In January of 2015, a seemingly benign new type of tax was added to the socialist left’s arsenal of weapons designed to further restrict the freedom that Americans had always enjoyed. The “sugar tax” idea has been around for a long time in the U.S., going back at least as far as Woodrow Wilson. Its current popularity rode the wave of Michelle Obama’s obsessive push to overhaul America’s diet with what she and her cronies determined to be a healthier diet.
The sugar tax was first instituted by Berkeley, California, with Philadelphia following in January of 2017. Since then, San Francisco, Oakland, and Albany, California have all followed. Not to be outdone by California and Philadelphia, a sweet arms race followed as additional Democratic strongholds in Boulder CO, Portland OR, Seattle WA, and Cook County IL, raced to be able to claim “me too” as it applied to this Democrat-led form of oppression on the impoverished.
There are two key problems as I see it when it comes to this leftist policy; I won’t include how this tax reinforces the nanny state criticism often directed toward the left or how it is a regressive tax that disproportionately hurts those at the lower end of the income scale.
The first problem with the tax is that it’s a typical leftist example of cronyism and market manipulation. The tax singles out certain “bad” beverages (typically carbonated sodas) for punishment with the tax, while it protects perceived “good” beverages like fruit juices. It fails to consider the fact that the fruit juices often have as much or more sugar than their soda counterparts. For example, Welch’s grape juice has 15 grams of sugar per serving while Mountain Dew only has 13.1 grams. Dole 100% pineapple juice ties with Dr. Pepper, a personal favorite of mine, at 10.8 grams per serving.
This favoritism of one class of drinks over another does nothing to alleviate the stated problems associated with sugar consumption. What it does do is allow the Democrats (who of course know better than you) to say they are offering healthier choices and get plenty of applause during speeches from their acolytes because they “care more about you”.
The second problem with this tax is that Democrats tout the benefits of the sugar tax, while simultaneously hiding the tax from consumers. I personally do not live in a city with this type of tax and have not visited any of the affected cities since its implementation, so I always assumed it to be a separate line item at the bottom of the sales receipt, much like the state, county, and city sales taxes are identified. I was wrong. My inspiration for this article came when I was shown an invoice by someone (who has asked not to be identified out of fear of losing their job) who knew I would be interested in this information.
The sugar tax is not presented where consumers can see it, so they can know where their money is going. The tax itself is buried within the transaction between the wholesaler and the retailer. When your local grocery store receives a delivery of a sugar taxed product, the tax is placed on the invoice to the retailer. At this level, there is not much the store can do to educate the consumer about which beverages they are paying extra tax on and which they are not. The retailer, because of system limitations, is forced to absorb the tax as a cost to each unit. In other words, the cost of the product absorbs into each unit at the time the retailer accepts delivery, not when the consumer buys the item. The customer never sees the tax. This seems to defy the intent behind the tax. The Democrats insist that these taxes are designed to reduce consumption to lead consumers to make better health decisions. If this is the case, why is the tax buried out of sight and therefore out of mind? The answer is simple – the tax is specifically just another money grab by Democrats who want more and more of our hard-earned money in order to control more and more of our lives.
On a side note, if the retailer never sells the item, the tax has already been paid, even if it is never consumed. No matter what happens with the product – even if it is never purchased for consumption – the government wins.
The sugar tax is principally unfair in its application on some sugary drinks when it is not applied on equally sugar-laden drinks further down the shelf. It becomes an evil tax when it is sold to the public as a means to promote healthy choices but is in fact purposefully hidden from consumers, so they won’t revolt when they learn the tax is in fact simply another tool to deprive them of their money.
Most importantly, this tax violates property rights and individual freedom. The science has been out for years on the potential health hazards that come with high sugar consumption. Additionally, tobacco dangers have been known for decades. People have a right to make their own decisions. Government has NO place dictating to us what we should and should not eat. We hear from the progressives all the time that women have a right to do what they want with their bodies. I suppose that deciding to have a Coke with lunch is much more serious and requires more government intervention than having an abortion after that lunch.
The sugar tax is WRONG. Restricting personal decision-making freedom is WRONG. Hiding the taxes on products is WRONG. Government micro-managing our lives is WRONG.
For now, I am going to enjoy a Dr. Pepper purchased where the Democrats can’t take extra money from me…yet.