Photo credit: Vox Efx via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

“Soda Taxes” Are Just Liberals’ Latest Big Government Scheme


Years after former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg put soda in the nation’s crosshairs with a proposed ban on large beverages, soft drinks are once again being targeted by nanny-state politicians looking for an excuse to raise your taxes. But this time, their efforts are even more absurd.

Ronald Reagan famously said, “Government does not tax to get the money it needs; government always finds a need for the money it gets.” One is truly hard pressed to find a more perfect illustration of this than politicians begging for higher taxes on soda.

Politicians, such as Santa Fe, N.M., Mayor Javier Gonzales, have publicly cast themselves as heroes nobly fighting on the front lines against America’s obesity epidemic. Even worse, our virtuous public health crusader claims his proposed beverage tax hike is receiving pushback from evil soda companies.

How dare those evil soda companies ask for their product to be taxed no different than chips, cakes, candy, and all of the other junk food one can buy in a grocery store!

It’s extraordinarily comical that Gonzales would accuse anyone of waging a “campaign of disinformation” on soda taxation after he waged an unbeatably shameless one himself. Here are some of the findings from a Rio Grande Foundation investigation into Mayor Gonzales’ proposed soda tax hike (disclosure: I provided some research that was later used in this report):

  • October 12, 2016: Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales introduces a resolution calling for the city “to explore active ways of reducing sugar intake among Santa Fe’s residents and the benefits that would result.” Gonzales initially said, “This is a public health issue and all we’re doing with this resolution is asking our community experts, the Santa Fe Food Policy Council, to study the issue and come back to us with some options… Once they do that, we’ll take a look at what they recommend, have our discussion and then decide what we do or do not support.”
  • October 21, 2016: Mayor Gonzales denies he is working on a tax, telling T.S. Last of the Albuquerque Journal: “This doesn’t lay the groundwork for anything but a healthier community.”
  • November 10, 2016: Mayor Gonzales announces a proposal to impose a highest-in-the-nation (tied with Boulder, Colo.), two-cent-per-ounce beverage tax on hundreds of different beverages. In an apparently retreat from his concern about sugar consumption, he claimed to support the beverage tax “[a]fter determining that small increases in property or gross receipts taxes wouldn’t raise enough” revenue.

Mayor Gonzales’ “campaign of disinformation” regarding his motivation for a soda tax hike is especially ridiculous considering soda consumption in the United States recently hit a 30-year low. People are already drinking less soda — beverage tax hikes are a solution in search of a problem.

The significant decline in soda consumption makes it an unrealistic boogeyman for America’s obesity epidemic. But taking a page out of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s playbook, progressives have opted to “never let a good crisis go to waste” by using something as common as sugar to dramatically expand government.

Their playbook is simple:

  1. Convince the public that soda is a public health crisis.
  2. Demand higher taxes to protect us from ourselves.
  3. And, in the case of the proposed beverage tax in Santa Fe and the newly enacted soda tax in Philadelphia: claim that the money will be used to fund a new, virtuous-sounding government program (in this case, Pre-K education) so they can claim that anyone who doesn’t support their tax-and-spend scheme doesn’t care about the children!

You gotta hand it to the politicians — the scheme is pretty ingenious; so much so that some may overlook the irony that poor families who cannot afford early childhood education for their children will bear the brunt of this regressive tax. It is for this reason that socialist Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) came out against the Philadelphia soda tax, stating that it “targets the poor and the middle class while going easy on the wealthy. That approach is wrong for Philadelphia, and wrong for the country.”

Oddly enough, while Philadelphia’s soda tax may provide some with lower-cost early childhood care, it has actually increased education-related costs for others. Temple University claims the Philadelphia soda tax hike costs their university $400,000 a semester, and students will start paying higher boarding costs because of it. Students at Philadelphia’s other colleges (of which there are numerous) may suffer a similar fate.

So don’t buy into the sanctimonious arguments soda tax proponents are making in places like Santa Fe and West Virginia. While these proposals are great for exposing the alarmist liberal’s “How to Expand Government” playbook, they are terrible for American consumers.

Photo credit: Vox Efx via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Jonathan Decker

Jonathan Decker is the Chief Economic Correspondent for

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