The PJ Tatler

The Left Didn't Get Much on Tuesday, But At Least They Got Berkeley to Tax Soda

People of a left persuasion often argue that you cannot legislate morality, before they go and attempt to legislate morality  — their own, of course, not any morality that they oppose.

They also like to argue for keeping government out of the bedroom, while they’re perfectly happy to put government in the bedroom, in your living room and in your kitchen and in your wallet and right into your hand when it suits them.

They’ll ban plastic bags in a leftwing city like Austin, ignoring strong evidence that reusable bags are unsanitary and increased use of paper leaves them fewer trees to hug.

Now in Berkeley, they have a soda tax to show for their efforts.

Tax hikes on soda, in the name of public health, were on several ballots across the country including San Francisco, but the only one that actually passed Tuesday is the one that was up for grabs in Berkeley.

The American Beverage Association, made up of soda makers, spent lots of money on one side to oppose the ban. Former New York Mayor Micheal Bloomberg, of soda ban infamy in his city, spent about $650,000 of his own money to impose his disdain for sodas on Berkeley. Berkeley voters approved by 3-to-1, but the law won’t tax consumers. It taxes the soda distributors. Leftists in other cities have tried, a couple dozen times, to impose similar taxes. Berkeley is the first to actually do it.

The taxes will go into the city’s general fund, where they’re likely to be used to fund Berkeley’s other hair-brained leftwing ideas.

Forbes opines that the tax sets a scary precedent for the food industry well beyond soda makers. It does. If soda can be sin taxed, so can a whole lot of other perfectly legal products that Americans choose to consume or not to consume. Will a Twinkie tax be next?

The soda tax is explicitly designed to persuade American consumers to make a lifestyle choice that the likes of Bloomberg deem more appropriate for them than they choices they are currently making. It’s a very regressive tax. It will hit the poorest the hardest. The left don’t mind imposing some regressive taxes and have been fairly upfront about their goals — they don’t like Americans’ current choice which, by and large, is to drink lots of sugary drinks, and are using taxes and laws for the purpose of coercion.

That model began for the most part with tobacco, a legal product that many wanted to ban but settled for stigmatizing and sin taxing to death. It’s unlikely to end in Berkeley, or with soda, or even with food.

In fact, the soda taxmen already have leftwing cities with big universities in their crosshairs.

[H]ealth advocates are practically jumping for joy. After decades of hard-fought losses on soda taxes, they hope their victory in Berkeley will breathe new life into the issue. The win is “absolutely huge,” according to Marion Nestle, a professor at New York University and author of “Food Politics.”

“Yes, it’s Berkeley, yes, it’s a liberal community with a big university, but there are lots of communities like that in America,” said Nestle, who is currently working on a book about food advocacy and the soda industry. “Others will certainly do the same thing. If it could win in Berkeley, it could win in a lot of places. Maybe it will pass in Austin. Maybe it will pass in Ithaca. … Other places are going to try this.”

Bloomberg still has lots of money to burn.