Flat on Soda Taxes

We’ve told you before how the self-anointed “food police,” led by Thomas Frieden and Kelly Brownell, are looking to tax your soda, or even things like butter, cheeses, and meat. On Tuesday, a Washington Post blogger interviewed Adam Drewnowski, head of the Center for Public Health and Nutrition at the University of Washington, who wasn’t quite bubbly on the idea of levying a tax on pop:

Drewnowski calls "callous" the contention by soda-tax proponents that soda consumption is "not necessary for life."

"Neither is a Park Avenue apartment," he scoffs.

A soda tax would disproportionately affect those who can least afford it, Drewnowski says. It's also punitive and threatens to make less accessible one of the few small pleasures many poor people can enjoy….

But in the end, Drewnowski suggests, we shouldn't be dictating what low-income people eat or don't eat. "There's an overt classism," he says, in regarding the "undeserving poor.”

Drewnowski is certainly right that a Park Avenue apartment (or in Brownell’s case, an ivory tower) isn’t a necessity. And his point illuminates the elitist attitude of the food police: That they know better than us.

A columnist with the Orlando Sentinel takes the idea of lifestyle taxes and applies it to so-called junk food:

But what is junk food? We could all agree on Cheez Doodles. But how about mac and cheese? How about cheese?

Taxing foods with low nutritional value would hit low-income people the hardest. A report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, "The Economics of Obesity: Dietary Energy Density and Energy Cost," notes that poor people eat bad food because it gives them the most calories for the buck.

So to sum up: soda and food taxes are regressive, punitive, classist, arbitrary, and mistargeted? Sounds like the kind of idea that would only fly in food cop land. 

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