A Proper Fat Tax

By Michael Applebaum, MD, JD, FCLM

There has been a lot of talk in recent years about a fat tax.

Frequently it involves taxing foods. Specifically, there is talk of taxing “junk foods,” whatever that means.

This is the wrong approach for a number of reasons. Here are a few:

1.         It is prejudicial. The purpose of such a tax is to dissuade people from buying certain foods because they presumably somehow lead to overweight/obesity. Clearly this penalizes the calorically responsible who do not become overweight/obese while still enjoying these foods. Further it pre-judges (the hallmark of prejudice) that the calorically responsible will morph into caloric irresponsibility and need to be “saved.”

2.         It is based on temporary “science.” One week food with nitrites are junk, the next week, nitrites are good for us. One week foods rich in antioxidants are good for us, next week antioxidants are bad. Designating a food as junk or healthy is an uncertainty and subject to frequent change.

3.         It is not progressive. Progressive taxes are said to affect richer persons more than poorer people, i.e., those better able to afford it pay more.

So to design a proper fat tax it should:

Be non-prejudicial, i.e., does not penalize the calorically responsible
Avoid the caprices of food “science”
Be progressive, i.e., impose a greater tax burden on those who are better able to handle it

To fulfill the criteria above, it is reasonable and proper to tax the über-articles, clothes and utensils used by the overweight/obese, such as über-clothes, zoo-level scales, ton-tested toilets and Nimitz-class wheelchairs, caskets.

This type of tax specifically directs itself at those persons whose actions resulted in the problem. It is akin to taxing cigarettes. Non-smokers are relieved of the burden, smokers are not.

Under this fat tax proposal, calorically responsible persons are relieved of the burden, fat people are not.

The following is a partial list of items that can be taxed. Links to the websites from which they were taken are provided.

The following appeared at:


From the Great John Toilet Company, this behemoth pictured above can accommodate up to 2000 pounds, has an extra wide base with four anchor points and 150% more contact area on the seat.

Bottom Buddy, a "toileting aid" for those who can't quite reach all the way around to that area that most needs cleaning. Plus, lets you easily dispose of that used toilet paper when you're done.

Siltec Model WS1000, a heavy-duty electronic platform scale that measures up to 1000 pounds. This highly accurate, easy to read scale has a 15x15 inch weighing platform.

Personal airline seatbelt extenders eliminate the embarrassment of asking a flight attendant for an extender on the airplane; carry your own and have it when you want it.

Super-sized wheelchairs: hospitals are now supersized, where the tiny wheel chairs of the past are widening out to accommodate larger patients. The Sentra EC extra-large wheelchair has a 24-inch seat width to accommodate those supersized posteriors.

The death industry is even getting into the act, and one of the biggest dealers is the Goliath Casket Corporation, specializing in 20-gauge steel caskets that are the size of a large Jacuzzi.

Keith Davis of Goliath Casket poses with the company's largest stock size of casket, 52 inches wide, at the company's shop in Lynn, Ind. Caskets are normally about 27 inches wide. The company has produced caskets up to 7-feet square.

This one is from:

The following appeared at:


The heirloom quality rocker is has a hand-woven back and seat. Rated in excess of 500 pounds this chair is built tough. Handcrafted in the renowned tradition of the original hammocks made on Pawley’s Island, South Carolina since the 1880s.

The MaxxPerformance Giants New Custom Telescoping Arms can support 400 pounds per arm. This provides extra strength when using the arms to help lift your weight out of the chair. New High Tensile steel frame has been static weight tested to 1400 Pounds! Can safely hold up to 800lbs of usable weight. This is the Military grade HumVee of Portable, foldable chairs. If you want a truly heavy duty chair to take pictures with the kids or grandkids in your lap this is the chair.

Here are links to stores that sell über-sized items for brontosapiens. These are reasonable places and items at which to aim the tax:

Mega-Big Box Stores

Casual Male XL - http://www.casualmale.com/store/en_US/index.jsp
Torrid - http://www.torrid.com/torrid/index.jsp?FOLDER%3C%3Efolder_id=2534374302024174&bmUID=1204597907939
Amplestuff - http://www.amplestuff.com/
LivingXL - http://www.livingxl.com/store/en_US/index.jsp
My Size USA.com - http://mysizeusa.com/

You will notice that there are some items that come in different sizes. For example, these are from http://www.amplestuff.com/scales.aspx:

1000-Lb Wide-Platform Digital Scale
Price: $299.00

440-Lb Clear-Glass Digital Scale
Price: $109.50

Similarly, clothing for fat people comes in different sizes, just as it does for intended-size humans. The following size chart is from http://www.casualmale.com/store/en_US/static/sizing.jsp:

Size and Measurement Guide


BIG (6'3" and under)






XL (1X)

17-17 1/2

36 1/2-37 1/2



2XL (2X)

18-18 1/2




3XL (3X)

19-19 1/2

37 1/2-38 1/2



4XL (4X)

20-20 1/2




5XL (5X)


38 1/2-39 1/2



6XL (6X)





7XL (7X)


39 1/2-40 1/2



8XL (8X)





How to measure for size.
Neck: Use a soft tape measure to measure around the base of your neck. Enter your measurements in half-inch increments, rounding up if necessary.
Chest: (For suit and jacket size.) Measure over a shirt. Tape should be up under arms and straight across shoulder blades.
Sleeve: With your elbow bent, measure from the middle of your back directly below neck--across shoulders and elbow to the wrist. Total inches is your sleeve length.
Waist: Measure over shirt only at the point where pants are normally worn.
Inseam: Take a pair of well-fitting pants of a similar style. Lay them flat across a hard surface or table. Measure along to the bottom of the pants, from crotch seam to bottom.

I posit these examples as a means for making the fat tax progressive. The fatter you are, the more you pay.

Thus, someone with a 72-inch or 6-foot waistline would be taxed more than someone with a 60-inch or mere 5-foot waistline.

Or someone who buys a 1000 lb. scale would be taxed higher than someone who buys the 440 lb. scale.

The technology for applying differential tax rates is readily available and the process can be easily implemented.

As to why this is progressive, that is also simple.

The question we need to answer is what is a fat person?

Simply put, a fat person is an investor.

Virtually all fat people have made the choice to invest their discretionary income in energy.

The overweight/obese person invests in food which contains Calories. Calories are a form of energy. The food investor, adopts a buy-and-hold strategy. He or she purchases energy as food Calories and lets the energy portfolio accumulate on his/her body.

One’s body is one's energy investment balance sheet.

The fatter the person, the more he or she has invested in his/her body.

The fatter the person, the more discretionary income he or she spends investing in his/her body to grow it or maintain it.

Clearly a very, very, very fat person is calorically richer than a very, very fat one and likely has been spending more discretionary income on maintaining their overfatness.

Thus, they are better situated, i.e., calorically richer, to pay higher, i.e., progressive, taxes.

If it helps you to conceptualize, you could consider this a form of luxury tax on the calorically rich.

This is the proper way to fashion a fat tax.

Tax the calorically rich, similar to smokers, on those things that they use and leave the calorically responsible alone.