Reduce Agricultural Subsidies to Reduce Waistlines
According to a study cited in an article in the Wichita Eagle, obesity rates are increasing in Missouri, and faster than the national average.
The author of the study says that the rising rate is largely attributable to the fact that snack foods and soda are priced lower than healthier foods. He proposes that:
[…] there is more that federal, state and local governments can do to reduce obesity, including taxing sugary drinks, providing incentives to grocery stores that locate in underserved areas and requiring restaurants to clearly label nutritional information on their menus.
Neither the article nor the author of the study discusses the fact that the federal government heavily subsidizes the production of corn, which significantly reduces the market price of starchy and sugary foods to consumers.
Instead of subsidizing the production of a good, and then taxing the consumption of the ensuing unhealthy products, it would be more efficient for the federal government to remove the subsidies entirely. This would cause the price of sugary and starchy foods to increase relative to other foods. Consumers would face a greater natural incentive to eat healthier substitutes like fruits and vegetables because they would be relatively less expensive. This would benefit low-income people in particular, because they pay a greater percentage of their income for food, so eliminating corn subsidies could help to reduce the difference in the rates of obesity across income levels.
As contributors to this blog have argued previously, an individual’s waistline is the responsibility of the individual, not of the government.