With the "Standard American Diet" producing ever more heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, it's time to tax junk food and subsidize vegetables, writes Mark Bittman in the New York Times. "Right now it’s harder for many people to buy fruit than Froot Loops," he says, suggesting sweetened drinks, like soda, should pay at a rate of two cents per ounce (diet sodas would be exempt), while French fries could face a 50-cent tax per serving. "Public health is the role of the government, and our diet is right up there with any other public responsibility you can name, from water treatment to mass transit," he says, comparing junk food to smoking.
The billions that a junk food tax would raise would then go into subsidizing healthy foods, making them both cheaper and more readily available. "This program would, of course, upset the processed food industry. Oh well," Bittman notes without much heartbreak. Bittman says his plan would ultimately be a big cost-saver, too, as obesity-related health costs are predicted to reach $344 billion by 2018. "Because our health care bills are on the verge of becoming truly insurmountable, this is urgent for economic sanity as well as national health." (Read more Mark Bittman stories.)