Monday 21 May 2012

Fat tax campaigner: "God told me to do it"

"What's that, Lord? Tax the poor?"

It is not an original thought to say that public health crusaders often resemble religious zealots, but seldom is the comparison more literal than in the case of Mike Rayner, director of the British Heart Foundation Health Promotion Research Group.

He was recently on the television advocating for the 'fat tax', and he has a blog...

I’m not going to run through my cv but at the moment I work full time for the University of Oxford in the Department of Public Health. I am the director of a research group there. The funding for my salary comes from the British Heart Foundation and the research we carry out is into issues such as food labelling, food advertising to children, food taxes (such as the Danish fat tax which has been in the news recently) etc.

He is one of the many researchers-cum-activists who populate the oxymoronic field of public health.

We aim to do research which has an impact on Government policy...

Because nothing says 'quality, impartial science' like an open admission of wanting to change the law of the land.

...we have had some success in this regard. For example some people credit us with inventing traffic-light labelling for foods and we paid a part in writing the current legislation around the tv advertising of junk foods to children and I think our research was one of the reasons why David Cameron changed his mind about fat taxes recently.

So far, so mundane. Another illiberal battler against the free market with a heightened sense of his own importance and his nose in the trough. The only point of interest is that Mr Raynor is a Church of England priest who is guided by voices.

In all of this I see a sacred dimension. You may not believe that I have heard God aright but I think God is calling me to work towards the introduction of soft-drink taxes in this country and I am looking forward to the day when General Synod debates the ethical issues surrounding this type of tax rather than some of the other issues that august body seems obsessed by.

Golly. Where to begin? On a theological note, I do wonder whether Jesus would really be in favour of a deeply regressive stealth tax that would take from the poor to give to the rich. Perhaps the reason the General Synod does not debate tax policy is because they recall the old "render under to Caesar..." message and realise that it's none of their business.

If we weren't already sceptical about the documents coming from Mr Rayner's team of would-be policy-makers, the fact that its director believes that God has told him to bring about a fat tax in this land should be enough to make us suspect that a tiny bit of research bias might have crept into his work. Considering that the Almighty has approved of the policy, what are the chances of his loyal servant producing evidence that would question its efficacy?

(You can download my latest paper, The Wages of Sin Taxes, here.)


Anonymous said...

Perhaps Mike Rayner should be reminded that Jesus turned water into the demon drink at the wedding at Canaa

Anonymous said...

Oh my lord! And these guys are influencing government policy?? Beam me up Scottie!

alf stone said...

Please tell me that you made this up.

dearieme said...

Interesting remarks on Death by Booze here.

How soon will we see the same statistical tricks applied to Death by Deliciousness?

Anonymous said...

Proof, in any were needed, that the inmates are running the asylum.

Ivan D said...

Less obviously traditionally religious but another associated worshiper at the altar of public health is

“Klim is the Chair of the National Heart Forum, an alliance of health related NGOs concerned to prevent premature mortality from cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions.”

Klim has a BA in mechanical sciences, an MA in something and a PhD in medical statistics making him supremely unqualified in anything at all really. However, as all of his degrees are Oxbridge...

westcoast2 said...

"Perhaps the reason the General Synod does not debate tax policy is because they recall the old "render under to Caesar..." message and realise that it's none of their business.

With respect Chris, my understanding of the "render under to Caeser.." message is completely the opposite to your suggestion here, that "it's none of their business". Indeed the message is that it is very much their business.

In context, the message is to resist unjust law/taxes. Benedict XVI, in Deus Caritas Est while referencing Mathews version of rendering unto Caesar, wrote..
"...the Church is duty-bound to offer, through purification of reason and through ethical formation, her own specific contribution towards understanding the requirements of justice and achieving them politically"

It would seem that the church (at least the Catholic Church) would be duty-bound to resist a deeply regressive stealth tax.

I am unclear whether it is you saying it is "none of their business" or you are saying the General Synod are using this as an excuse not to debate the issue.

If the former, then as outlined above, I disagree.

If the latter then maybe the General Synod needs a nudge and Mike Raynor is correct in suggesting that they debate the issue. In saying that, if the Synod did debate the issue, he may find they do not give him the answer he was looking for. oh well.

Onus Probandy said...

Our dinner, which art in oven, \
Haribo be thy name; \
thy Kettle Chips come; \
thy steak be (well) done, \
in earth as it is in oven. \
Give us this day our daily breaded chicken. \
And forgive us our tikka masala, \
as we forgive them that tikka masala against us. \
And lead us not into teriyaki; \
but deliver us from veg. \

For thine is the le Creuset, \
the pasta, and the sorbet, \
when ever, where ever. \