Fitness Tax Credit: Fitness Inducer or Revenue Reducer?

A while back I wrote about a proposed junk food tax.  Proponents of junk food taxes argue that maintaining good health amoung individuals in society is an important public policy consideration.  But there are components to a healthy lifestyle beyond avoiding junk food.  Fitness through physical activity is frequently cited as a critical element of healthy lifestyle.  Daily exercise and weight control is the bedrock of the nutrition pyramid published by the Harvard School of Public Health.  And the Presidential Council on Physical Fitness and Sports reports that “Adults 18 and older need 30 minutes of physical activity on five or more days a week to be healthy; children and teens need 60 minutes of activity a day for their health.” ((http://www.fitness.gov/resources_factsheet.htm))  In response to these calls for increased physical fitness, some are proposing a fitness tax credit.  If the health of individuals is indeed an important public policy objective, then a fitness tax credit, a tax credit that makes fitness resources more accessible, may be a worthy consideration.

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Economics of Oil and Fruit Roll-Ups

In the first grade, my favorite part of my lunch was Fruit Roll-Ups.  My Mom used to call them fruit road kill, but to my first grade taste buds they were a gourmet fruit treat.  I quickly learned that my consumption of fruit rolls ups could not exceed my supply.  I had two primary supply sources of Fruit Roll-Ups:

  1. domestic supply from home:  those Fruit Roll-Ups that my mother purchased and put into my Spider-Man lunch box.
  2.  

  3. non-domestic supply: those Fruit Roll-Ups that I gained from other sources, primarily through purchase or barter transactions with classmates.
  4.  

Obtaining Fruit Roll-Ups up from sources other than my Mother was expensive and unreliable.  When supply for barter was available I would offer a cookie for an orange flavored fruit roll up or my place in line at the handball court for an apricot fruit roll up (my favorite flavor).  My Mother’s nurturing nature made domestic supply the most stable source of Fruit Roll-Ups.  I could rely on that one Fruit Roll-Up to always be in my lunch box.  I understood at a young age the hazards of upsetting my Mother, who among countless other things, could affect a disturbance of my stable domestic source of Fruit Roll-Ups  I knew that if that source was upset I would need to work hard to increase non-domestic supply or inevitably reduce consumption. Stated in its most simple terms, my consumption of Fruit Roll-Ups could not exceed my supply . Given that: CFR =  my consumption of Fruit Roll-Ups FRmom = Fruit Roll-Ups supplied by my Mom FRclassmates = Fruit Roll-Ups obtained through barter with classmates Then: CFR = FRmom + FRclassmates I learned this simple truth of the relationship between consumption and supply at a young age.  And every day as an adult I deal with the economic reality that my consumption of the things that I need or want cannot exceed my supply.  If one source of supply of anything I desire diminishes, I have no choice but to find a way to increase supply from other sources or reduce consumption.  The Fruit Roll-Up analogy might have been a long winded method to summarize this formula, but something inside of me just felt like blogging about Fruit Roll-Ups today. This same rule of supply and demand applies to our nation’s supply and use of oil.  The nuances of the economics of oil are substantially more complicated that those of Fruit Roll-Ups.  Oil supply and demand is impacted by a variety of domestic and global economic, social and political factors.  While these factors may resemble school yard economic, social and political factors, they are more complex if for no other reason than because of the amount of money and people involved.  But the fundamental restriction that consumption cannot exceed supply holds true. ((ignoring the impact of stock piles or borrowing.)) Continue reading “Economics of Oil and Fruit Roll-Ups”

Northwest Flight 253: How Do We Reconcile the Risk Posed by a Failed Attempt?

Sometime around the end of 2009, in the wake of Abdulmutallab’s failed attempt to bring down Northwest flight 253, I was having a conversation about the incident.  My fellow converser expressed hesitation to declare the incident a security breach.  Her hesitation was rooted in the fact that the attempt was unsuccessful.  To put her hesitation into my own words, how can we conclude that a terrorist attempt that failed nonetheless had a high probability of success?  And without fully understanding Abdulmutallab’s probability of success, how can we declare that a security breach occurred?

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The Tension Between Public Healthcare and Personal Health Habits

Does societal responsibility for individual health needs give rise to individual responsibility to maintain health?

The proposed changes in healthcare have consumed a fair portion of media attention over the past few months.  Much of the debate revolves around the provisioning of healthcare to American’s.  But buried deep in the discussions is some talk about preventive care and the role that health maintenance plays in America’s overall healthcare policy.  President Obama’s healthcare policy discussion mentions individual responsibility for preventative care:

“Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe that protecting and promoting health and wellness in this nation is a shared responsibility among individuals and families, school systems, employers, the medical and public health workforce, and federal and state and local governments. All parties must do their part, as well as collaborate with one another, to create the conditions and opportunities that will allow and encourage Americans to adopt healthy lifestyles.”[1]

The proposed changes in healthcare represent, to some degree, a movement towards increased public responsibility for the health of individuals.[2] If society shoulders some of the burden of individual healthcare issues, then an individual’s health habits have, in addition to personal health consequences, external repercussions.  This begs the question:  If society takes responsibility for the health of its citizens, do the citizens have a corresponding responsibility to society to maintain their own health?

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The Entropy in Crime and Punishment

Punishing Consequences or State of Mind: An Examination of the Driving Force Behind the Criteria Used for Criminal Punishment – PART 2

This post is a hugely delayed continuation of a discussion that I began several months ago here:  Do We Imprison People Randomly? If you have not read that earlier post, this post may lack context.

The Reality Equation

randomcrimeThe intuitive response to the hypothetical presented in Part 1 is that it takes place under circumstances that can only exist in a fictional world. In reality, it is virtually impossible for Driver A and Driver B to have identical states of mind. Perhaps Driver B was driving a smidgen faster than Driver A. Perhaps Driver A had a car that was capable of handling faster speeds safer. Perhaps the wind was blowing against Driver A but with Driver B making it easier for Driver A to halt his car in an emergency. There are countless factors that could bear on the safety of the driver’s conduct. It is the action of the driver under the precise unique circumstances of the moment that give rise to the state of mind of the driver. Thus, there might never be a real situation where two individuals truly have an identical state of mind.

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The Junk Food Tax: Good for Our Health or Bad for Our Wealth?

obtax1Last month New York Governor David Paterson proposed an obesity tax to be levied on fattening foods.  He characterizes America’s problem with obesity as a crisis.  Drawing a comparison to cigarettes, he suggests that just as cigarette taxes reduced the number of American’s consumption of cigarettes, a tax on certain junk foods should reduce the consumption of unhealthy fare.

Paterson remarked:

“Just as the cigarette tax has helped reduce the number of smokers and smoking-related deaths, a tax on highly caloric, non-nutritional beverages can help reduce the prevalence of obesity”[1]

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Two Face’s Take on Punishment: Dish it Out By Chance

twofaceA couple of days ago I posted part one of my article examining whether our method of punishing criminals leads to imprisonment based on what are seemingly random events. If you haven’t read that article and you have some time, you can check it out here:  Do We Imprison People Randomly? Without having read that article, what follows may lack context and may make little sense.

Last night I was watching the recent DVD release “The Dark Knight”. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a must see. It’s about as good as it gets if you like action or super hero movies. But if you fall into that category, you’ve probably already seem this film, so the point is moot.

Towards the end of the movie, the rookie villain Two Face holds a gun to a young boys head and prepares to flip a coin to determine the boy’s fate. As he holds the coin in his hand he says:

“The world is cruel. And the only morality in a cruel world is chance. Unbiased. Unprejudiced. Fair.”

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Do We Imprison People Randomly?

Punishing Consequences or State of Mind: An Examination of the Driving Force Behind the Criteria Used for Criminal Punishment – PART 1

On a pleasant spring day, two men go out hunting. They both have a history of heart problems and have both had a heart attack within the past year. As they are walking through the forest a loud bang from another hunter startles them and triggers another heart attack in each hunter. Their fingers involuntarily clench the triggers of their rifles. One of them fires a stray bullet into the dirt. The other fires a bullet that travels two-hundred feet to where another hunter is hiding the bushes. The stray bullet strikes this third hunter in the head. Should the hunter responsible for discharging the bullet that ultimately killed a person be punished differently from the hunter that shot the bullet into the ground? Stated differently, as a society, how do the mere consequences of a defendant’s actions bear on our punishment of his crime?

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