Philadelphia is expected to pass a city-wide tax on soda this week. It’s unclear exactly where these funds will go. The potential tax money was originally marketed as a way to increase dollars for kids, mostly in the form of more pre-K programs, but recently the mayor announced the money will balance the city budget. In the Washington Post, New York University professor Marion Nestle, was quoted as saying, “This is a fabulous way to get revenue for revenue-starved cities.” Hilary Clinton is in full support of sugar taxes, however Bernie Sanders feels that the tax would unfairly burden the poor.
With the cigarette tax, many people might say, “Well good, people shouldn’t smoke, so let those smokers pay the tax and maybe it will encourage them to stop smoking and be healthier.”
Most people don’t pay much attention to issues when the rules are in their favor – but what happens when the political winds shift?
The Gas Tax
The US federal government makes about 18.40 in cents per gallon, and states average 26.50. The number is higher for diesel fuel at 24.40 at the federal level and 27.24 at the state level. That’s a lot of money! Simply put, if the government is making so much money off our use of gasoline, do you think it’s in their best interest to reduce our dependence on gasoline?
The Sugar Tax
Currently, the US government subsidizes the sugar industry with our tax money. This practice ends up making sugar in America nearly twice the price of sugar on the global market. Maybe you think it’s not so bad that sugar is expensive to consumers, because it’s bad for us anyway… But, because sugar is so expensive, many corporations have moved their production oversees. The government also limits imports of cheaper sugar. One study found that if these systems ended, consumers would save 2.9 to 3.5 billion dollars by sugar prices falling by roughly one third. That study also found that eliminating the sugar subsidies would result in 17,000 to 20,000 more US jobs. So, if we do enact a sugar tax, doesn’t it make sense to first end sugar subsidies?
Now, maybe you still don’t care about sugar. You think, “I’m paleo and I don’t eat sugar, so it doesn’t matter to me.” Welp, what happens when the government decides that fat should be taxed?
The Fat Tax
Denmark introduced a “Fat Tax” in 2001, which taxed oils, pizza, milk and butter. The government quickly eliminated this tax only one year later, after realizing that this tax had unintended consequences. The price of every day food items went up, residents were traveling into neighboring countries to shop, it was a huge administrative nightmare, and it didn’t change eating habits. Because of all of this, Denmark also cancelled plans to introduce a sugar tax. Berkeley, California had a sugar tax, which failed in very similar ways.
The Power of the Retailer
I used to work for Whole Foods Market, a company that is quite smart about marketing. One of my jobs was to design product displays. The most powerful product selling tools are at the end-of-aisles, which the industry calls “end-caps”. Product end-cap displays increase sales up to 50%. The fact is, if retailers want to sell soda, they know how to do it. Do you think adding a few cent sugar tax on the soda will override retailer discounts and in-store marketing?
We are Reducing our Sugar Consumption Without a Sugar Tax
In 2015, total soda sales declined 1.2%, which is much faster than the 0.9% decline in 2009. Furthermore, annual per capital carbonated soft drinks dropped to about 650 eight-ounce servings in 2015, which is the lowest number since 1985. Ouch, yes – that’s about 1.8 sodas per person PER DAY. But hey, everything is healthy in moderation, right?
Why Food Freedom Matters
So maybe you still don’t care about sugar, gas, cigarettes, or soda. The important thing to think about is: what tax could be coming next to Americans? A fat tax? What about the increasing vilification of red meat? Could we have a meat tax? I could totally see that coming. How about a tax on bacon? What would happen if they did that?
Do we need the government telling us what is “healthy food” and taxing “unhealthy food”?
The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund
One organization that I strongly support is the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund. If you eat, then I recommend you consider supporting them. These guys protect the rights of farmers, homesteaders, artisan food producers, and consumers all looking to engage in direct commerce. Farmers should be able to sell their products to consumers, and consumers should be able to purchase the food of their choice without the government imposing taxes “because it’s in our own best interest”. The FTCLDF is a true grassroots organization and receives no government funding.
At this year’s PaleoFx, I sat on the “Why Food Freedom Matters” panel. For the first time, I saw a PACKED ROOM for a talk on food politics! During the talk, Robb suggested that everyone in the audience join the FTCLDF, and guess what, it worked! Membership at an event has never been stronger for them. If you’re not already a member, then join today.
The Food Freedom Fundraiser
If you’ve seen any of the dozens of food documentaries that have come out in recent years, then you’re probably familiar with Joel Salatin, the owner of Polyface Farms. Joel is a huge supporter of the FTCLDF and is hosting a tour of Polyface on Saturday, August 20th. The next morning, myself, Joel Salatin, Robb Wolf, Dallas Hartwig, and Charles Mayfield will all be at the “Ancestral Health Connection”. We’ll be speaking about health and connecting to our food, then offering 15-minute “ask me anything” sessions for the rest of the morning. This is a truly unique opportunity to sit down with one of us. Ask me nutrition questions, have Charles view your squat form, chat with Dallas about his favorite books, or play Parcheesi with Robb. Buy your tickets here.
Let’s protect our right to buy food from the producers of our choice, and protect farmers who are trying to produce nutrient-dense food. Do we need the government deciding which foods are “healthy” for us?
Do you want a bacon tax?
What are your thoughts? Do you have an opinion, or better yet, a solution? Let’s hear it!