The Boston Globe’s estimable Alex Beam picked up on the Next Big Thing For Us To Demonize earlier this week, chronicling federal efforts to levy sin taxes on fast food and soda pop.
It’s not just big government that is anxious to levy economic sanctions on the overweight (into whose ranks I fall, according to the Centers for Disease Control, with a societally disapproved “body mass index’’ of 29). With Robespierrian ardor, school districts are removing Coke and Pepsi dispensers from their corridors, replacing them with machines that dole out orange and grape juice. Those have twice the sugar of the hated colas, but never mind that.
But taxing sugared soft drinks to pay for federal health care reform, a New York Times piece reports, won’t go down smooth with the beverage industry.
The chief executive of Coca-Cola calls the idea outrageous, while skeptics point to political obstacles and question how much of an impact it would really have on consumers.
According to the Times story, it would have a big impact:
[A New England Journal of Medicine] study cited research on price elasticity for soft drinks that has shown that for every 10 percent rise in price, consumption declines 8 to 10 percent.
Enter Americans Against Food Taxes, a front group for the beverage industry. I might be wrong, but my guess is that corporate gunsel Rick Berman – or Dr. Evil as he prefers to be called – is behind the astroturf movement to kill sugar taxes.
Berman has also attacked Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, bans on transfats, and labor unions as a concept. (In his defense, Berman says he’s just giving corporations a voice in in the hurly-burly of democracy.)
You can argue Berman round, you can argue Berman flat. But he’s gonna be a player in the burgeoning sugar tax rumpus.