If Democrats in Philadelphia get their way next week, it will be a lot more expensive to buy a bottle of Coca-Cola in the City of Brotherly Love. At the urging of Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, a city council committee voted Wednesday to slap a 1.5 cent-per-ounce sales tax on soda – diet and regular versions alike. According to the mayor, the revenue generated from the tax will go to fund programs like universal pre-K and efforts to improve city parks.
The proposal, in its current form, is actually a compromise down from what Kenney originally wanted – a 3 cent-per-ounce tax, limited only to sodas flavored with sugar. Unable to get such a steep tax past opponents, Democrats settled for half that amount and expanded it to include diet soda as well.
“You don’t always get everything you ask for,” said a spokesman for the mayor. “That’s the meaning of compromise.”
That compromise is unlikely to be enough to satisfy the soda industry, which has already threatened to sue the city if the bill is passed on June 16. Already, beverage companies have spent millions in advertising to oppose the tax, but their efforts have been matched by outside activists like Michael Bloomberg – the former New York City mayor who once tried to implement a partial ban on 2-liter sodas in the Big Apple.
Proponents of the tax have wisely tried to move the argument away from the perils of sugary soda and onto the benefits such a tax would bring to the city. They say the plan will bring in $90 million in new revenue over the next year.
Which is all fine and dandy, but you can imagine that an extra tax on chewing gum, action figures, or laundry detergents would also bring in plenty of extra revenue. It doesn’t explain why those who enjoy Mountain Dew should be expected to pay for Philadelphia’s educational programs.
If sugar is the evil that justifies the tax, then why are diet sodas included? Why start with sodas in the first place instead of, say, bags of actual sugar? Why not candy bars or ice cream or any of a million other products that contain more sugar than a human being should consume in one sitting?
This tax proposal is entirely arbitrary, regressive, and counter to free market principles. Instead of trying to force the residents of Philadelphia to go on a diet, the city council should focus on their own government gluttony.