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”

Arguments For and Against Junk Food and Soda Taxes

soda2

The debate over junk food taxes is drawing increasing attention from both sides.  Continued debate over of the adverse health impacts of sugary drinks is coupled with heating debate over the propriety of a tax on a dietary pleasure — a pleasure some believe people have an unassailable right to partake in, but others find to be a health hazard.

Here are some recent arguments from vocal advocates on both sides of the debate:

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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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Turboexpanders: Harnessing the Hidden Potential of Our Natural Gas Distribution System

turbineabstractMany of the innovations in green energy involve the recapture of otherwise wasted energy.  Regenerative breaking systems on hybrid automobiles recapture the kinetic energy inherent in the motion of the vehicle.  In a conventional automobile, as the brakes are applied, friction in the braking system converts this kinetic energy to waste heat.  But in a hybrid, a portion of this energy is converted to electricity and stored in batteries for future use.  Since this energy would otherwise be wasted, this is essentially free energy.[1] Similarly waste heat recovery systems recover energy that would otherwise be wasted from power generation facilities.  Most conventional power generation facilities covert approximately half of the energy in the fuel into electricity.  The remainder is lost as waste thermal heat.  Waste heat recovery systems recapture this heat so it can be put to good use, increasing the efficiency of power generation facility.  These are but two examples of innovative methods of recapturing otherwise wasted energy.  There is another unharnessed form of energy rushing through our cities and countryside every day: our natural gas distribution pipelines.

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JetLev-Flyer: The Flying Personal Watercraft

jpMS Watersports Gmbh out of Germany is now selling the JetLev-Flyer, a water propelled jet pack.  The design looks both novel and simple.  Based on a video from the company’s website, it appears the JetLev-Flyer works as follows:

  • The rider/pilot straps on a jet pack.
  • The jet pack is connected to a hose that runs to a float about the size of a personal watercraft that sits in the water.
  • The float follows the rider around. The float has a four stroke engine that pumps water up the hose to the jet pack and is shot out of the jet nozzles in the pack. The force of the water shooting out of the jet pack lifts the rider up. The rider can maneuver by controlling the direction and force of the jet.

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“The Capacitor Challenge” Wins XPRIZE Video Contest, Exemplifies Growing Interest in Energy Storage Technology

xprizewinnerToday XPRIZE Foundation announced that “The Capacitor Challenge”, a video calling for innovation in ultracapacitor technology, is the winner of their “What’s Your Crazy Green Idea” video contest [see my previous post about the contest].  The $25,000 prize was awarded to the video creators Kyle Good and Bryan Le of Irvine, California for receiving the most votes for their video entry in the contest.  The “What’s Your Crazy Green Idea” video contest was a call by the XPRIZE Foundation for ideas in the realm of green innovation that may serve as the basis of a goal for a future XPRIZE award.

The XPRIZE Foundation has not made an announcement about an official ultracapacitor XPRIZE yet, but the XPRIZE Foundation has a track record of offering very large prizes to encourage rapid innovation.  Several years ago they awarded a $10 million prize to Scaled Composites for launching the first reusable privately constructed vehicle into space.

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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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Video Calling for Ultracapacitor Innovation Makes Final Cut for X PRIZE Green Video Contest

imagesA video calling for innovation in ultracapacitor technology has made the final cut for the X PRIZE Foundation’s “Crazy Green Idea” video challenge.  The X PRIZE Foundation offers large awards for the achievement of one of their defined goals, typically involving scientific and engineering innovation.  They select goals with potential benefit to humanity.  In October of 2004 the X PRIZE Foundation awarded $10 million to Scaled Composites for the being the first private team to build and launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks.  The historical flight of the Scaled Composites SpaceShipOne spaceplane attracted international attention.

The “Green Video Idea” is a call by the X PRIZE Foundation for submission of videos containing ideas for future X PRIZE goals.  “The Capacitor Challenge” was submitted by Kyle Good from Irvine, California, calling for innovations in capacitor technology.

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Is Outdated Behavioral Code to Blame for Unhealthy Living Habits?

Notwithstanding the well known danger and the clear evidence that healthy living habits significantly reduces the risk, many Americans choose to live lifestyles that put them at high risk of suffering from heart disease. To explain this seemingly irrational human behavior let’s take a look at how evolution has coded humans to behave.

codeevoThe leading cause of death in the United States is heart disease.   In fact the average American stands a 1 in 3 chance of dying from heart disease.   Advances in medical technology cannot offset the increasingly poor lifestyle that American’s lead.  Most people are familiar with the most often cited measures for decreasing the risk of heart disease, mainly:


1.       Don’t smoke

2.       Be active

3.       Eat healthy

Notwithstanding the well known danger and the clear evidence that healthy living habits significantly reduces the risk, many Americans choose to live lifestyles that put them at high risk of suffering from heart disease.   To explain this seemingly irrational human behavior let’s take a look at how evolution has coded humans to behave.

Continue reading “Is Outdated Behavioral Code to Blame for Unhealthy Living Habits?”