Sugar consumption massively increased after government decided to manipulate science and our food supply. This, of course, was a significant contributor to our current obesity epidemic.
The government, along with the food manufacturers they’re in bed with, profited greatly off this shift while Americans were busy eating themselves into disastrous health.
Now, the government is positioning itself as the savior of a problem it had a major hand in creating by insisting it can curb all of this sugar consumption through targeted taxation. Namely, soda taxes (for now).
If that’s not a racket, I don’t know what is.
Of course, for now, this taxation is limited to individual states. But, we know the federal government is highly interested in having its hand in the pot as well. It may not be long before they go after a cut of the action.
These recent developments make it extremely important for consumers to understand what’s going on and why all of this targeted taxation, currently aimed at sugar, is a horrible idea.
1) Let’s get something straight: Government is incentivized to make sure you continue consuming soda and sugary drinks.
Right off the bat, you must understand that government does not want to end soda or sugary drink consumption. From an economic standpoint, government wants to make sure you continue consuming sugary drinks on a regular basis, as that’s the only way they can continue to collect this new tax revenue.
If you aren’t already aware, government cares a hell of a lot more about tax revenue than they do about you or your health. So, what they will do is have economists calculate the perfect tax rate that allows for your continued consumption while maximizing the revenue they collect.
Sure, they will tell you that they care greatly about you and your health, but that’s just marketing-speak. They will tell you that they are going after the big bad food manufacturers, but behind closed doors they’re all smoking cigars together and planning the next round of subsidies and anti-competition regulations that allow Big Food to continue their global expansion. If you believe otherwise, you’ve been fooled.
Government is masterful at creating scenarios where everyone wins but you, while making you feel like they’re on your team. I detailed precisely why they don’t care about you in Playing Politics With Food: Why Consumers Are Losing.
2) Soda taxes are unlikely to change behavior.
The official narrative is that the government cares greatly about you and your health and must tax you to save you from yourself. That’s just marketing-speak though. They know that soda taxes and sugar taxes are unlikely to curb consumption to any significant degree.
How do they know this? Well, they can look at the data regarding other similar taxes, such as cigarette taxes (the benefits of cigarette taxes are routinely misstated).
While the conventional wisdom is that cigarette taxes reduce adult smoking and in doing so serve an important public health function, the actual evidence to support this conclusion is relatively sparse…Overall, estimates indicate that the association between cigarette taxes and either smoking participation or the average number of daily cigarettes consumed is negative, small, and not usually statistically significant…Our analysis of the association between cigarette taxes and adult cigarette use suggests that adult smoking is largely unaffected by taxes. At best, cigarette tax increases may have a small negative association with cigarette consumption, although it is difficult to distinguish the effect from zero. source
As I mentioned in point one, though, government doesn’t care what happens to consumption as long as they maximize revenue intake. So, they’re not incentivized to look at past data to see if their policies actually work. They’re just banking on you taking their word for it.
3) These taxes may lead to unintended consequences.
Being that sugar is a drug for many people, it’s plausible that people on a fixed income may simply shift their spending away from other foods so they can continue consuming their medication in the form of sugary drinks.
If someone was trying to be healthier by buying organic produce, for example, they can simply return to purchasing conventional produce and immediately offset the cost they’re going to pay in sugary drink taxes. Or, perhaps they shift consumption away from meats and whole foods and more toward cheaper cereal grains and food products.
In effect, a tax that was supposedly designed to save consumers from themselves would lead instead to consumers making even more destructive choices.
4) Even if it does change behavior for some, it’s a wash. Soda isn’t the sole reason for obesity (nor is sugar).
Let’s say the taxes do work and soda consumption drops. That’s not going to solve the obesity and diabetes epidemic we’re facing. It also doesn’t mean people won’t just shift consumption away from sugary beverages and toward other sugary items that don’t carry the tax.
If someone switches from Mountain Dew to milkshakes, what then? I’m hard pressed to believe that the government hasn’t already considered this as a possibility, so that leads me back to point #1. They don’t care as long as they succeed with their revenue grab on soda.
6) It’s unethical. It’s extortion. It’s anti-liberty. It’s anti-human-rights. And the government doesn’t deserve a penny more of your money.
Human beings have an innate human right to consume whatever they please. Soda taxes make a claim on the property and/or the bodies of other human beings, which is a violation of that human right.
If a soda tax succeeds in barring someone from consuming sugary drinks, it means the claim on their body (their behavior) was successful and thus, a violation of their human rights. If a person pays the soda tax, it means the claim on that person’s property was successful and thus, a violation of their human rights.
Some may argue that it’s not a violation of human rights if a person “chooses” to pay the tax. But, this is clearly not a “choice.” A “choice” is something done willfully. If you’re coerced into doing something, it wasn’t a choice. It would only be a choice if the person willingly donated money to some fund when purchasing sugary drinks.
Taxation is not choice, it’s extortion.
7) This type of thinking can easily turn against you. One minute it’s soda tax and the next minute they’re taxing red meat because they still believe their own faulty “science.”
By far, this is the most important point. Anyone who looks objectively at the history of United States food policy can clearly see that the government either:
- Has no idea what they’re doing.
- Knows exactly what they’re doing and is nefariously manipulating the public.
Again, if you haven’t listened to The Secret History of the USDA Food Pyramid I would encourage you to do so. It clearly lays out a good chunk of this manipulation.
At any point in time, based on the historical behavior of the U.S. government, we could see new or increased taxes on such things as:
- Dairy products, especially full fat dairy products.
- Red meat.
- Wild game & hunting.
- Anything product containing saturated fat.
- Any product containing some arbitrary number of calories deemed inappropriate.
Soda taxes set a precedent and give the government permission and authority to start deciding what foods we should and shouldn’t be eating. It should go without saying that this is an absurdly dangerous precedent.
What are your thoughts on soda taxes and other “vice” or “sin” taxes? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.