I checked in this morning with my new pal, research analyst J. Justin Wilson at the Center for Consumer Freedom, a Washington lobbying group supported by restaurants and food companies. He recently had an op-ed published in the Witchita Eagle filled with the half truths one can expect from a paid spokesman for a private commercial interest. Such voices employ the tone and terms of reason while not being reasonable at all.
I'm not going to take apart his entire piece because I don't have the time to fully exploit this target-rich environment. But let's start with the first line: "Politicians are usually at their most creative when the opportunity for raking in money is at hand." From the start, he's not talking about the subject, which is sodas. This is about politicians, he says. There's no principle at work; they're just going for the money grab.
Here's the second paragraph:
Public health activists have declared sugar-sweetened beverages — soft drinks, fruit juice, sports drinks and even chocolate milk — a supposed menace in an effort to get the government to tax them. State Sen. John Vratil, R-Leawood, has downed this activist Kool-Aid in claiming that adding a tax on soft drinks for every teaspoon of sugar they contain will do our bodies good.
* "Even chocolate milk"? Does anyone think chocolate milk is healthy?
* "... in an effort to get the government to tax them." Again, that's what this is about, he says — pay no attention to the substance behind the curtain; sodas are an innocent victim.
* "...activist Kool-Aid ..." The Kool-Aid epithet arose from Guyana, where 900 cultists died in a mass suicide, so he's comparing activists with cultists. That seem a fair comparison to you?
Here's his third paragraph:
There's no convincing evidence that "fat taxes" on food or drinks are an effective way to force weight loss. Writing in the Review of Agricultural Economics, a team of researchers determined that a small tax on snacks "would have very small dietary impacts." As for a larger tax, it "would not appreciably affect" the average person's diet.
You're capable of thought: Does this make sense to you? When they started taxing cigarettes, consumption went down. If the price of soda goes up, won't lots of people make different buying choices? Do you, when something you've been buying goes up in price?
Continuing with the smoking analogy: Smoking has been going down for decades, not only as the result of taxes, but partially. Taunts that those taxes were mere money grabs by greedy politicians, to the extent there were any, didn't stand in their way because people could see they were a way to curtail unbridled sales of a noxious substance that was a detriment not only to individual but public health.
Soda interests would kill (at least figuratively) to prevent refined sugar being put in the cigarette category — expressly because cigarette sales declined drastically as the result of taxes. They may say that taxes don't work, but they expect, and fear, the exact opposite; that's why they're fighting them.
Here's the fourth paragraph:
Moreover, taxing soft drinks may even be counterproductive in reducing the number of calories people consume through what they drink. Researchers writing in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine noted that taxing soft drinks may result in people simply substituting other beverages that are still high in calories but remain affordable. For example, orange juice and 2 percent milk — which would not be taxed under Vratil's plan — contain more calories per ounce than cola. If the Vratil tax really worked, it could cause an increase in consumption of these other beverages, resulting in people consuming more calories than before.
* "...contain more calories per ounce..." Perhaps, but calories are not the only issue! Does anyone really want to equate the health value of sugary soda with fruit juice and 2 percent milk? It's absurd, right? And yet that's what he's doing — almost. He's actually implying the soda is m-o-r-e healthful. You buy that?
Here are his next sentences:
"Vratil's assumptions are also off-target. Because many things contribute to obesity, no one kind of food or drink — including soft drinks — is uniquely responsible for weight gain. ..."
Sorry, but whose assumptions are off? Did anyone say that "one kind of food or drink ... is uniquely responsible for weight gain"? No. But if you follow his illogic, because no one substance can be blamed for weight gain, we shouldn't attempt to change consumption of any of them?
His final paragraphs follow on this line, that's it's not all soda's fault. Conceded! But that doesn't mean it's not also soda's fault, and few substances combine fault with a substantial lack of redeeming features as well as sugary sodas do. They can be refreshing; I have been refreshed by them, and I drink way too much of the non-sugared variety. Instead of refined sugar, I have agreed to live with the chemicals, which may or may not turn out to be a good decision. The harm they're doing, if they are, are not apparent, or at least as apparent as the effects of rampant use of refined sugar. Nowhere is it more rampant, with less up side, than in sugary soda.
Anyone want to disagree with that?