Soda tax and jobs

Can I just say it's exciting to disagree with someone of a different stripe for a change? The someone in question is George Miranda, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Joint Council 16, which represents 120,000 workers in greater New York. I assume, totally without facts, that he and I might be on the same side of many issues. But not today.

He writes in the Buffalo News that NY's proposed soda tax would eliminate blue-collar jobs, and though I'm not sure he's wrong, I'm sure he's short-sighted, even while concedeing that someone in his role is supposed to defend union jobs. Also, I understand and feel the powerful lure of the status quo.

However, defending jobs without a context can be tough going. The dog-track lobby used the argument before Mass. voters approved a measure outlawing dog racing. I voted with the winning side, and part of my thinking was that yes, jobs would be lost, but should they ever have existed? Did I want to protect jobs, at the cost of animal cruelty and state involvement in gambling? No, I did not.

It's the same thing here. Sugary sodas aren't healthful for anyone, and can be harmful. Since we're not to the point where sugary sodas' real effects are widely known and accepted, let's look at it from the tobacco perspective. Surely, one of the arguments to leave tobacco sales solely to the free market was that jobs would be lost if curbs such as higher taxes were imposed. It was accurate to say so, but the truth of the situation was much broader.

Instead of stridently protecting whatever exists now, let's make our standard the mutual health of all Americans — including union workers! — and then see where jobs arise. There's no reason to think that producing healthful products won't result in more jobs all around.

Author and wellness innovator Michael Prager helps smart companies
make investments in employee wellbeing that pay off in corporate success.
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