Deconstructing the Food Fearmonger

Public Health boomerangWe mentioned in passing earlier this month that we had discovered a document written by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity (the home of Kelly “tasty food is like crack” Brownell, at least for a few more months) outlining the wordsmithing that soda tax activists use to hoodwink people into supporting the cause. Given that national polls consistently show wide opposition to soft drink taxes and that ballot measure results suggest people aren’t eager to sign up for the activists’ crusade, it’s not surprising that would-be taxers gathered to discuss how to mold the public.

Apparently the public wasn’t supposed to know about what the Rudd Center and its pals talked about, since the link to the documents’ source is now dead. We have, however, preserved the document for posterity. And since its co-author, the Rudd Center’s Roberta Friedman, has recently testified in support of Vermont’s misguided soda tax, we prepared a highlight reel of things in the messaging guide. We found that activists:

  • Advocate earmarking revenue to feel-good projects, but see the opportunity to lure in special interest supporters by not actually earmarking;
  • Know that the weak economy means the revenue might “be used to fill budget deficits”;
  • Promote more popular policies like subsidies for healthy food to “soften the ground” for taxes;
  • Seek ever-increasing grants to come up with new tactics to hoodwink the public; and
  • Admit that soda taxes disproportionately hurt the poor, forcing a “re-framing.”

You can read the entire document for yourself here or the key snippets here.

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