Soda tax is bad idea

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Although a federal tax on sugary fruit drinks is not contemplated, officials in some cities as well as legislatures in many states are contemplating what has been called a "soda tax" and candidates for the Democratic nomination for president have weighed in on different sides of the issue in light of the tax being advocated by Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney (a tax of 3 cents per ounce of soda, iced-tea and other sugary drinks, levied on beverage distributors) to generate more than $400 million over five years to fund universal pre-K and community schools that offer services like health care, as well as major renovations to parks, recreation centers and libraries.

Bernie Sanders opposes the tax as regressive, that is having a greater economic impact on low income individuals than on those with a higher income.

Hillary Clinton favors the ban because it discourages unhealthy consumption choices while raising money for worthy projects.

Sanders is right on this one. How is a tax on soft drinks is justified while taxes on candy and desert foods is not? Also why not tax low-nutrition snack foods that provide empty calories? Should high-fat meat and dairy products be subject to a tax that doesn't apply to reduced-fat alternatives?

The fact is that Kenney is relying on the tax not changing consumption habits. If the tax did, in fact, reduce consumption of sugary soft drinks, the revenue for his projects would be reduced.

This is one of those "sin taxes" that allow public officials to feel self-righteous about imposing a burden on those least able to afford it to raise money for public projects.