Friday, March 12, 2010

New York Soda Tax Claims to Sweeten Up Life

For the past few weeks everyone in the tri-state area has heard about the impending New York City soda tax, however few if any know much about it. Surely you have heard the government claim that this is a direct assault on childhood obesity. That the low cost of soda in comparison to healthier yet more expensive 100% juice alternatives, leads the poor to be disproportionally overweight, a strong juxtaposition to the times of King Louis VI when it was the poor who wore bare bones not rich celebrities. While these claims make sense to some, to those who critically think you will see a plethora of holes in this logic. As a one time cashier at a food store I will admit that some unhealthy meals such as high fat tv diners are certainly more affordable than the more expensive meals which include requirements from all 5 food groups.

However, to say that raising the price of soda will in any tangible way decrease soda intake, is a fallacy. Personally at my local grocery store, one can acquire a 3 Liter Store Brand Soda for $1.19 while a 2 liter Pepsi will set you back $1.50 and a and an even smaller 20 oz Pepsi from the mini fridge would be $1.49 (meaning $.01 an ounce for store brand $.02 ounce for Pepsi and a whooping $.07 an ounce for a cold Pepsi). Despite this extravagant markup none of the customers I have been unfortunate enough to checkout seem to mind and continually pick the name brand over cheaper alternatives, some going as far as to but back actual necessities in order to keep the soda when the bill is too high.

To quote Larry David on a recent episode of Marriage Ref, "These people are moronic,I don't want to help them." This isn't just how I feel, it is the feeling of the government too, albeit in a more roundabout way. So why is the government getting involved if they don't really care? Some might say that the government has a deal with companies who make products such as Juicy Juice, others still might claim the government is planning some world wide beauty pageant and is preparing by getting all Americans to look their best. While certainly anything (bad) is possible when the government is involved, these outcomes are highly unlikely. What is likely however is a preemptive strike, the government preparing for a future involving a public health care option. And for the first time in a long time the government is actually seeking to be efficient and reduce costs, and is doing so by trying to create a healthier America. Less obesity means less costs for the government, a healthy and happy life for all Americans was never once contemplated. It's a shame that, that a country that once sought to purge the world of fascism, has turned to it itself.

When the Romans began down this road of government intervention in every aspect of society, they allowed people their "bread and circuses" to pacify the public. Although this was wrong it at least should some compassion and some acknowledgment that the government was overstepping their bounds, and owed the people something for doing so. America, on the other hand has been slowly stripping the average American of their individual rights since the days of FDR. But unlike the Roman's the U.S.A doesn't even have the common decency to allow us our bread (taken by this new soda tax) or our circuses (slowly dismantled by the FCC).

Always the optimist, I can see some positive in this oppressive new tax. 1) an expanded black market for soda will spur individual creativity, and most likely lead to sodas that not only ignore current regulations regarding sugar content and calories, but also expand upon the current list of flavors. Perhaps well see some new innovative flavors spring up in your friends basement, cotton candy, ice cream or even alcohol based sodas. 2) Open up an underground foreign soda market. Like one this would reintroduce Americans to some flavors we have become out of touch with, such as the coffee based Coke Blak. 3) Failure. The most alluring of all the possibilities is failure. As said before a black market will arise, the poor will grow poorer and the fat fatter as they continue to consume soda, stores will refuse to collect the tax, and just as was the case with alcoholic prohibition more soda will be consumed than every before.

If you live in an area effected by this tax, or even if you don't, I urge you to write, call, and otherwise bombard you local representatives with emails. Protest the tax, suggest alternatives, send this article, and tell them that if they feel like regulating anything they should start by regulating themselves.

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