July 23 2014

Hyperbole Alert: Soda Taxes a Matter of "Life or Death" in San Francisco

Julie Gunlock

USA Today reports

San Francisco lawmakers narrowly agreed Tuesday to place a 2-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks on the November ballot, a move that promises to turn the election into an expensive fight between the beverage industry and public health advocates.

The city's Board of Supervisors voted 6-4 to ask voters to approve the tax on sodas, sports drinks and other beverages sweetened with sugar and sold in the city. It would have to be approved by two-thirds of the electorate to take effect.

City officials have estimated the measure would raise somewhere between $31 million and $52 million a year. The proceeds would go toward nutrition, health, disease prevention, recreation and school physical education programs.

Yeah, except the proceeds never really go toward these so-called "obesity-prevention programs" do they? Instead, politicians use these "it's good for you" taxes as revenue raisers because California lawmakers are miserably bad at managing money and constantly need new ways to dig themselves out of the financial holes they've created. Why won't these guys use that thing called budgeting.

Of course, these paternalistic sin taxes are relatively easy to sell (especially in liberal San Franciscans) and after the push for passage, who’s really going to notice when the proceeds are diverted from fat cessation programs to fund the regular list of left-wing social programs that really do nothing to help the already overtaxed and underemployed population. But of course, the impact of these new taxes on people's own food budgets, jobs, and small businesses never really gets properly addressed because lawmakers are too busy huffing and puffing about this being...i'm not kidding...a "life or death" issue:

"This is a life-or-death issue," said Supervisor Malia Cohen, a sponsor of the tax. "Bullets are not the only thing killing African American males. We also have sugary beverages that are killing people."

One hopes the citizens of San Francisco can distinguish between the true tragedy of gang violence and the make believe hysteria about sweetened beverages and will consider whether they want to be represented by politicians who cannot understand the difference.

According to the USA Today story, the supporters of the bill said they were motivated "by research" that has shown a link between sugar consumption and increasing rates of obesity and diabetes among young people. That's interesting considering the hefty body of evidence that shows soda taxes only work if they're much higher than the two-cent tax proposed here. Also, how about all that research that shows obese individuals (ostensibly that group of people Supervisor Cohen is trying to save) drink mostly diet sodas. Or, how about that research that shows when you tax one thing, people simply switch to another high-calorie beverage (like coffee confections, alcohol, etc). Or how about the research I just did on Google maps showing that grocery stores exist outside of the city.

Time to load up on soda in Oakland!

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