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America's Debate > Archive > Policy Debate Archive > [A] Domestic Policy
Just Leave me Alone!
Detroit is considering a fast food tax in an effort to fill the city's budget deficit and slim down it's portly residents.

In an effort to curb a looming $300 million budget deficit, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick last month floated what he called a "different budget than has ever been presented to our city council."

The budget includes a proposed 2 percent tax that would be levied only on sales at fast-food restaurants, among other items that would generate additional revenue for the city.

If approved by city voters and the state legislature, Detroit would become the first locale in the nation to impose a tax on fast-food. Consumers already are charged an average nationwide rate of 6 percent on restaurant tax, according to the National Restaurant Association (NRA).

Questions for debate: If additional city taxing of fast food passes in Detroit, will other cities follow suit? Is this policy "discriminatory"? Is this idea going to be political suicide for Kwame Kilpatrick? Was Mayor Kilpatrick effected by the movie Super Size Me?
Victoria Silverwolf
Well, in the very unlikely event that this tax actually passes, I'm sure that other cities would be tempted to do the same. I can't see this really happening, though. It's just asking for legal challenges. In the first place, what, exactly, will be considered "fast food"? Some comments from critics (from the same article):

The Mayor's office hasn't released too many details about this fast-food tax but one basic question is about how they differentiate between a McDonald's or a Wendy's or a casual dining chain like Chili's that also sells curbside and offers takeout . . .

Defining what is and isn't 'fast-food' per se is a difficult task in itself . . .

I don't think it's really "discriminatory" as just sort of goofy. If the city needs more money, why not just an increased tax on all restaurant purchases. The proposed addition of a 2% tax on fast food is unlikely to have any effect on what food someone chooses to eat. Fast food is generally cheaper, so it's not like the increased tax would make somebody choose to go a sit-down restaurant instead of a burger joint.

This might not be "political suicide," but it sounds like it will hurt a mayor who is already unpopular. From the same article:

Critics said Kilpatrick, who Time magazine recently included in its 2005 list of America's worst mayors, shouldn't expect consumers to applaud his creative thinking.

It sounds more like desperation on the part of His Honor than anything else.

I have no clue if the mayor even saw Super Size Me, but I suspect he was more influenced by the city's need for money. Maybe it's inexperience; I've seen it claimed that Kilpatrick is the youngest mayor of a major US city.

In any case, this doesn't seem like a good idea at all.
I agree, I don't think Super Size Me had any influence on the mayor's decision. Although I'm sure the director/producer/subject of that sham of a documentry would like to think so. Like many mayor's around the country the mayor is just trying to find a new source of revenue.

But I do he think the Mayor's idea of imposing a sin tax on fast food falls in line with the growing perception that fast food falls in a similar category as cigarettes and alcohol. One of the major revenue raisers of the 1990's was the heightened tax on alcohol and the huge increase in taxes on cigarettes. Politicians are known for their lack of imagination, so people shouldn't assume that this new tax represents any innovation, he's just trying a tactic that worked in the past. Of course in this case it seems to be backfiring on him.

But in a sense I do agree somewhat with the proposal's intention. A poor diet does lead to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and a myriad of other costly health problems. As a society will do have a interest in promoting healthier citizens, unfortunately this half baked idea (way too many details that would have to be resolved, starting with what constitutes fast food), would not help society address those issues.
Just Leave me Alone!
whistling.gif I suppose that I should answer this.

If additional city taxing of fast food passes in Detroit, will other cities follow suit?
I think so. America now has an "epidemic" of obesity. Every city is looking for revenue and if this somehow passes, the precedent will have been set. This would be like any other sin tax. Once the ball gets rolling, it's tough to stop it.

Is this policy "discriminatory"?
To discriminate is to make a distinction. So yes, the policy is technically discriminatory against people who put crap in their bodies, I mean, eat fast food.

Is this idea going to be political suicide for Kwame Kilpatrick?
Lets see, gluttonous government wants to tax citizens for being gluttonous. While the idea makes more since than an income tax IMO, it's still political suicide. Not that Kwame Kilpatrick had far to go.

Was Mayor Kilpatrick effected by the movie Super Size Me?
Complete opinion here, but absolutely. I'm not the only person to make such a connection. Detroit got ripped up in that documentary, and I honestly don't think that Mayor Kilpatrick or his staff are original or creative enough to have come up with this on their own.
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