on people ad infinitum … Eventually, the system will break down.

Lots of reaction to this.

One MNB user wrote:

Sorry to disagree, but I think your opinion is short-sighted and groups heavy people into one bucket. It does not take into account people with metabolic issues creating weight gain and preventing weight loss in spite of living a healthy lifestyle. Not everyone who is heavy is in that situation because they "..don't take care of themselves...". In fact, there are technically 'obese' people out here who are quite healthy! While I don't dispute that I fall into the minority, I think BMI charts which label people, need work (in addition to judgmental people assuming someone fat is lazy....).

BMI charts do not take a person's bone structure into consideration; only their height/weight is considered. For someone short (like myself) wearing a size 8/10 is actually considered obese - are you kidding me???? Not everyone wants to be a size 2!!!! Oh, and for the record, this technically "obese" person works out 3-5 times a week, eats healthy and does not consume more than 1,500 calories a day (and that's on the high side for me), go figure! The only time I have not been classified as "obese" is when, as a teenager; starved myself to stay thin and worked out 4+ hours a day (competitive skating). Sorry, but that's not the real world!!!

Now, my problem with thinking like the opinion expressed below - according to you, someone like me who is classified as 'obese' by the medical experts, must not be taking care of myself and should be taxed more for foods, should pay higher health insurance premiums (in spite of never smoking I might add) and other things people haven't even thought of yet, all because I don't fit the mold of "healthy"...... Do you not see the flaw in this thought process???

Regarding taxing foods - have you ever noticed that fat food is cheap while traditionally 'healthy' foods cost more? As a single mom for many years on an impossibly tight budget, I was forced to buy higher fat foods just to keep food on the table. Today personally, is a different matter but the problem remains as people are cash strapped in a tight economy. Now, they're proposing to tax what has been a cheaper food alternative??? It makes me wonder, what ARE they thinking and do they live in the real world? Costing people more money is not going to fix the problem, what we need is better nutritional education to the general public.

Another MNB user offered:

Normally, I don't usually make comments regarding your column, however today I am disappointed by your view that those "who don't take care of themselves can and should be penalized". This comment particularly struck a negative chord with me. Although exercise and proper diet are something that many of us strive to achieve, unfortunately at times life gets in the way of the best of intentions. I am not severely obese, however I am not a size 2 either. I have always been this way since I was a kid and even though I have tried dieting and exercise it doesn't come as easily as you suggest.

I feel that you are jumping on the never ending bandwagon that is finding new and creative ways to discriminate against Americans. Using your logic to a similar extent would be to penalize those who "choose" to have children. I'm single so therefore why should I have to pay taxes towards the education and welfare of children? Should you tax those who have a genetic disposition for cancer? Should we tax those who enjoy an occasional spirit? Should we tax those who are accident prone? Sounds absurd doesn't it?

As you can see by picking one group to alienate or "penalize", you're in fact finding new and innovative ways to discriminate against others. As an HR professional I don't believe it is our place, nor governments' to dictate to others how they should live their lives.

Extreme governmental oversight leads to the loss of the freedoms and liberties that we all enjoy. Although it seems like something small in a tax for fat foods, the reality however, is that it is the loss of several small liberties over time that lead to discrimination, higher costs, less choice, and a less enjoyable life for all. We are not meant to judge the personal lives of others but to be tolerant of diverse people, ideas, habits, and more.

MNB user Mike Jadrich wrote:

A friend of mine (under the age of 55) who is a regular runner, lean and healthy told me he is going in for hip replacement surgery in a couple of weeks. Apparently his exercise routine has caused the degeneration of his hip. This is also a cost to the health care system. Will the government tax exercise next? Albeit I’m being cynical, but where does it all stop?

And another MNB user wrote:

While I agree health care costs need to be addressed from a societal perspective, government intervention will not make the situation better it will just create another avenue of special interests and handshakes which seldom are good for the country. On another note, this is America; you are free to live your life as you choose. If your choice is an unhealthy lifestyle then the individual must accept accountability for the consequences both good and bad.

The real crux of the matter is that we are fast becoming a society where everything bad that happens is someone else’s fault. At the end of the day if we allow government to dictate what we eat and drink by applying more taxes to what they consider unhealthy, then we are truly moving towards the Orwellian experience.

Another MNB user wrote:

Full disclosure…I support and feel the only real long-term solution to affordable health insurance is a single payer system. However the term affordable health insurance is not the same as affordable health care. Health care and health insurance are diametrically opposing terms.

I don’t care for higher taxes or larger government, but, the food industry is a very large piece of the health in America issue. And, I don’t feel that those people that need health care the most should pay the most, while at the same time I feel personal responsibility(or irresponsibility) is another very large piece of the American health issue.

There are so many conflicting agendas in the health care / health insurance debate…that nothing good will get done…but something will get done.

I have no solutions and don’t care for any that have been offered so far…but continue to support President Obama…but feel so disappointed that he made this issue his bellwether issue for success.

Still another MNB user chimed in:

Sounds too much like George Orwell’s “1984.” The government is already too much in our business and now they want to interfere in the things we enjoy. It’s like they want an entire nation of the same “clones”… all thin, attractive, health conscious, with the belief that the government is there to help. And if you don’t fit into the stereotype of this model, you will be taxed until you do. Eventually, they will tell us that we are living long, health conscious lives and there are too many of us, so we should give in to the greater good. Ever heard of “Soylent Green”?

But MNB user Maggie Solberg wrote:

This is long overdue. It goes along with posting the calories of fast food. First they put the warnings on the cigarette packs, then they raised the tax on the cigarettes…. Same plan.

KC, overweight people are infringing on others space (take airplane seats or stadium seats for example) just as smokers did with 2nd hand smoke. …Had to quit smoking in planes, at football games and in restaurants. No difference. And much more money is spent on health care due to obesity and lack of exercise than years of smoking combined.

One MNB user wrote:

I certainly agree with you on this. Not only can we not continue adding taxes, we have to stop adding government programs. Everything they add cost tax payers more. Every existing program wants an increase in their budget, new programs are being started, and the tax base is shrinking. They are forced to come up with new ways to raise tax revenue without “raising taxes”. Any way you paint, adding fat tax, sin tax, call it what you will a tax is a tax.

MNB user Tom Gillpatrick wrote:

I have not read any of detail of "Fat tax" proposals, but if it could raise $522 billion over ten years it must be a pretty broad tax since total U.S. food sales are about one trillion at retail (retail + food service) annually. So 10% tax that raises about $50 billion per year (not including inflation) is taxing about 50% of food sold in the U.S.? If its 50% of food, impact on poor?

Would this tax be both for food service & institutional sales along with retail? How does food qualify for this tax? I need to find out more, I am surprised more folks are not upset at this idea.

I was sort of under the impression that they are.

On another subject, MNB user Phil Censky wrote in about yesterday’s Kate’s BlogBeat:

Nice article today. I have a recent Facebook anecdote that, while not on the scale of a Whole Foods or even Nutella, demonstrates the power of social media engagement.

A Phoenix-area restaurant, Tarbell's (run by Iron Chef-winning Mark Tarbell), recently ran a Facebook contest to drum up excitement for an upcoming theme dinner. The contest featured a photo-reveal of a new menu item. Pieces of the photo were gradually added until someone could name the 3 featured ingredients of the dish. For the record I won, having selected clams, fennel and andouille sausage.

Contrast that with the "online marketing" of some major companies that can best be described as the "Field of Dreams" strategy...if you build it, they will come.

It's about the engagement, not about the presence!

You got that right.

I love emails like the following, from MNB user Cindy Sorensen:

I want to tell you a story about exemplary customer service which I recently witnessed. It took place in the waiting area of gate A2 in the St. Louis airport Tuesday afternoon, as I waited to board my flight back home to Minneapolis. As I waited for my storm delayed flight to board, I was privileged to overhear the hawking of the shoe shine stand operator located directly next to this gate. He hawked his services as potential customers walked by. Most walked right by him, never acknowledging his presence. On this particular day, there happened to be many military service men and women in the airport. Every time one of these selfless military personnel walked by, he personally thanked them for their service to our country and offered to shine and buff their boots for free. I was privileged to sit and listen to this man engage in conversation with those military personnel who took him up on his offer. He asked them questions about home, their families, where they were headed to and most importantly he expressed genuine care for them and wished them safe travels as they left his stand. He would not accept payment or tips from these military people.

Many heads from the gate area were turned in the direction of this kind, caring gentleman, watching, and listening to his every word of encouragement and support to these military customers. He offered what he could, did it with a smile and was appreciative for what these people gave of their time and service for all of us. It was truly a privilege to watch.

Thanks for sharing.

Got the following response to Michael Sansolo’s column this week about the delights of SpongeBob SquarePants (I can't even believe I just wrote that sentence):

You can count me in as one of the readers that enjoyed the correlation you made between Oprah's 10-second kiss and business.

However, I completely disagree with your take on SpongeBob. Not that it isn't funny (it is).... for adults ... to me, it is closer to Family Guy than Tom and Jerry.

You've got SpongeBob working at Krusty Crab in Bikini Bottom.

You have SpongeBob always bullying Patrick ... making fun of him for being dumb. Several of the story lines are ones that I don't want my 9, 7, and 3 year old watching. So they aren't allowed to watch it.

It's rude, and it's crass and it's offensive. Funny for me, inappropriate for my kids.

So my correlation between this and business ... just because something is funny and successful overall, be cognizant of other points-of-view. It may not be appropriate for all your customers, and while you need to market to the masses, don't completely discount a niche.

I get your point.

I would respond (and this is me talking, not Michael) that when retailers or manufacturers get too concerned about too many points of view, it often results in lowest common denominator retailing or products. I’d rather err on the side of being too edgy, because I think that consumers (and even young television viewers) tend to be more sophisticated than we give them credit for.

It’s funny. When my kids were little, I wouldn’t let them watch “The Simpsons” because I thought it was inappropriate. But now that I’m older, I sort of thin I was being too protective. Sure, “The Simpsons” was a little disruptive and subversive…but I didn’t give my kids enough credit. Besides, they didn’t need “The Simpsons” to learn to be subversive or irreverent…they had their old man. (

In the end, it is all a matter of taste. For example, I have no intention, now or ever, of watching an episode of “SpongeBob SquarePants.” Life is too short.
KC's View: