Soda Taxes

Seattle Mayor Proposes Soda Tax To Fight White Privilege

A similar tax was roundly rejected in Santa Fe this week.


Mayor Murray
Seattle City Council / Flickr

Determined to silence local critics who have suggested he isn't America's most progressive mayor, Seattle's Ed Murray has packed so much conflicted social justice into a simple soda tax no one in the Emerald City is quite sure what to make of it.

After it was suggested to him his proposed two-cents-an-ounce tax on soda sweetened with sugar would be borne disproportionately by the poor and people of color, Murray lowered the levy and included all sweetened drinks, incuding diet soda.

If it doesn't doesn't explode from the sheer weight of its daffy intentions, the City Council is expected to consider the proposal sometime in June.

Diet drinks, Hizzoner reasoned, were more likely to be consumed by "upper middle class white people." It had become for him "an issue of equity," a way to tackle "white privileged institutionalized racism."


Murray had originally proposed the soda tax during his state of the city address in February. He said he hoped to raise $16 million in its first year to fund everything from an additional year of early public education to subsidies for food stamp recipients to shop at farmers' markets.

The rationale, as it has been in other cities silly enough to consider such taxes, was to"dramatically reduce the consumption of these unhealthy products" as an attack on health problems, primarily obesity, in Seattle.

The tax, Murray said, would pay the second dividend in better educations and economic opportunity. "Healthy kids get better educations and are more likely to have a brighter future," Murray said.

Then came the detractors and all their talk of a regressive tax falling disproportionally on low income and minority Seattle residents. "You know what is really regressive," a defiant Murray asked at an April 27 press conference. "You know what is really taking money out of African American communities? Tolerating an educational system that is failing kids of color everyday, leaving them without a future, and giving them food that will only lead to health problems."

While confusing these pristine motives with a diet soda tax on privileged whites, Murray was still unable to stop mau-mauing beverage makers, accusing them of adopting tobacco industry tactics targeting communities of color with a product "that only undermines the health of young people."

The people of Santa Fe were apparently unwilling to endure all of this false posturing, roundly rejecting a soda tax referendum Tuesday. City leaders had also dangled educational services funding for lower income families as a sweetener, so to speak. Fifty eight percent of voters rejected it. Voters in lower income districts voted most heavily against it.

The supposed elitism of the tax turned many voters off, as did the financial intervention of billionaire Michael Bloomberg who donated $1 million in favor of the soda tax. One anti-tax activist told the Albuquerque Journal after the election that the city should try taxing tofu instead.

Murray's case for a soda tax won't be helped by the disastrous results from cities that have gone ahead with these kinds of soda taxes.

As Reason has reported, Philadelphia's soda tax—which went into effect in January—has seen price hikes of 30 to 50 percent along with job losses in the beverage industry. has reported that one of the city's largest drink distributors said it will cut 20 percent of its workforce, while an owner of several ShopRite stores said he will cut some 300 jobs.

Similarly situated businesses and residents in Seattle are already pushing back on Murray's proposed soda tax.

The local Teamsters Union has already come out against it with their Secretary-Treasurer saying that his union "will not support a tax that will put hardworking middle-class Americans out of a job, no matter how well-intentioned the tax may be."

Local business owners have pushed back as well. One burger joint in the city put up a sign reading "Hey Mr. Mayor, $5 sodas? Your pop tax sucks!"

Slightly more polished sentiments were echoed by Lewis Rudd—CEO of Ezells Fried Chicken, a Seattle area chain—in a press release put out by anti-soda tax group Keep Seattle Livable For All.

"Why would our City Council want to proceed with a massive tax on our diverse small business community and our city's low-income families? There has to be a better way to raise revenue than hurting our most vulnerable residents and business people," his statement reads.

Whether this opposition will be enough remains to be seen. Seattle's mayor and its city council—which contains a registered Socialist—are notoriously tax happy, and the glittering promise of an extra $18 million in revenue per year may be enough to ignore the mounting opposition.

But if the experience of Santa Fe or Philadelphia are any indication, the problems inherent in these kinds of soda taxes will not go disappear, regardless of how the city council votes.

NEXT: Indiana Supreme Court: Cops Don't Need a Search Warrant to Get Cell Phone Location Data

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. RE: Seattle Mayor Proposes Soda Tax To Fight White Privilege
    A similar tax was roundly rejected in Santa Fe this week.

    Fighting white privilege with a soda tax?
    Excuse me, but is this the Reason website, or Comedy Central’s website?

      1. Not sure… could be an attack on the raw stupidity of progressive ideology, or we ebil libertarians for daring to speak of these events will billions die daily from soda.

        1. I’m making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life.

          This is what I do,.,.,.,…

          1. I’ve got it! I propose a tax on spambots. Given their ubiquity, this should raise butt-loads of money, and no one is likely to speak up in their defense. Clearly, a perfect solution.

  2. As an aside: Ezell’s is really terrible. Just bland chicken and terrible mashed potatoes.

  3. He’ll just have to win back his progressive cred with the Kill Whitey amendment.

    1. Killin whity has worked well in Haiti…..

  4. The man’s trying to save his soul, Christian. Quit faulting him for that.

  5. “…Murray lowered the levy and included all sweetened drinks, …” Does that include all those expensive sugary coffee drinks from Starbucks? Many of which have more sugar per ounce than soda and more likely to be consumed by “upper middle class white people.”

    1. Don’t forget fat. Holy crap some of those drinks have more fat than coffee in them! I swear the cream they use is fat fortified.

  6. So now we’re at taxing goods just because they’re consumed by white people. Yesterday’s caricature truly is today’s reality.

    1. And people still wonder why Trump won. If clowns are going to be our rulers, at least the clowns should have clown hair.

  7. “You know what is really taking money out of African American communities? Tolerating an educational system that is failing kids of color everyday, leaving them without a future, and giving them food that will only lead to health problems.”

    Mic drop.

    Fortunately he has a plan to fund a system that educates communities of color on how they shouldn’t feel infantilized at all by an old white dude making personal decisions for them through revenue-gathering schemes.

    1. Yes, because that’s exactly how minorities eat. “We” give them food. Like a zookeeper.
      And no one in the whole city will take offense to hizzoner’s statement.

      1. Well I have said it about collectivists before. They’re zoo animals who bitch about the food instead of the cages

        1. This is gold.

  8. Why doesn’t he just install Mugabe as dictator of Seattle and be done with it?

    1. That guy is fucking old. Probably wouldn’t survive the trip.

      1. In the land of Microsoft and Amazon, telecommuting is an option.

    2. He hasn’t banged enough vulnerable street teens to be a viable Seattle mayor.

  9. Diet drinks, Hizzoner reasoned, were more likely to be consumed by “upper middle class white people.”

    After his caddy/chauffeur informed him of it, of course.

    1. Thread Winner.

  10. Self-hating whitey

    1. I got the impression that he’s pretty out of touch with any diet soda drinkers. Be they white, black, brown, lower class, lower middle class, middle class, upper middle class…

      Like, he’s white, but he’s not self-hating because he’s not white the way the rest of us are white.

  11. These people are no different than the “pray away the gay” people. They are trying to fight human nature. They will never win.

  12. How about you tax starbucks, slaver. That’s worse for you than a soda.

    Fucking slavers never give up until every aspect of your life is controlled.

    My roommate has hundreds of those stupid pop vinyl things. If I went full prog, we should tax collectibles because companies are just taking advantage of these people’s human instincts and exploiting them for profit (nope, no agency there)

    1. “How about you tax starbucks, slaver. That’s worse for you than a soda.”

      Here is a better idea. How about having these slavers stop taxing stuff and instead have the populace keep yelling “Fuck you, cut spending!” in their faces till they either get the message or lose their hearing?

      How about they let ADULTS decide for themselves what is better or worse for them? They can frankly take their altruistic “concern” for other people’s health and shove it.

      I will even make a bargain with these tin pot dictators. If they let me and other adults of all colors decide for ourselves what to eat/drink/smoke/etc., we will extend the same courtesy to them. It won’t even be difficult as most don’t care what a slaver chooses to put into his body. Most people with lives have other stuff to think about. Everybody can leave everybody the fuck alone for a change.

      1. No dice. Telling other people what to do is the only thing that gets these people off. They don’t truly want freedom for themselves any more than they want it for others.

  13. There must be an exemption for grape soda.

  14. I predict a very bright political future for this dirtbag mayor. With his kind of authoritarian cred, he will likely get at least as far as a senator and may even become a presidential candidate one of these days.

    Major party political tickets don’t grow on trees, after all. And you can only run so many people named either Clinton or Bush till everyone starts tuning out. A major party would be smart to snap up this fresh-faced but tiresomely outdated collectivist weasel before he gets too old.

  15. “It had become for him “an issue of equity,” a way to tackle “white privileged institutionalized racism.””

    Lefties are in charge of the majority of our “institutions.” Isn’t it odd that they’re constantly finding racism in our institutions?

    1. No ?

  16. The mayor is a bit distracted right now with rape allegations against him from a multitude of victims. Apparently, he’s quite the pederast.

  17. If it doesn’t doesn’t explode from the sheer weight of its daffy intentions, the City Council is expected to consider the proposal sometime in June.

    Which will probably pass unanimously.

  18. Taking governing cues from Philadelphia? I think I’ve found a flaw…

  19. Is Seattle in range yet of Nork ICBMs? If U.S, policy is to respond only when attacked, then maybe sacrificing Seattle would fit the bill.

  20. No one from western Washington calls it “pop.” Anybody who does should be ashamed of themselves. Extra-ashamed if they’re from Minnesota.

    1. It’s my understanding that no one west of the Mississippi calls it ‘pop’.

    2. He copied the Philly one word for word; and doesn’t understand it because only privileged whites can read.

  21. You went full retard. Never go full retard.

    1. Sometimes you have to wonder if you are watching a Mel Brooks movie sometimes with these people.

  22. “subsidies food stamp recipients to shop at farmers’ markets.” WHAT???? Cause they can’t get high quality nutritious food at your average grocery store. (Muh Corporations) By the Gods Seattle is trying to out-do Berkeley and San Francisco in the Fruit Cake Hall of Fame. I would have loved to have been at the planning meaning where these idiots brainstormed that idea. “Hey instead of Subsidies for things like I don’t know like cleaning products which are not covered on food stamps lets give people money to by over priced Organic food.” Wonder if these SJW’s understand that the average seller at a farmers market is probably not a minority. So who does that benefit mostly? The sellers at these markets getting a boost in income or the people who spend way to much?

    1. You should add Portland OR to the list of caucus race* contenders. If the soda tax goes through there, it will be good that food stamp recipients can shop at farmer’s markets as many of the stores in their neighborhoods will call it quits.

      *Alice in Wonderland style, where everyone run haphazardly around in circles until time is called, and everyone wins.

    2. Better yet, he could use the soda tax funds to buy each poor family a small garden plot so they can grow their own hyper-organic-small farmer veggies. And to make that convenient, he could give each family a tiny (house) cabin to live in. And so people know what to do, he could appoint over-seers, who would also make sure they be gettin’ their work done…

      1. interesting plan you have there. I wonder how many will happily agree to this “new” idea of yours. sounds like utopia to me

  23. something, tax, something, race, something, tax, something, education, something tax, something for the children.
    Now vote for me, I know what you should be thinking!

  24. Ed Murray: “We screwed black people, but to make up for it, we’re also going to screw white people, because white people are racist!”

    Who elects these idiots?

    1. other idiots

  25. Next, he’ll propose a local $1/pack tax on cigarettes, to discourage unhealthy practices and fund… something that polls well. But wait, this tax is regressive and falls hardest on the poor and POC! Among those with sub-$24,000 incomes, over 30% are smokers, while those with $90,000+ incomes only smoke at a 13% rate. They’ll scream the tax is inequitable and would further institutionalize the advantages of privileged upper-income whites! That’s why he’ll also propose to levy, on high-income people, a $2/day tax for NOT smoking – and $3, if they do yoga.

  26. “… and giving them food that will only lead to health problems.”

    Why do progressives strip minorities and other groups of people of their free will?

  27. Can’t fix stupid – ’nuff said!

  28. Democrats are not fit to hold office. They belong on a wacky farm.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.