Posts by James Butler

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  • Speaker: Talking past each other:…, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    You are assuming that obesity is a health problem only in the poor. While it is biased towards the poor it is pretty widely spread across all income groups.

    Not at all - I'm saying that because it is biased towards the poor, any solution which attempts to fix it by increasing price will disproportionately affect the poor, and that's not OK.

    But I have a real problem with you repeating arguments that were proven false with respect to tobacco. The harm to rich and poor from tobacco was significantly reduced by increasing the price.

    "Proven false" in what way? I'm not suggesting that taxing sugar won't decrease sugar consumption. I'm suggesting that regardless of whether it works or not, it shouldn't be done.

    I might be persuaded that sugar and tobacco are qualitatively different enough that the tobacco tax is justified in a way the sugar tax isn't - because tobacco isn't food. If we had tomacco the calculus would be different.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 852 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: Talking past each other:…, in reply to Sacha,

    They are not mutually exclusive.

    That's right, it's just that one is unethical and the other is not.

    The one that worries me is upcoming road pricing/congestion charging – if it does not come with some with subsidies for the poor, it will price them off the roads first.

    I mostly agree, although the nuance with road pricing (and ETS/carbon tax) is that poor people use these things proportionately less, so they are inherently progressive. This is somewhat countered by the fact that poor people generally have fewer choices to e.g. move house or renegotiate their working hours to make transport easier. So ideally large improvements in public transport would be implemented before, or at the same time as, congestion pricing, but it's the nature of politics in NZ cities that I don't know what the chances are of that happening...

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 852 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: Talking past each other:…, in reply to James Butler,

    The thing with using a punitive tax as a way to tackle problems associated with poverty, is that it equates to making already-poor people poorer until they make the decision you want them to. It's treating the symptoms by threatening to make the disease worse.

    Worry about poverty first, and any problems which remain will by definition not be driven by poverty. I don't know if it's the easiest or most efficient way to reduce the rates of smoking/drinking/obesity/tooth decay/whatever: it's the only ethically defensible starting point.

    (Let's think for a second about why smoking (or example) is more prevalent in people with less money. I mean cigarettes are expensive, right? But they're cheaper than a whole lot of the things which make life enjoyable for the middle classes - cheaper than a home with a view, cheaper than an overseas holiday, cheaper than an education.)

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 852 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: Talking past each other:…, in reply to Sacha,

    this is also regressive and unfair

    or ironically progressive if it improves the health of poorer people the most.

    No, the progressive option is always to make poor people less poor.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 852 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: Talking past each other:…, in reply to william blake,

    By taxing the manufacturer it becomes their job to reformulate the food, with less sugars, fats, pesticides etc, which is the objective here.

    No, the incentive for them to do this is exactly the same regardless of where the tax is applied.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 852 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: Talking past each other:…, in reply to Tim Darlington,

    Dr Toomath comes to the conclusion that a lot of the factors leading to obesity are genetic.

    This despite obesity rates skyrocketing since the end of the 1970s? I’m not an endocrinologist, but I don’t have to be one to know genetic factors don’t work like that.

    Could also happen if the relevant genes are prevalent in immigrant populations, and the immigration rate goes up.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 852 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: Talking past each other:…, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Guess what - that is exactly the same argument used against raising taxes on cigarettes. more poor people smoke therefore taxing smokes is targeting the poor unfairly.

    Yes, this is also regressive and unfair.

    The whole point is to make the choice for people simple buy expensive sugary products or cheaper non-sugary products.

    ...by increasing their overall food spend and pocketing the difference. Still not buying it.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 852 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: Talking past each other:…, in reply to william blake,

    No, actually the same. A 10% tax on sugar is a 10% tax on sugar - no matter where it's collected, the price to the consumer is the same (actually, if you tax the manufacturer at 10% the consumer pays more because GST, but now I'm quibbling).

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 852 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: Talking past each other:…, in reply to william blake,

    tax the manufacturer and not the consumer

    These amount to the same thing.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 852 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: Talking past each other:…, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Here's the thing: we also know that obesity-related illness correlates with poverty and membership of certain ethnic groups (which also correlate with poverty). Now I don't know if high consumption of sugar is also related to poverty. But: if it is, then taxing sugar is going to hit the people with the least money hardest, which is a bit crap. If it isn't, then taxing sugar won't address the root of the problem. And either way, it sounds to me like the real obvious solution is to end fucking poverty.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 852 posts Report Reply

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