Sorry, but I just don’t believe in them. Not penny-per-ounce soda taxes, not front-of-nutrition labeling, not vague industry pledges to make their food healthier ... at some specified time far enough into the future that everyone will have forgotten.
Let’s start with penny-per-ounce tax proposals: The point isn’t to raise revenue, it is to make the product less attractive in the marketplace. From the tobacco experience, we know this works: People who wouldn’t quit “just” because they knew they were killing themselves slowly were pushed over the line of change when taxes made the habit even more expensive than mere life.,
I have Ronald Reagan, the patron saint of limited government, to thank for my quitting. I’d risen to a two-and-a-half-pack-a-day habit between the ages of 14 and 26, but when he doubled the cigarette tax from 8 to 16 cents, I decided I wouldn’t be Uncle Sam’s monkey anymore.
But is a penny an ounce going to change many consumers’ behavior? I doubt it. That means that even if Big Food is ever defeated over one of these proposals, itself questionable because of the depths of both their pockets and resolve, it is unlikely to work. They’ll be able to say, “See?” Or worse, “See? It was just another revenue grab by greedy politicians,” because the revenue, a secondary outcome at best, will be the visible result.
We live in an era where corporations wheedle loudly if anyone even looks in their direction, so those who would hope to curb sugary soda consumption are unlikely to seek the tool they need.
I know that compromise is the best way forward in public discourse, but compromise here wouldn’t only be a failure to advance. It would be a setback.
We’ve got to have a bottom line and be willing to fight for it. Just like Big Food.
Next: Front-of-package labeling.