On January 1st, Philadelphia became the first major city (the other being Berkeley) to enact a Soda Tax, a citywide tax increase on drinks with added sugar at a rate of 1.5 cents per ounce. For example, a gallon of sweetened tea that used to cost $1.77 now fucks your shit up for $3.69 because of an extra $1.92 in tax.
People were heavily divided about this issue for a long time; most recently, with Philadelphia Mayor Nutter attempting to pass the bill back in 2011.
As always, Big Soda and the soft drink lobbies fight these initiatives by staging protests and–ideally–by writing massive checks to local health organizations to prevent them from backing the bills.
The criticisms arise due to the conflict of interest when an anti-obesity organization is being funded primarily by Coca Cola and Pepsi. But is it any different from Philip Morris funding the entire Anti-Smoking Truth campaign?
No. No it isn’t. Because people should be free to make choices and shouldn’t be bought out of those choices by bureaucrats. The Berkeley and Philly Soda Tax plans were not implemented as a health concern, they were implemented as a financial concern, and an anti-corporate concern.
While the soda lobbies paid protesters and others to rally against the tax as having a crippling effect on poor black people who can only afford sugary drinks…and the proponents of the tax paid protesters and others to fight “The Man” and deny the influence of the corporate fat cats, the reality still existed somewhere in between.
That reality is that soda consumption is going down, people are more health-conscious than ever, but people still like the occasional sweet soft drink.
So, not unlike the pharmaceutical companies that raise the prices of failing or unused drugs, the government saw an opportunity to milk an ungodly amount of money out of consumers for virtually harmless beverages.
Now, Philly Mayor, and child who made a tragic wish to be “big”, Jim Kenney, has succeeded where his predecessors have failed. The intention was originally to use 50% these extra tax dollars to fund previously non-existent citywide Pre-K education. But what happens when that number drops to 49%? People lose their minds.
This generally happens when a new tax is established, because, in general, people fucking hate new taxes. They like the nice things that come from taxes and call lawmakers evil when they want to deny tax dollars for Libraries, Parks, and yes, Pre-K education (read: Daycare) but become rabid animals when the money comes directly out of their pocketbooks. People are disgruntled about new taxes, but largely put their faith in the City Council to make the ethical choice. The true anger doesn’t come out until they see what 1.5 cents per ounce looks like at the cash register.
Frankly, it doesn’t matter where the money goes (even if it remains to be mostly charitable causes). It’s simply a ploy to make people believe they’re making a difference. In reality, the rich continue to dictate the behavior of the populous. When it comes to Democrats in-name-only, Bernie Sanders warned against these types of taxes (despite fighting on the same side as the soda companies), suggesting that, while they mean well, the result always tends to be poor people spending more of the little money they have to potentially support programs they likely won’t use….while Hillary Clinton praised such endeavors because she likely doesn’t know what poor people are.
Hell hath no fury like a middle and lower class being forced at gunpoint to pay more for weekly groceries because some billionaires promised it would go to a good cause. And while it remains the intention now, the money will quietly change hands…and people will get complacent with the extra money. Smaller businesses will stop carrying soda, as it’s too expensive, and a majority of the population with access to disposable income and vehicles will do what they’ve been doing for decades: shopping outside of the city.
If we continue to battle this unethical nonsense at the polls and at the register, there’s a good chance it will disappear sooner rather than later.
But in the meantime, just drink booze and water. You’ll be fine.