New Soda War Battles
“It’s worth fighting for. . . . This is about our economy, it’s about jobs, it’s also about our traditions and our values.”
The speaker was John Kerrey and the topic was the cranberry.
Worried that sugary beverage limitations could move far beyond soda, Massachusetts Senators Kerrey and Brown have formed a 17 member Congressional Cranberry Caucus. As the second largest US cranberry producer (Wisconsin is first), Massachusetts is the home of the $2.5 billion industry. If the Department of Agriculture bans sugary drinks from school lunches and if the Congress taxes sugary drinks, the caucus wants sugar-laden cranberry juice cocktail to be excluded.
Meanwhile, in New York, the soda industry has begun an advertising campaign to fight Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed ban on selling sugary beverages in containers that exceed 16 ounces at regulated stores. Its message? Personal choice is an unacceptable sacrifice.
Fight obesity? Preserve personal choice? Support jobs?
Thinking economically, an opportunity cost chart is always a handy way to gain insight. At the top we would have “tax sugary drinks” and the alternative, “don’t tax sugary drinks.” Then, for each choice, we could list the benefits. Two benefits of the tax would be healthier individuals and more government revenue. Benefits of no tax would be individual freedom, retaining jobs and supporting the cranberry and soft drink industries.
Remembering “choosing is refusing,” which benefits are you willing to sacrifice?
And finally, you might want to take a look at Denmark’s fat food taxes on butter, milk, pizza, any food with more than 2.3% saturated fat content. A news article from April 2011 said the fat food tax for every 2.2 pounds (one kilogram) is $2.90 (16 kroner). In addition, Denmark taxes chocolate, other sweets, sugary drinks and alcohol while limiting trans fats.
To read more about the cranberry caucus, you can look at this Bloomberg/Businessweek article and you can see what Boston.com says about it. For the New York City large size sugary beverage ban, the NY Times has this update. And here, here and here econlife discusses soda and fat taxes.