Bernie Sanders, Town Hall Meeting in Philadelphia

Bernie Sanders: “Soda Tax Will Hurt Poor People”

In the heated debate over soda taxes, traditional labels of conservative, liberal, progressive, and regressive just got a little more confusing. Bernie Sanders, the favorite of young, liberal voters is not backing down from saying that a Philly soda tax will hurt poor people and so he opposes it. In a Philadelphia town hall Monday night, on the eve of the Pennsylvania presidential primary election, he said:

It is absurd to go to some of the poorest people and raise their taxes. And by the way this tax, as I recall, is three cents an ounce. For a 12-ounce bottle of soda, that’s 36 cents, times five sodas a week, that’s two bucks, and a hundred bucks a year. If you don’t have a lot of money, that’s a lot.

Hilary Clinton drew this response from Sanders by first staking out her position on a proposal to fund universal preschool in Philadelphia by means of a soda tax:

I’m very supportive of the mayor’s proposal to tax soda to get universal preschool for kids . I mean, we need universal preschool. And if that’s a way to do it, that’s how we should do it.

This twist of events seemed to disorient the world of political stereotypes. Only Berkeley – officially the most liberal city in California – has had the gumption to actually enact a soda tax. Not even San Francisco was liberal enough. So how could our liberal hero and sworn enemy of big business let big soda off the hook? Paul Krugman and a host of liberal thinkers cried out.

Sanders has been resolute. He got a measure of support from fact checkers at PolitiFact Pennsylvania. They examined Sanders’ claim that the proposal is regressive and they ruled that it’s true.

Next, maybe someone can fact check for evidence that such a tax would actually put a dent in obesity. A decade of declining soda consumption hasn’t done much yet.

Perhaps a little more fact checking and a little less gut checking could move forward.

Click here for perspective from Marion Nestle and here for more from the New York Times.

Bernie Sanders, Town Hall Meeting in Philadelphia, image © MSNBC

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April 27, 2016

4 Responses to “Bernie Sanders: “Soda Tax Will Hurt Poor People””

  1. April 27, 2016 at 6:27 am, Joe Gitchell said:

    Thanks, Ted. Suffice to say, I continue to hope that these sorts of discussions can spur the #DiscomfortOfThought!


    • April 27, 2016 at 8:00 am, Ted said:

      A good scapegoat is nearly as welcome as a solution to the problem. Author unknown.

  2. April 27, 2016 at 1:32 pm, Adam Tsai said:

    This is indeed an interesting turn of events politically. I know there are data that soda taxes reduce soda consumption. I think it is a high standard to hold it to, to say that a soda tax by itself must reduce the prevalence of obesity. It will be a combination of interventions that reduces obesity.

    • April 28, 2016 at 4:56 am, Ted said:

      Thanks, Adam. You have a good point.