Solution Proposal Sean Streier

I found this part of my paper to be particularly interesting:
I really enjoyed the research for the paper. It gives you other points of view or even ideas that were not really in your head before. As well, it also opens your eyes to the real problem at hand.

This part was surprisingly difficult:
I actually think word count is difficult for this paper. I got everything I wanted across, with multiple opposing points of view and still was short on words. It was just hard trying to fond ways to expand without seeming like I was rambling.

Next time I would do this differently:
Next time I would more than likely focus on my beginning and end more. I feel they are good but I think I would try and spice it up a little more.

Taxing is for the better

"Obesity is one of the fastest growing and deadliest diseases in the United States, with one and three adults being classified as obese" (Garcia, Sunil and Hinojosa 810). In our country we tend to live a fast paced lifestyle. That leads us to eating unhealthy processed foods. That in turn leads our country to becoming an obese nation. Many have tried fighting this disease but many have failed. However, with a plan Researchers and I find very effective, there is the potential to reduce this disease by a large margin. What other and I would suggest to do is put a tax on junk food that would make healthy food around the same price or more accessible to lower income families.

The first problem that causes obesity in our nation would be easily accessible junk food, or in other terms "fast food". Written by Eric Schlosser in his book; Fast food nation: The dark side of the all-American meal,

Over the past three decades, fast food has infiltrated every nook and cranny of American society. An industry that began with a handful of modest hot dog and hamburger stands in southern California has spread to every corner of the nation, selling a broad range of foods wherever paying customers may be found. (3)

When brought up in this context, does it not open your eyes to the real problem in our society? Even at an early stage of this new product called "fast food", companies were able to tell it could easily become addicting. From there, companies just took advantage of the opportunity to grow and make more money from a society willing to sacrifice its body and health. With that said, fast food has been around for decades, and society is now just beginning to realize how bad it actually is. Though it may be obvious that these companies are a major source of the access to "junk food", there are also companies that provide products in the stores society shops at. As previously stated, junk food is everywhere and can be obtained at a moment's notice. For example, when someone walks into a store, what is the healthy to unhealthy food ratio? In most cases the ration leans towards unhealthy. That is because the amount of companies providing us with cheap unhealthy food is far superior to healthy food companies. That is, because those companies know the lifestyle of people and how they live, and just like fast food companies, they want to make money and take advantage of how people live. Therefore, we have unhealthy food all around, at almost any given time, society has become dependent on the fact that people live fast paced and need anything to eat at a moments notice.

On the topic of fast food, as a society have grown dependent on the fact that we can go through a drive through and have food at the snap of the finger. However, society does not think of the consequences of what this food will do. People care about the fact that they need something to eat and they need it now. My first job was at a McDonald's, I cannot count how many families I saw on a regular basis due to their hectic schedule. Whether it be one family every Tuesday and Thursday because of baseball, or another family every Monday because of dance. This just shows how much of a fast paced environment we live in. Which in the long run will affect the health of our society, due to the fact that any fast food place to go, the food is unhealthy. Yes, some places do offer salads, however these salads are not necessarily healthy. Like I stated before I personally worked at a McDonald's, I saw what would go into making those salads and I know how unhealthy the dressings are. So in reality there really is no such thing as "healthy" at a fast food restaurant.

The second cause of high obesity rate in the United States is the price difference between unhealthy foods and healthy foods. Through a nutrition class I took this past summer at Bemidji State University we discussed this topic very diligently. One of the biggest Factors we brought up and discussed was the cheapness and the easiness of preparing unhealthy food. If you think about the obesity rate, a very large portion of these people may be part of low income areas. This is mainly due to the fact that these families have very limited income, which in the long term will require them to purchase this cheap junk food. Therefore, it is not society that is the problem for our obesity rate, but the companies providing us with food (White). People may go onto say though that as a society we can still better ourselves in our own decisions, whether that be going to the gym or not getting that Bigmac for lunch. Yes, that is true but that only will clarify my point of the price difference. When someone thinks about it, the price of a Bigmac meal is far cheaper than if you were to go into the store at lunch and buy yourself the makings of a salad. Therefore, people need to open their minds and understand the difference between decisions and what is really going on in prices and readily accessible foods.

Even though these food prices will affect low income families, it will affect what the country considers to be an average family as well. No, this is not because they can only afford cheap foods. Rather, it is because we live such a fast paced lifestyle that we want to make something as quick as we can. Hence these junk foods, and unhealthy products are there to answer that calling. As previously stated, Americans live a fast paced life style, with companies that sell "junk" taking advantage of that. They do so by making there product easier to prepare, or in some cases there is no need to even prepare the product at all. Therefore, it can realistically be determine that the cause to our countries' obesity problem is companies supplying us with cheap easy to access junk food (White).

With that being said, one might counter argue this statement and say that it is a person's decision to purchase these items. Yes it is that person's decision, but it is not their decision to only be able to afford these foods.

Obesity rates in the US are not equally distributed across all social strata. Instead, higher rates are observed among some minorities and groups with lower education and incomes. (96)

No, that is not the case, people do not choose to live in poverty, they are forced too. With that said, people don't also choose to purchase these cheap unhealthy foods. They are forced to purchase these foods because it is all they can afford, due to having to live in poverty from the high cost of living our country has established on it's people. Which in result, increases the amount of processed, sugary, unhealthy food our country consumes. Therefore, should we as a society really consider this to be the doing of the person on themselves, or try to understand the situation they are in?

Another counter argument that can be made, is that people do not have to live in poverty, they can find jobs and they can work to earn money to better their lives. Unfortunately, that is not the case, a lot of these people who live in poverty do have jobs. It is just the fact that these jobs are not enough to support the cost of living in today's country. I personally have a relative who has experienced this, he at one point had four different jobs just to make enough to pay the bills. Even then, he still did not have enough money to buy food that was healthy for him. Yes, there are people in our country that do not work and are just taking money from the government. While according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the unemployment rate so far this year is at 6.7% (Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey). Personally that is pretty low if you think about it. Therefore my point is, that not all in poverty Americans are jobless, it is just the cost of living that are driving these people into poverty and creating them to only being able to afford certain foods.

With the causes of this epidemic in place, what can be done to help solve this fast growing epidemic? Many researchers as well as myself, would argue that putting a tax on "junk food" or processed food would begin to help decrease obesity in our nation. As a nation we have done many things to try and curb the obesity rate, but nothing has worked. There has been attempts at giving people discounts on gym memberships through their health care providers. However, nothing seems to work, due to the causes listed above. That is why I have come to the solution, that if we put a tax on the "junk food" that people do not have to take time out of their day but rather just go to the store like they normally would. Then from their they would just buy the "healthy food", because it is roughly the same price, and not a lot more expensive.

With that said, what actually goes into creating a tax on an item? According to Joel Michael of the Minnesota State Legislature, in order to impose a new tax it would have to go through all branches of the government. First, it would have to be brought up in the state House of Representatives, in which it would be voted on. From there the tax or bill, would go onto the State Senate, and once again be voted on. It then would arrive on the Governors desk for approval, and if he agrees with all the parameters set, he would sign. However, that is not the last step. It would have to be brought to the Supreme Court, to ensure it follows all the guide lines set for taxes in the state of Minnesota (Michael, 2002).

As previously mentioned, there are some guide lines in which a new tax would have to follow. The biggest guide line that states have to follow is, the Equal Protection Clause. This clause in a round about way states that a new tax can not discriminate against and race or non residents (Michael). With this clause there are two tests that the supreme court will administer to test the foundations of the new tax. There is the Strict Scrutiny test, and the Rational Basis Test, which both of these will be the determining factor in forming a new tax. The Strict Scrutiny test will to see if it discriminates against any races, or any person in or out of state for that matter. If the tax fails this test it will be deemed unconstitutional and be rejected. Now for the Rational Basis Test, this test will check to make sure the tax will help achieve what the legislature set out to originally accomplish (Michael, 2002). Overall, both these tests are very reasonable yet very easy to meet in standards when thinking about a tax law on "junk food" for the entire public of a state, or country.

Now with the processes of a tax explained, a tax on "junk food" from an economical stand point seems very possible. According to the article "Obesity and Smoking: Can we kill two birds with one tax", a tax on these bad processed foods would actually work in encouraging people to buy more healthy foods. The article goes over the law of demand, this law states that as a price of an item increases the demand will decrease as well, while if the price decreases the demand will increase (Dragone, Francesco, luca ). As general knowledge would consider, a tax on these junk foods would raise the price of them for consumers like us. This in turn would make the price equal to if not higher than what most people would consider "healthy food" or all natural foods. The article stated above points out this would drive the demand for these unhealthy foods in a downward spiral; as the law of demand would predict, because these prices would raise higher than what people are used to paying for an item. That would result in the demand for better and healthier food to increase. Though the price did not change, the price of it's competition did, and that would result in the same affect as if the price of these foods had decreased.

What would a tax like this mean to people who can only afford the cheap "junk foods"? Many would say that this idea of applying a tax on cheap foods is a horrible idea, because there are people out there who can only afford certain said foods. Well like stated above in my causes, people do buy these foods because that is all the can afford. However, just recently in the state of Minnesota a bill was signed by Governor Dayton to increase the state minimum wage to nine dollars and fifty cents an hour by the year 2016. Yes, that is two years away but with an increase in someones wages each year, that money can be used towards the purchase of healthy food. As a society we have always known we have a high cost of living and have always considered these "healthy foods" to be too expensive to meet our budgets. Now with the increases coming to minimum wages in our state, and soon as a nation. More people will have a higher budget that can afford to live a healthy eating lifestyle.

There is also the argument that just because a tax is implied does not mean people will stop buying these foods that are bad for your health. Though that is true, I am sure some people will continue to buy these foods, only due to the fact that they like the taste. However, a majority of people would switch over due to the law of demand theory. This theory is not just something a couple old dudes in a beat up garage thought of when having a few beers. This theory was created by economist who know what they are doing. As well this theory is used throughout the world of business today, to determine what products should be made and what products need to be discontinued. Therefore, to this argument I say farewell, as we have scientific and economical proof as to this theory and plan will work.

A second argument, or idea in curbing obesity would be to decrease portion sizes in restaurants. Though this seems very possible and a valid idea, there are some questions that arise and some downfalls. The first question one would ask for an idea like this would be, what can be done to even force this restaurants to down size their meals. Well surprisingly enough, the government would actually be able to pass a law forcing them to do so. The process would would actually be pretty similar to that listed above for implying a tax on foods that are bad for the body. The only problem I see with such a government plan in this, is that these places will find a way to one, beat around the bush and get past it, and two just offer it in two different portions but the same price as before. The biggest downfall to something like this would be, that restaurants would actually loose money and potential business. In the same class from BSU this topic was also discussed. As a society larger portions are our friends. People will go to a restaurant expecting a large plate of food to come out, if one doesn't people obviously get upset and will consider not coming back (White). However, people may say that if all places were forced to downgrade their portion sizes then it wouldn't matter. That is true but, Americans in that case would just stop eating out and paying for something that in their mind doesn't even fill them up. That will lead to just more people eating at home and providing these large portions they love so much for themselves. Overall, though portion control may seem like a very possible and good idea to curb this epidemic, taxing our junk food is a more possible and reliable method in preventing obesity from spreading like a wild fire.

In conclusion, what is the real cause of obesity in America? Through research, there are two reasons there is such a high obesity rate. The first being, how junk food or unhealthy food in our country is so easily accessible. While the second reason, is the difference in price between healthy and unhealthy food. While these two are the causes to our countries obesity problem, the solution would be to tax our "junk food". Slowly, but surely, our country is becoming more and more obese, whether it be because the two factors listed above or others not previously discussed. As a country, reconsideration of these facts and a determination that a taxation on "junk food" is the best route. As a nation, society can determine this by the simple factors listed above and conclude that this is the best option. Then hopefully in the near future society can step up and increase the health of our country.

Much of what we eat is quick and easy — from fat-laden fast food to microwave and prepackaged meals. Daily schedules are so jam-packed that there's little time to prepare healthier meals or to squeeze in some exercise. ("Overweight and Obesity")

Therefore, as a country it is not what the large big name companies say society should eat but what society wants. Society wants a healthy lifestyle and that will require easier access to the foods that will enable people to do so.

Solution Proposal Peer Review Sean Streier

Works Cited:

n.p. Bureau of Labor Statistics. United States Department of Labor. n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2014.

Dragone, Davide, Francesco Manaresi, and Luca Savorelli. "Obesity and smoking: can we catch two birds with one tax?." (2013): 11-19. Web. 11 Feb. 2014. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2240180

Drewnowski, Adam. "The economics of food choice behavior: why poverty and obesity are linked." (2012): 95-112.

Garcia, Ginny, Thankam S. Sunil, and Pedro Hinojosa. "The fast food and obesity link: consumption patterns and severity of obesity." Obesity surgery 22.5 (2012): 810-818.

Michael, Joel. "Taxation and Equal Protection." Minnesota House of Representatives. Oct. 2002. Web. 14 Apr. 2014.

"Overweight and Obesity." Kids Health. Ed. Mary L. Gavin. The Nemours Foundation, 01 Oct. 2012. Web. 16 Mar. 2014. http://kidshealth.org/parent/general/body/overweight_obesity.html.

Schlosser, Eric. Fast food nation: The dark side of the all-American meal. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012.

Talukdar, Debabrata, and Charles Lindsey. "To Buy Or Not To Buy: Consumers' Demand Response Patterns For Healthy Versus Unhealthy Food." Journal Of Marketing 77.2 (2013): 124-138. EBSCO MegaFILE. Web. 5 Mar. 2014.

White, James. Bemidji State University. Physical Ed Complex, Bemidji, MN. 27 June 2013. Lecture

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