Wednesday 5 November 2014

Soda tax passes in Berkeley, but fails in San Francisco

Take that, Big Soda!

The residents of Berkeley (America's most, ahem, 'liberal' town) have voted to tax themselves more heavily with a 75 per cent vote. This makes them officially loopier than San Franciscans who voted 55-45 in favour of a higher soda tax (of two cents per ounce), but failed to provide the two-thirds majority needed for the tax to come into effect.

Regular readers will know that I have a low opinion of the people of the Bay Area so I am not surprised that a majority of them think that soda is the new tobacco. Even so, it is a tough sell to ask people to vote for higher taxes. The 'grass roots' pro-tax campaign - which was funded by taxpayers' money and run by a public relations firm - was remarkable for being based entirely on whipping up hatred of 'Big Soda'. It harnessed the anti-business mentality of locals and, in particular, students to the point where they were prepared to cut off their nose to spite their face. It even got away with the misleading claim that "This is a tax on industry, not a sales tax on consumers or a tax on retailers" - as if it wouldn't put prices up (how could it have any effect on consumption if it didn't put prices up?)

This strategy succeeded in getting absolute majorities in both cities even if it only got a real victory in Berkeley.

So what now? As the BBC notes, "there have been about 30 previous attempts to introduce a soda tax in US states and cities, all of which failed." Do you think 'public health' campaigners will seek to emulate the 30 places that rejected soda taxes or will they choose to "follow the lead" of barmy Berkeley, a socialist outlier in a bampot State?

I think we know the answer to that. The state-funded sock puppet group ChooseHealth SF is already saying that Berkeley "knocked the first domino down tonight". It's hard to see many US cities going for a soda tax if even San Francisco can't get a two-thirds majority, but venal politicians in countries which do not require a plebiscite will be rubbing their hands at the thought of another stealth tax.

1 comment:

Christopher Snowdon said...

The Berkeley "Yes on D" soda tax campaign was not paid for by the taxpayers. Nor was it predominantly passed by students, most of whom don't bother to vote and many of whom are not registered to vote in Berkeley but rather in their home towns. It was a 'feel-good' measure fueled by prejudice and bad science and I think many of the voters felt they were actually voting against 'obesity and diabetes' somehow. The possibly bright side is that the money just goes into the general fund, not into some fatuous public health program, but there will probably be a lot of calls to use the money for a health and nutrition program, not to fix the potholes.