Policy

Soda Tax: The Revenge

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look at the BMI on that dame!

The newish head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Thomas Freiden—the man who helped bring trans fat and smoking bans to NYC as the city's health commissioner—wants to have another go at taxing soda.

As usual, the goal is both to raise money (because Americans are helpless in the thrall of demon sugar, and therefore relatively price insensitive) and to discourage consumption (because that extra three cents on my 12 ounce bottle of Coke is going to make me think twice about my Fatty McFat lifestyle).

As with all soda-specific tax proposals, there is a weird underlying confusion between correlation and causation. Fat people drink more soda than skinny people. They also consume more calories overall and exercise less. But policymakers persist in acting as if calories in soda have magical properties that make us obese, unlike the identical calories in all the other food we eat. A food calorie is 4.2 kilojoules of energy, whether it comes from a bottle of orange juice, or an ice cold Coke. 

Let's hope we're about to see a national replay of what happened in Fredian's former home state, when New York Gov. David Paterson proposed a 15 percent tax on full-sugar beverages and then claimed he was never really going to tax the beverage of choice for the city's poor and minorities to pay for a middle class health care entitlement—he was just "raising awareness." 

More on the corn syrup jihad here.