Drink Up! Soft-Drink Industry Dodges Tax
by Byrne Hobart
Do you like to pair your quintuple-cheeseburger (The High Five!) with a soft drink big enough to swim in and loaded with enough fizzy additives to clean limestone?
Are you a lobbyist for a large soda company that long ago traded your chance for any sort of spiritual salvation for piles of stress and increasingly redundant money?
Are you perhaps a lawmaker who long ago became jaded and no longer harbors any delusion about helping people?
If you answered “yes” or “huh?” to any or all of these questions, there’s good news for you out of Washington: The soft-drink industry has doused plans to tax their sugary concoctions. Mere months ago, it looked bleak for pop-makers: public health advocates thought the plan would be an easy fit with Congressional Democrats looking to raise money, and figured lowering heart disease and obesity would be the cherry on top of this low-fat fro-yo sundae.
The Congressional Budget indicated that a tax of less then one cent per ounce could raise $50 billion dollars over 10 years. While it is hard to accurately measure the health benefits of the decreased consumptions, it is virtually certain that drinking less soda is healthy per se; such drinks are stuffed with calories but devoid of nutritional value.
The soda-slurping set didn’t take this news slumped in a diabetic coma. Operating under the name Americans Against Food Taxes, a coalition of interested parties sought to prove that such taxes unfairly targeted poor people. They enlisted the help of a bevy of Hispanic advocacy groups, including the National Hispanic Medical Association, which represents 36,000 Latino doctors and focuses on health issues, including obesity.
The coalition was able to convincingly argue that taxing soda set a bad precedent for food taxation, and was thus able to elicit support from a wider range of advocacy groups. Furthermore, they rejected evidence linking soda consumption and obesity, noting that a lack of exercise was for more to blame for the heavy situation the country finds itself in.
So next time you’re training for a 5K, skip the water: bring along a big bottle of Pepsi. A study commissioned by its manufacturers found its negative effects inconclusive. What more assurance could you want?