Interestingly, Politico describes the levy as a sin tax. Since when is drinking soda a sin? What church characterizes Coca-Cola that way? I've never heard a priest, minister, rabbi, or imam denounce the evils of Dr Pepper or even supercharged Jolt. I wonder if the nice people in Berkeley would refer to marijuana taxes in a similar vein.
The American Beverage Association is going all out to defeat the measures, arguing that it's none of the government's business if you relax with a Coke and a smile once in a while. They also argue that the tax is regressive. Rich people tend toward bottled water, while the poor kick back with a cold soda. Despite the association's pecuniary interest in the outcome, the group is right on both counts. This is government overreach, and it punishes poor people. I wish my friends at Citizens for Tax Justice and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities would criticize the proposals on the regressivity argument.
Proponents of the measures say soda makes you fat and that you shouldn't drink it. I guess if you drink five or six Big Gulps of Coke every day, you'd gain some weight. But if that's the concern, why not tax doughnuts, milkshakes, double cheeseburgers, foie gras, calf's liver, or white bread -- all of which will make you fat. Heck, why not tax kids sitting in front of computer games?
The pro-tax people don't care about fat people any more than they care about poor people. They're busybodies looking for an opportunity to tell someone what to do and how to live. I hope the folks in San Francisco and Berkeley say no. And I hope Politico is right and that this is the last fight on this issue.
This post is an excerpt of an article that first appeared in State Tax Notes.