The opinions stated in this article are solely those of the author and not of The Davis Clipper.
What started in New York City has spread to Philadelphia, San Francisco, Chicago, and other major municipalities. We’re talking about a tax that Utahns don’t fear coming to our neighborhoods any time soon.
The “soda pop tax” is much maligned as government overreach and a case of “do-gooder” politics on steroids. Most proponents see it as a health-oriented measure; sugary soft drinks are not an integral part of the food pyramid. In Philadelphia, where the tax went into effect at the beginning of this year, the “motive” was pro-education with the money being spent on pre-Kindergarten programs. In all cases, supporters believe it is a good thing if consumers switch to bottled water and lay off the carbonated sodas.
Don’t worry, Utah. I’m sure the Utah Legislature would deep six any idea, taking the Charlton Heston approach: “You’ll have to pry my Diet Coke from my cold, dead fingers!”
Personally, I don’t have a dog in this fight. I don’t buy or drink soda pop. I purchase a Pepsi as often as I do a turnip; to me, drinking a Mountain Dew is like munching down on a sugar cube.
However, I also don’t like the idea of government leading us to make changes in our personal diet. It’s one thing to release information on why Americans are better off eating salmon than prime rib. It’s quite another to place a special tax on hamburgers, bacon, and coconut cream pie. Hey, I’m an adult; I don’t need a tobacco-like warning on the windows of KFC or Krispy Kreme Donut shops. Don’t penalize me for ordering my chicken fried rather than baked.
The problem, of course, is that Utahns are not even-handed in their taxes. Most Utahns appear to see nothing wrong when the state finances its school lunch program by placing a more than 80 percent tax on whiskey, wine, and beer.
Granted, overconsumption of liquor is a health hazard; so is overconsumption of red meat and Dr. Pepper. Drunk driving, of course, is not associated with a guy eating too many bacon and egg breakfasts, but heart disease and related obesity due to poor diets raises medical costs for all of us.
I’m not opposed to a tax on alcohol. Most drinkers accept it, as shown by the continually increasing sales at Utah liquor stores. However, I don’t understand the silence when a tax is placed on cabernet sauvignon compared to the public squealing when an extra dime is added to the cost of a Twinkie or a Coke.
The Associated Press claims that in Philadelphia Pepsi sales are down 40 percent while Canada Dry reports a 45 percent drop. Since a two-liter bottle of soda can go from $2 to $3 due to the tax, some consumers are driving to the suburbs to avoid the tax.
In reality, soda pop sales have been declining for some 10 years now due to health concerns, and it is more common to see a bottle of water in the auto console than a Maverik Mug. Still, I do recognize that product sales are hurt when government comes in and picks sides.
I just wish Utah’s elected officials would show a little more fairness. Stop overtaxing the low-hanging fruit, and refrain from telling people what is good for them. When government selects winners and losers, we all lose.