SOON-COMING UN FAT TAX
By Jon Christian Ryter
January 29, 2004
Without a whole lot of fanfare anywhere in the world, and without any appreciable media attention in the United States, the UN's World Health Organization [WHO] announced in June, 2002 that it would develop a strategy for combating obesity, noting that worldwide there are about one billion overweight people--with about 300 million of them classified as obese. WHO noted that, in the United States alone, over two-thirds of the American people are overweight. Nearly one in every three Americans are clinically obese. Few Americans stopped chomping on their Big Macs, Whoppers, or their double rack of ribs at Ruby Tuesday long enough to hear the message coming from Brussels, or for that matter, to contemplate how WHO's scientific report and 18-page strategic plan might affect their lives--and pocketbooks--over the next couple of years.
While the American people were largely too busy calorie-counting between hearty meals at America's convenience-store-type restaurant chains to notice the ugly black cloud that had settled over the WHO pronouncement, America's personal injury lawyers saw the black cloud and immediately recognized it as an opportunity. As lawyers, they knew that every storm cloud has a silver lining. It just takes a little litigation to bring out the silver...and the gold. And, before most of us realized that fast food restaurants were guilty of poisoning our lean, fit bodies with food we cannot resist and are, therefore guilty of heinous crimes against the international body (pardon the pun), two fat food lawsuits were filed in New York against the fast food industry.
The first lawsuit was filed in July, 2002, in a Bronx court. A 56-year old 272-lb. maintenance worker, Caesar Barber, claimed he became addicted to fast food over a 30 year period because [a] fast food is cheap and [b] because he doesn't know how to cook. Barber's lawyer, Samuel Hirsh filed his lawsuit against McDonald's, KFC, Wendy's and Burger King--Barber's normal feeding troughs. Hirsh apparently alleges that Ronald McDonald, Dave Thomas (before he passed on) and Colonel Sanders (after he passed on) are to blame because Barber can't boil water. But stupid or not, Barber v Everyone Who Serves Fatty Foods will likely get its day in court. The reason isn't because the suit has merit, because frankly, it doesn't. Diagnosed by physicians as being medically obese, Barber has had two heart attacks and suffers from diabetes (a common affliction with those who are obese). Hirsh, who claims because fast food has been sold for decades without the same fat content labels that are mandated for packaged foods, the fast food industry contributed to the obesity of his client. By shifting the blame from Barber, who is too lazy to cook a healthy meal at home but not too lazy to shovel prepared high-calorie foods into his mouth at a restaurant, to the fast food industry, Samuel Hirsh is hoping to finalize his own retirement package on this one lawsuit.
The second suit, filed in November, 2002 in a New York City courtroom was dismissed as groundless. Eight New York teenagers filed a multimillion dollar lawsuit against McDonald's claiming that the fast food giant deceived them about the fat content in the chain's Big Macs and Happy Meals. The lawyers tried to expand their litigation into a class action hoping to force a quick settlement from McDonald's (that would have ultimately resulted in a rash of fat-related lawsuits all over the country). McDonald's fought the lawsuit in its preliminary stage and defeated it. The case was dismissed as frivolous.
It was in watching these two lawsuits progress that I realized fat people and fatty fast food was going to not only be an important story in 2003, but a story worth following for the next year or so. In June 2003, I addressed the subject on my website, www.jonchristianryter.com/2003/030619.html, with an article entitled "Whose Fault Is It When Fat People Get Fatter?" The article described the scrutiny that GOOD HOUSEKEEPING was giving the fast food industry in a July, 2003 article entitled "Fast Food Diet" in which the author of that article, Jim Karas, argued that America's fast-paced society could dine at America's premier fast food restaurants and lose weight providing they watched the caloric intake of the tasty morsels they were consuming. Be that as it may, the World Health Organization has thrown the obesity gauntlet into the ring. And, that "ring" was not just the fast food or fatty food industry as one might imagine from the tone and texture of the obesity articles that have permeated the press over the past two years, but the agricultural industry in general.
To put it bluntly, in the view of the world's nutritional experts, we not only consume too much of the wrong types of food, we consume too much food in general. And, because we do, the UN wants its fair share of those surpluses to disburse to those around the world who do not have enough to eat. But now it appears that the UN wants even more. It wants fat Americans and fat Europeans to pay the administrative costs of distributing that food to the third world through a global tax on fatty foods--or at least, on fats and sugars that are perceived as not being good for us. To put it more bluntly, the nutritional experts here and in the World Health Organization want to penalize us for eating wrong. And, to protect us from ourselves, WHO wants to removing some of our temptation to overeat by encouraging the United States government to donate more of its surplus foods to the impoverished nations of the world.
But, to make sure they don't penalize America's agri-giants who fill the campaign coffers of America's premier politicians, Congress will enact laws that will allow agri-giants like Archer Daniel Midland to increase their prices at the processing level in order to compensate them for the excess food stuffs they donated to the UN. (Planned food shortages allow the agri-giants to increase prices that escalate throughout the food chain until, finally, the consumer is paying double for basic staple food items. By the way, have you noticed an appreciable increase in the shelf prices at your local supermarket lately?) Planned shortages are economic devises used to create artificial demand for products that are generally construed to be abundant. Franklin D. Roosevelt applied the principle quite adroitly during the New Deal years. By creating artificial product shortages, manufacturers could charge more for the products which were being created. The principle allows industry to maintain profit levels--and job growth--while conserving national resources or needed food stuffs.
In the Agriculture Adjustment Act of 1933 Roosevelt enacted a tax that was supposed to help establish parity for farm products through the elimination of surplus crops by a means of crop curtailment to bolster the failing agricultural industry. The law subsidized farmers for not growing specific crops. The crop curtailment fund, created from processing and floor taxes that were passed along to the consumer, were levied on the raw grain when it was milled or on beef, pork, mutton or poultry when the meat products were slaughtered).
It is that principle that will be applied to America's food surpluses. As it was during the New Deal era when Roosevelt talked about creating jobs and a minimum wage for all those seeking employment, the American people are now being sold a bill of goods that Uncle Sam is concerned only about their health. The American people, simply stated, eat too much. We do. Look at us. We are pigs. Gluttons. We, who have it all, eat it all. And, what we don't eat is thrown away and ends up rotting in America's landfills. As we sumptuously feast on fat-laden foods--both at home and at the nation's convenience-store-type restaurants, millions of people in third world countries are starving or are, at the very least, suffering from moderate to severe malnutrition. In the eyes of the world community, because Americans have so much, the hunger in the world is our fault.
It is the view of the fat police that those living in the industrialized nations can easily consume half of what they traditionally eat today and actually lead a healthier lifestyle for their sacrifice. There may be a lot of truth in that statement since obesity carries with it unique medical problems, all of which are life-threatening. The media indoctrination has begun in earnest to scare us into eating less.
The World Health Organization strategy entails [a] restricting junk food and soft drink advertising aimed at children; [b] adjusting farm subsidies to penalize the junk food and sugar industries; and [c] assessing heavy taxes on all forms of junk food in order to greatly elevate the prices of what WHO feels are unhealthy foods and soft drinks. The idea, of course, is to cut consumption. The less consumption, the greater surplus of raw food is available for distribution in the third world.
When the World Heath Organization released its "health strategy" early in January, 2004, the Bush Administration announced, on Thursday, January 15, that it will demand that the UN make major changes in its strategy before it attempts to implement it because, William R. Steiger, special assistant for international affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services said, the WHO plan is based on faulty science, and it "...exceeds the UN body's mandate." (The UN does not have the legal authority to tax even though in 1996 it issued a tax on international airline flights.)
The move by the Bush Administration was greeted with criticism from health and nutrition experts both in the United States and abroad who have decided that obesity is now a more severe and immediate problem than global warming. They denounced Bush whom, they say, is merely trying to protect his friends in the sugar and food industries by derailing what they called a "...vital international assault on one of the world's biggest health problems."
Steiger denied that food industry concerns about taxes and regulations were behind the Bush effort. He said that the revisions the United States would seek were still being mulled over prior to the meeting that was held in Geneva, Switzerland during the week of Jan. 26, 2004. "We have a whole series of of changes we'd like to see," Steiger told reporters. "One overarching example is that any strategy that deals with this subject has to deal with individual responsibility as opposed to what government can do."
According to Philip James, Chairman of the International Obesity Task Force, a London, England based think tank, the WHO strategy does not compel nations to act, but is merely a guide for nations to follow. "This document," James said, "is fantastically important. It should have a big impact unless its sabotaged. And, we know is being sabotaged." James' statements are contradictory. If nations are not compelled to act on the strategy, what difference would it make if the United States and perhaps England, attempt to either weaken the document or kill it outright?
Because like any proffered UN resolution, the WHO strategy will not have the force of law until it is approved by the nations to which it is submitted. Once the "strategy" (i.e., the resolution) reaches the "voting" stage, it becomes an accord. When an accord is ratified by any nation's parliament or Congress, it becomes a UN treaty and, thus, has the force of law that is legally binding upon that nation. Even if the United States does not vote to approve the WHO "strategy," those nations which do will be obligated by its terms. If the resolution imposes a UN tax on internationally-traded sugar or food stuffs used to manufacture high calorie junk food, US importers and exporters will be obligated to charge or pay that tax--even though the UN Charter does not give the UN the right to impose taxes of any type.
© 2004 Jon C. Ryter - All Rights Reserved
Jon Christian Ryter is the pseudonym of a former newspaper reporter with the Parkersburg, WV Sentinel. He authored a syndicated newspaper column, Answers From The Bible, from the mid-1970s until 1985. Answers From The Bible was read weekly in many suburban markets in the United States.
Today, Jon is an advertising executive with
the Washington Times. His website, www.jonchristianryter.com
has helped him establish a network of mid-to senior-level Washington insiders
who now provide him with a steady stream of material for use both in his
books and in the investigative reports that are found on his website.
"While the American people were largely too busy calorie-counting between hearty meals at America's convenience-store-type restaurant chains to notice the ugly black cloud that had settled over the WHO pronouncement, America's personal injury lawyers saw the black cloud and immediately recognized it as an opportunity."