This country’s bureaucratic meddling index (BMI) is climbing ever higher, says Bernard Darnton.
New government-funded research shows that the government should interfere in the food market more. Health economist (inveterate meddler) Des O’Dea yesterday presented research suggesting that the government should offer discount vouchers for healthy food. Apparently fresh food is too expensive.
One idea he looked as was getting rid of the GST on some foods. Bravo! Finally, a tax cut! But, no. It would be too hard to administer. Four hundred government departments and seventy-five billion dollars a year later someone works out that red tape is bad. And then it’s an excuse not to cut taxes. I spluttered so hard I could barely get any swear words out.
Here’s a plan. Make collecting GST on these foods voluntary. If you want to jump through the hoops and charge GST on chocolate biscuits but not on the wheaty plasterboard ones (or whatever rules the jobsworths came up with), good on you. If you think the rules are too complex, just ignore them and charge GST on everything. In theory this favours the big supermarkets over small dairies. In reality there’d be no effect because the “fresh” food section at most dairies consists of an optimistically-priced bag of damp onions and two bruised bananas.
The favoured plan is for poor people to be given discount vouchers that they can use to buy fruit and vegetables – food stamps. If this plan is introduced I hope to pick up some of these vouchers at eighty cents in the dollar. I might get the equivalent of my tax cut that way.
Diabetes New Zealand president Chris Baty is reported in The Press saying, “any scheme that allowed people to eat more healthy food was a positive move,” ignoring that fact that people aren’t currently forbidden from eating healthy food.
Would this programme to make fresh food cheaper work? When I lived in Lower Hutt I used to buy my seventy-plus a week at the Riverside market. Orchardists from Gisborne, market gardeners from Levin, and everyone else in the area brought their produce almost to my doorstep. It was plentiful and cheap. And yet, when I was bagging up my 69-cents-a-kilo apples, surrounded by literally truckloads of fresh fruit and vegetables, I could watch the fat kids wobbling around eating hot dogs.
So, no. The fruit was cheap, the fried crap was expensive, and the fat dads bought their fat kids fat-drenched food. They weren’t eating it because they were poor. They were eating it because they wanted to. Try doing a sociology PhD on that.
It will undoubtedly be as successful as so many other government plans. Sadly (for connoisseurs of the absurd at least), the government’s ‘Mission On’ programme, which encouraged children to become active by providing a web site for them to play games on, has been discontinued.
All this latest scheme would achieve would be a massive new government department to issue and redeem the vouchers and to work out what counts as healthy food. When I was a kid orange juice was healthy. Now it’s not, because it contains sugar. Some unemployable is going to have to go through every aisle in the supermarket to work out what’s in and what’s out.
One man they won’t be employing is Marc Ellis. In his role as orange juice magnate he was accused of peddling products that cause childhood obesity. As a remedy, he suggested “telling the fat pricks to go for a run.”
Our response to the food fascists should be similar. Tell them to take a hike.
* * Read Bernard Darnton’s NOT PJ column every Thursday here at NOT PC * *