Colin Fletcher-Schmidt 
Member since Sep 9, 2016


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Re: “'Big Soda' Is Suing Oakland Over Beverage Tax Measure

The purpose of the soda tax-- to reduce obesity and obesity-related health problems, is obviously a laudable one. Unfortunately, like many other attempts at regulation, this policy is misguided and will prove completely ineffective. Why?? How? I must support the soda industry and BIG BUSINESS, you say? Oh no, honey, this is an anti-capitalist right here. Consider this question: what causes obesity? Is it sugar, or fat, or video games or tv or inactivity, or carbs, or simple carbs only, or slow-digesting carbs omg which one is it?? Truth is, it's both all and none of those. Body mass is all about caloric input and expenditure: a surplus results in weight gain whereas a shortage results in weight loss. This is undeniable fact.

Wait wait-- but some forms of calories are more equal than others, you say? True! Fat breaks down slower than simple carbs, for example. Protein (for the most part) cannot be stored (aka converted to fat), so a surplus is likely to occur on high-protein diet. And simple carbs (sugar is a part of this group) break down quickly; when they're not used for immediate energy purposes, they transform into fat on the body. But... all simple carbs are subject to the same science-- baguettes, crackers, pastas, fruits, some vegetables, etc.-- the list is endless. Of course, we can zoom in even further: isn't there a difference between "artificial" sugar and "natural" sugar (such as that in fruits and veggies)? The answer is yes. It is definitely more taxing on one's body to digest ultra-processed, corn-based sugar than naturally occurring sugars. This, I think-- the targeting of corn-based sugars-- is the thrust of the soda tax. And it's important: the corn industry has perniciously injected their product into a majority of common supermarket processed foods. But see, here's the glaring problem with the SODA tax: it doesn't target corn-based sugars. It hones in on only one of its delivery systems. A large (20 oz.) starbucks mocha contains 45 grams of corn-based sugar; a 12 oz can of coke contains 39. A large (14") cheese pizza contains approximately 34. So we know that solid foods also contain high amounts of corn-based sugars... why not target them as well? And how about the most obvious oversight: all the other sugary drinks stocked right next the sodas in every corner store-- the sports drinks, energy drinks, chocolate milk, bottled coffee, juice "drinks" or "cocktails", etc.

So we know that not all calories are equal, and we've identified the "bad" ones. But we're going to treat these identical calories differently because they're delivered in a different form (--or arguably not even form because these are all beverages aka liquids-- different only in taste, actually). Thus, these similar beverages receive vastly different treatment under the law, assuming the Soda Tax passes. From that perspective, the Soda Tax results in unequal protection of law-- subjecting undeniably substantially similar products to different laws. Can it escape via a strict scrutiny analysis? I don't think so. In short: compelling gov interest? yes; narrowly tailored? sure; least restrictive means? perhaps; BUT, the never-cited but always required "nexus" between policy and effect, aka causation? big fail. As such, the Soda Tax, as written, is a violation of the 14th Amendment and is therefore patently unconstitutional. Legally, it will fail any constitutional challenge. Soda taxes in other parts of the country have been thrown out by courts for other, more procedural reasons, so it hasn't gotten to that level yet. But if it does, mark my words, that will be the ruling and reasoning behind it.

To recap: soda alone does not a Jabba make. Weight gain occurs due to a confluence of factors over time, including diet, exercise, and even emotional state. Soda is but one small component of one factor in the body mass composition algorithm. In the context of total diet, it is not the prime factor, nor is it even a paramount one. This is undeniable fact. On science alone, the policy is pointless. On legal grounds, it is unlawful.

Shall we proceed to consider the ACTUAL economic effect (as opposed to the prospective one)? By this I simply mean let's identify the individuals and/or entities who will be forking over real money. Remember, corporations are sociopaths. Their sole reason for existence is to maximize profit. Empathy is antithetical to their purpose. Do you really think that a billion-dollar company cannot find, and has not found, a way of passing that tax along to others down the chain? I think some people need to take an Econ 101 class, and pay close attention to the micro part. Are sodas going to cost the same to you, the consumer? No; as we've seen in NY, Berkeley, and even Mexico, the retail price increases. So... YOU pay. That's right: us at the bottom of the distribution chain, the consumers, pay the cost of this tax. As it was (and has always been) so shall it be. This is undeniable fact. The grocers pay, too. apply a simple supply and demand analysis. Simply put, when the cost of something goes up, demand for it goes down. And when demand goes down (and prices are constant), revenue and profit margin decrease as well. Thus, grocers will sell less soda (on its face, that is the direct goal of the tax-- to decrease consumption via a decrease in sales via the disincentive of an increase in price) and receive less revenue and less profit from soda sales. This is undeniable fact. So actually, the "grocery tax" ads are not entirely baseless; I think they're just as misleading as the other side's assertion that only the fat cats will pay.

Disagree with me? Find a flaw in my logic? Good luck.

Posted by Colin Fletcher-Schmidt on 09/09/2016 at 6:50 PM

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