Puerto Rico Considers “Fat” Tax on Obese Children: A Fight for Children’s Health or a Tax Collection Scheme?

Timothy Alexander Guzman

(Silent Crow News) — It seems that the Puerto Rico government is scrambling to find ways to collect tax revenues to satisfy its debt obligations. Why? Well there is a new controversial “Fat” tax bill filed by Puerto Rican Senator Gilberto Rodriguez to combat child obesity. The plan calls for school teachers to identify and locate obese children and refer them to the Puerto Rico health department officials. Then they will determine what is the cause of the child’s obesity problem and formulate a diet and exercise plan. Then they will monitor the child’s progress every four weeks. The tax penalty would start at $500 if the child’s weight does not improve within the first six months and up to $800 after another six months if there are still no improvements. This is absurd! United Press International’s (UPI) report ‘Puerto Rico may fine parents of obese children’ described the proposal:

The bill, introduced by Sen. Gilberto Rodríguez, would make the Department of Education in Puerto Rico responsible for identifying children who are at risk for obesity, but not due to preexisting medical conditions, according to El País. Health officials would indicate obesity health risks to parents. If the child’s condition does not “progress” within six months, parents could be fined $500. If after another six months the child’s condition does not improve, the fine could be $800. The case could be brought to social workers at the Puerto Rico Department of Family Affairs

The idea is not new. Jonathan Gruber, the architect of Obamacare declared in 2010 that taxing “fat people” by body weight was an option to fight obesity in an article titled ‘Taxing Sin to Modify Behavior and Raise Revenue’ for the National Institute for Health Care Management (NIHCM) and said:

Ultimately, what may be needed to address the obesity problem are direct taxes on body weight. While it is hard to conceive of this approach being a common public policy tool in the near term, such taxation may be happening indirectly through health insurance surcharges. Currently, employers may charge up to 20 percent higher health insurance premiums for employees who fail to meet certain health-related standards, such as attaining a healthy BMI. The new health reform legislation increases this differential to 30 percent, with the possibility of rising to 50 percent. Results of programs that use differential premiums to impose direct financial penalties for obesity will bear watching in the future

Many on the Island-nation do not agree with the new bill including the president of Puerto Rico’s chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Ricardo Fontanet who declared “It will bring complications because there are obese children due to medical complications and genetic factors” the report said. I agree to a certain extent, however, Puerto Rico’s obesity problem especially for children has one major problem that Mr. Fontanet did not mention and that is a direct correlation with obesity and U.S. fast food corporations. Many Fast food corporations has invaded Puerto Rico including McDonalds, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Wendy’s, and several others have led to the domination of the local food markets. In a 2005 report by Caribbean Business stated how fast food corporations began in Puerto Rico:

The fast-food industry has come a long way since such chains as Tastee Freeze and Big Boy began appearing on the island in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Since then, the number of chains has multiplied aggressively, demonstrating Puerto Rico is an attractive market. As a whole, 2,000 fast-food restaurants in Puerto Rico are estimated to rake in $1 billion to $1.3 billion a year in revenue, according to industry sources. Studies also have shown 77% of locals visit fast-food restaurants often

If there are 2,000 fast food restaurants with 77% of locals as consumers, then do expect obesity levels to increase. One film that fast food enthusiasts’ should watch is Morgan Spurlock’s ‘Super Size Me’, a 2004 documentary film that tracked Spurlock’s 30-day experimentation by eating three meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) a day from McDonalds. What was the result according to Spurlock’s film?

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