Liberal Blogger Blasts Bernie’s ‘Strange,’ ‘Ironic,’ ‘Right-Wing’ Opposition To Philly Tax On Sugary Drinks

Posted on Fri 04/29/2016 by

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Tom Johnson picture-58-1409692124By Tom Johnson ~

New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait admires Bernie Sanders’s willingness (eagerness?) to raise taxes so as to “finance the kind of social benefits American liberals would prefer.” That’s why Chait is disappointed that Sanders opposes Philadelphia’s proposed three-cents-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened drinks, revenue from which would fund citywide pre-kindergarten and other programs.

jonathan_chait2_2In a Tuesday post, Chait wrote that Sanders “has received justifiable credit for breaking the taboo on middle-class taxation and asking just why it is that Americans must be denied public services taken for granted elsewhere…But where does this leave his opposition to the soda tax? His position is strange and ironic because taxes on specifically defined, unhealthy goods has long been the loophole through which Democrats escape the pressure of their own no-taxes-on-the-middle-class vise…What’s more, the proceeds of the soda tax finance a vital liberal social goal (in this case, early education).”

From Chait’s post, headlined “Why Is Bernie Sanders Making Right-Wing Arguments Against Taxing Soda?” (bolding added):

Hillary Clinton favors [the] proposal in Philadelphia…And Sanders is the one opposing it on the grounds that the tax would disproportionately hit the poor…

The largest single impediment to the kind of welfare state most liberals favor is finding ways to pay for it. There’s more money to be raised by taxing only the rich, but not enough to finance the kind of social benefits American liberals would prefer…

Sanders has…openly ma[de] the case that the United States should follow the model of high-tax Nordic social democracies. He has received justifiable credit for breaking the taboo on middle-class taxation and asking just why it is that Americans must be denied public services taken for granted elsewhere…

One can agree or disagree on the merits of Sanders’s willingness to risk flouting public opinion. But where does this leave his opposition to the soda tax? His position is strange and ironic because taxes on specifically defined, unhealthy goods has long been the loophole through which Democrats escape the pressure of their own no-taxes-on-the-middle-class vise…

Sanders may be correct that the burdens of the tax fall disproportionately on people of modest means, but as Margot Sanger-Katz has pointed out, there is some evidence that this very feature can make the tax more equitable. By raising the price of sugary drinks, poor consumers can be encouraged to drink less of it, reaping the caloric rewards, while more affluent consumers pay the tax. What’s more, the proceeds of the soda tax finance a vital liberal social goal (in this case, early education)…

…To oppose a new tax-and-transfer plan based solely on the regressive character of the financing source, without any consideration of the benefits of the spending, would rule out [Sanders’s] own plans as well. Not incidentally, Sanders has won plaudits from right-wing pundits at places like the Daily Caller and Reason, and a fake grassroots organization financed by the soda industry.

Tom Johnson is a contributing writer for NewsBusters.

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