- Pennsylvania Among 'Terrible 10' Most Regressive Tax States
- February 4 Non-Partisan Training: HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013: HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014
- Republican Governors Opt-In to Medicaid Expansion
- The Reports of Unions' Death Are Greatly Exaggerated
- Ask Allyson Schwartz to run for Governor
- Mind the gap: Opting Out of Medicaid Expansion Leaves Low-income Families Behind
- Jan. 14 Workshop:HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013; HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014
- Seth Williams on Guns, Jasmine Rivera on School Closures @PFC Meetup Wednesday
- PA Revenue Strong Midway Through Year; Tax Cut Could Have Big Impact
- What to Make of the Fiscal Cliff Deal?
Soda Exposes the Festering Toothache of our Politics
If you want to get a stomach ache, I would encourage you to read the Inquirer's article on the money heavy, astroturf campaign on behalf of that most aggrieved product: Soda.
The food and beverage industry is mobilizing against Mayor Nutter's proposed tax on sweet drinks, with a rush of activity that has City Hall bracing for a "madhouse."
Lobbyists are buttonholing City Council members. Trade groups and the unions have locked arms. Industry ads are sprouting on the air and in print extolling the good corporate citizenship of soft-drink companies. The public has weighed in with hundreds of calls and e-mails.
The Inquirer neatly sums up the arguments lobbyists are making against the tax:
The tax will cost jobs. Working families can't afford it. It's a "money grab" by Nutter. Soft drinks alone don't cause obesity.
Let's take this one by one:
1. The tax will cost jobs.
What jobs will this hurt? The bottling plants? Sorry, I doubt it. Coca Cola bottles in Philadelphia, and sells to the region. People in Philly pay the tax, people outside don't. It is not as if Coke would have an incentive to move out of the city- the same consumption tax would still exist.
Futher, Philadelphia itself is only a small part of the region's market. You would also have to assume that people will not substitute their sugary drinks for other non-sugary, coke-bottled ones. If there is one thing I trust, it is that if they need to, American corporations will figure out how to make sure people buy other drinks.
2. Working families can't afford it.
If this tax is done right, this is the worst argument of them all. All sin taxes, like all sales taxes, are regressive. Does that mean we should eliminate cigarette taxes? Of course not.
3. It's a "money grab" by Nutter.
Money grab? Ha ha ha ha. I really hope the lobbyists make this their center piece. We do all understand there is a deficit, right? And we either raise money or we can shut libraries, lay-off people, close after school programs and pools, and a lot of other stuff. We can argue about whether this is a good tax or well designed or whatever, but, the money has to come from somewhere.
4. Soft drinks alone don't cause obesity.
And Eddie Jordan didn't alone ruin the Sixers. Who cares?
Now, there is a legitimate argument that the way the tax is designed, as a BPT add-on, is not smart. I get that. But does that mean it will not work at all? I don't think so. I would expect that almost instantly, the price in vending machines would go up, the price in gas stations would go up, etc. But, I do get the argument, and I wonder if there is a better way to do this?
The article, however, is most focused on what is about to happen in the city. Lobbyists will write checks to Councilpeople, the teamsters will pack a hearing, letters will come in (and they have, many supposedly not from city addresses), and we will see commercials about poor, poor, poor soda:
Poor soda. I just want to go give you a hug and protect you, you aggrieved individual!
And hey, the ad has a point. As it says, "taxes never made anyone healthy." Right?
Several studies have examined the effects of state cigarette tax increases on youth substance use over the 1990s, with most -- but not all -- finding that higher taxes reduce youth consumption of tobacco... Our most consistent finding is that -- contrary to some recent research -- the large state tobacco tax increases of the past 15 years were associated with significant reductions in smoking participation and frequent smoking by youths.
We don't often see such clear floods of money into the city, at least on such a short-term, blast basis. But rather than every lobbyist with their hand out, and rather than an ex-Mayor waiving around an empty soda bottle, let's deal with reality:
1) Soda is really bad for you, and
2) We need money, so...
3) We are taxing soda.
The flood of money that is about to rain down on our city is not proof that this is a bad idea, but simply a clear display of the festering toothache of our political system.