The news this week is stunning. One more progressive-liberal, Democrat state Sen. Leland Yee is arrested, this time for bribery, campaign money laundering and firearms trafficking. His associates are indicted in murder-for-hire and other criminal acts. All of this from one of foremost proponents of gun rights restrictions and campaign finance “reform.”
What is it about the progressive-liberal ideology that lends itself to hypocrisy of the highest order?
That hypocrisy is now on full display in San Francisco, not just with the (alleged) corrupt and criminal Democrat Yee, but also with many on the Board of Supervisors and within the progressive political community. While publicly proclaiming their love of personal liberation, politically they are acting to extend greater and greater control over the lives of everyday, working San Franciscans.
Their latest scheme is to institute a “soda tax” of 2 cents per ounce on some sugar-sweetened drinks. That amounts to a price increase of 24 cents per 12-ounce can, $1.44 per six pack, and almost $3 per 12 pack.
The rationale is that, well, San Franciscans are too stupid to be entrusted with decisions on what to eat or drink, and that progressives are smarter than citizens, so they are justified in punishing them for their bad behavior by making it more expensive to drink a soda.
This is at heart a moral argument. It is, in their view, immoral and wrong to drink soda. As morality police, much like the Islamic Mutaween in Iran or Saudi Arabia, they work to crack down on perceived immoral behavior.
Yet these are the same progressive-liberals who tout their fidelity to liberation and criticize any who, in their view, don’t respect the virtue of tolerance.
Arguing for drug legalization, progressive-liberals assert that bodies are the property of their human owners and thus it is up to them to decide what to put into it. But, apparently, that right doesn’t extend to sugary drinks.
Progressive pro-abortion groups like the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights contend that women have a “right to choose what we want to do with our bodies” and that, “no one may interfere with our choices, our bodies and our lives.” That’s all well and good when ending a baby’s life, but if you want to drink a soda, forget it.
Not only are the neo-prohibitionists hypocritical, they are wrong on the facts and policy as well. First, contrary to the myth they push, calories from sugar-sweetened drinks are only a small part of the American diet. Just 6 percent of the calories in American diets come from sugar-sweetened drinks, including sports drinks and teas, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Almost twice as many calories come from cake, cookies and other desserts. Focusing on sweetened drinks to lower obesity rates thus makes little sense.
Second, the latest research shows the increased taxes on sugar-sweetened drinks correlate to less soda intake, but not to a reduction in the calories that cause obesity. But, why no reduction in calories when there is a (slight) reduction in soda consumption? Because consumers substitute away from soda to higher calorie milk, beer and snack foods, according to a report published this month in the Journal of Health Economics.
Finally, the proposed tax is bad policy in that it won’t necessarily affect the target group — lower income, working class San Franciscans. The proposed tax will be collected at the distributor level, not on retail sales. Rather than attempt the complex paperwork necessary to apply the tax to specific items in inventory, distributors are likely to spread the cost across all of their stock as a cost of doing business. The net result is that while politicians will extract more money from citizens, soda sales won’t decline by much, if at all. Yet, that is the nanny-state objective of the tax to begin with.
The progressive-liberal, neo-prohibitionist agenda is hypocritical to its core. While soda, more likely to be purchased by low-income workers, is attacked, drinks such as a Caramel Frappuccinos from Starbucks (36 percent more sugar per 12 ounces), are conveniently exempt from the proposed tax. Progressive, coffee house elitists avoiding the tax they want to impose on others? Imagine that!
Fortunately, San Franciscans will vote on whether to institute the soda tax. Let’s hope they defeat the self-righteous moralists of the left and bring some common sense back to the city by the Bay.
John McDowell is a longtime county resident having first moved to San Carlos in 1963. In the intervening years, he has worked as a political volunteer and staff member in local, state and federal government, including time spent as a press secretary on Capitol Hill and in the George W. Bush administration.