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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Americans Against Food Tax: Astroturf for Big Pop Biz

I'm having fun reading some of the agitprop for the ag-industrial complex. Sites like AgWired and Advocates for Agriculture (plural, even though Troy Hadrick is the only guy posting) use the standard tactic of speaking for the independent small farmer while peddling policies that solidify corporate control and leave rural America a depopulated wasteland of massive factory farms.

A small example comes from AgWired's Tuesday post of a letter from Americans Against Food Taxes. At first I thought, "Cool! A national group ramping up to fight South Dakota's sales tax on food!"

Alas, sales tax is not on these folks' radar. Neither is food tax, really. Despite their name, they aren't really tackling food taxes: their collection of news and press releases hardly mentions so-called "fat taxes" on Cheetos and other junk food. This group is all about fighting beverage taxes, specifically the tax on sweetened beverages that is being considered as a mechanism for funding health coverage reform. Taxing pop and other sugary drinks at a penny per ounce would generate $14.9 billion annually—a small sip out of the budget, but a sip nonetheless.

But it would also hurt American families by eroding the economy and personal responsibility, say the Americans Against Food Taxes. We need to educate people to make healthy choices, not tax them!

So who are the Americans Against Food Taxes? They claim to be a "coalition of concerned citizens—responsible individuals, financially strapped families, small and large businesses in communities across the country." But look at their membership list:
This is astroturf, pure and simple: corporate America protecting its profits with false rhetoric common-man activism. (For more, read New York Times ethicist Randy Cohen's detailed and devastating critique of AAFT's intellectual and moral failings.)

Not to worry: this summer, Senator Max Baucus said the soda tax was unlikely to make the final bill. As far as I can tell from the news, a pop tax hasn't made it into any of the bills, meaning the beverage industry is making a lot of noise over nothing.

Oh well. Now that Coke and Pepsi have their little lobbying group geared up, maybe they can live up to their name and turn their attention to regressive sales taxes on food.

p.s.: There is a difference between a blanket tax on food (that's what South Dakota does) and a targeted tax on non-essential products (that's what a soda tax would do). 33 states already have some sort of soft-drink tax. Travis does love his Cherry Coke, but he may have to chip in a dime a bottle to help solve South Dakota's budget shortfall.


  1. Where are all your social libertarian values now?

    A woman choosing to have an abortion is OK, but I can't be free to choose which foods I want to eat, free of government trying to influence my behavior?

    I'm sorry, I like the dollar menu a lot more than the 5 dollar menu. It's my personal responsibility to make sure I don't abuse junk food.

    And I know you're going to say "everyone pays the cost when you get diabetes and my premiums go up to pay for your medical bills." Herein lies the problem with insurance...it collectivizes everyone's health, rather than holding people accountable for their own health choices.

  2. My comments in the John Warner post concerning (real or imagined) perversion in Washington apply to this topic as well.

  3. Oh, Brandon, you and your apples and kumquats....

    My values are right where they were yesterday and the day before, thank you for your concern. I believe in social liberty. I also believe in paying the bills. Rounds is now pegging the budget shortfall at $160 million, and maybe $40M more with increased demand on Medicaid. Unless you really believe you can find $200 million worth of fat in the state budget, we've got some brainstorming to do.

    Of course, if you really don't want government trying to influence what you eat, I'll trade you a pop tax for ending corn (syrup) subsidies. Let the market rule, right?

  4. Totally agree...how about no corn subsidies AND no pop tax?

  5. I'll take that deal. I'm not ideologically wedded to a pop tax.

    Of course, at the state level, I'm just looking for options to fill the $200 million budget shortfall. Dropping corn subsidies isn't a Pierre issue; finding revenue or cutting spending is. A pop tax is one way to add a good chunk of money to the state's coffers; I eagerly await other practical proposals.


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