Big Cola Strikes Back

by on Feb.09, 2010, under Politics

The Los Angeles Times has given good consideration the prospects of taxing soda to pay for rising healthcare costs. An op-ed in October made the case for such a tax, and a front-page story last Sunday detailed the proposal’s murder by the beverage industry.

A few weeks after hearing testimony that a penny-an-ounce tax on soda could reduce consumption by 23%, Rep. Linda Sanchez proposed the tax to colleagues on the House Ways and Means committee to a favorable reception. Beverage industry lobbyists went to work, raising questions about the science and, significantly, bringing minority groups that they had long supported out in opposition to the tax, saying that it would affect minority consumers disproportionately. (It would cost minority consumers more, but these are people with higher rates of diabetes — Sanchez herself was recently diagnosed with gestational diabetes).

As dog ever bites man, lobbying scares Democrats:

By the time the Democratic caucus held its next closed-door meeting in early summer, the atmosphere had changed, Sanchez said — an assessment shared by Pascrell and some committee staffers.

Democratic Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights pioneer who represents Atlanta, the corporate headquarters of Coca-Cola, argued that the soda tax could lead to taxes on other foods, raising prices for hard-pressed consumers during a severe recession. If you begin taxing one sugar product, where do you draw the line?, he asked.

Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.), who represents a rural district where dairy farming is widespread, said he became concerned about the fairness of targeting one industry. Kind had heard from local Pepsi and Coke distributors, and he and other members also received letters from the National Milk Producers Assn. concerned that the proposed tax could apply to chocolate milk.

“We went from having real interest in this idea to it just falling off the table,” Sanchez said. “It was my perception that opposition increased as members began hearing from local businesses” that were part of the beverage industry coalition.

Michelle Obama debuted today her Healthy Food Campaign. The most regulation proposed inside it would grant principals the ability to ban unhealthy foods in schools, which is good, but altogether too localized. A soda tax would have discouraged consumption of a product and would reigned in the externalization of its costs.

:, , , ,

Leave a Reply

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site: