Friday, January 09, 2009

Tax Plan Fizzles

The governor's plan to tax soda is running into opposition-and not just from soda bottlers. As the NY Daily News reports, some purveyors of other kinds of sugary drinks are taking exception to, well, the plan's exceptions; particularly the pass given to calorie laden fruit juices: "A fat lot of good this is gonna do. Fizzy drink makers are lashing out at Gov. Paterson's obesity tax, saying it will burn a hole in people's pockets without winning the battle of the bulge. The proposed 18% levy on some sodas, fruit juices and carbonated drinks has come under fire for including flavored sparkling beverages that have fewer calories than those made just from fruit."

The reality here is that there is no rationale to just tax soda-at least if your goal is to make government the arbiter of what you can, or cannot eat: "The proposed tax is completely irrational," said Liz Morrill, founder and CEO of Fizzy Lizzy, a brand of natural sparking juice. "It imposes no tax on 100% juices such as Tropicana Pure Premium Orange, which has a whopping 165 calories and 33 grams of sugar per 12 ounces, but levies a massive 26% tax on Fizzy Lizzy Tangerine, which contains only 100 calories and 24 grams of sugar per 12-ounce bottle."

The road to hell here is really being paved with misguided intentions-and the premise of the tax, if extended to its logical conclusion, would make everything fair game for greater government intrusion into individual decision making. After all, there's an argument that could be made (and alsways a nanny to make it) for taxing a whole lot of supposedly unhealthy things.

But if you tax soda, where do you ever draw the line? As the News says: "Paterson's proposal aims to help New Yorkers stay lean by making it more expensive to buy nondiet sodas, fruit drinks with less than 70% natural fruit, or carbonated drinks containing sugar, fruit juice, additives or flavoring."

And if the tax is too low to change behavior? The next logical step is to increase it to see where the pressure point will be for behavioral change. The end result of this modality? Increase taxes on an increasing number of products-and the health of local business be damned.