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Sugary beverage tax clashes with industry-funded PAC


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(NaturalNews) The freedom to choose in the market without government interference? Or the people's right to counterbalance corporate dominance and disinformation? Which will prevail?

And, would you vote on Nov. 4 differently on a proposed tax on "high-calorie, sugary drinks" compared to "sugar-sweetened beverages"?

A judge says that in order to be "impartial" and not to engage in "advocacy," the cities of Berkeley and San Francisco must describe their proposed measures as a tax only on "sugar-sweetened beverages," and not describe them in the second way. Such is the state of the northern California cities' pre-election wrangling. Beyond the wording though, an essential conflict is brewing.

The personal and the commons: a fight over soda

A "STOP UNFAIR BEVERAGE TAXES: COALITION FOR AN AFFORDABLE CITY" sign is seen on the front door of a convenience store in San Francisco. On a storefront which happens to be across the Bay in Berkeley, a different sign reads: "1 IN 3 KIDS WILL GET DIABETES IN THEIR LIFETIMES UNLESS WE DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT: Berkeley Vs. Big Soda."

Millions of people are making healthier choices over the last decade due to their own investment in changing their eating and beverage-drinking behaviors. People often cherish more what they are invested in. For many, if they haven't personally invested, they can undervalue even things that are good for them. Thus, self-motivated, individual actions are very powerful human qualities for achieving better health.

Some don't consider that enough, which raises a big question.

Is taxing sugary beverages justified?

"We the People," expressed in the Constitution, strove to "promote the general welfare." Yet, in a case where "the general welfare" is invoked to propose a tax, it may be wise to follow the money in order to see what the impacts may be. Important "money" questions about the measures include the following (questions left intentionally open-ended):

1) Where would the tax revenue go? The San Francisco and Berkeley measures state that they intend to use the taxes collected to fund nutrition and health education initiatives. Supporters say, "San Francisco's proposed soda tax will reduce soda consumption and fund active recreation and nutrition programs in SF public schools, Recreation and Park Department rec centers and sports programs, and food access and nutrition education through the Department of Public Health." Sounds like a promise. Assuming this is desired and beneficial, is the measure accountable to the people to actually do that?

2) Do "active recreation and nutrition programs" work to achieve city residents' goals? Residents' goals may include helping kids be healthy and grow into healthy adults. More nutritious food at city facilities and more physical recreation activities for youth do sound beneficial. Increased revenue gives a city more means to create "livable" environments. At the same time, not all agree with putting more spending power into government, versus the civil (privately owned and run) society. While using government to establish a purportedly healthier environment does drift further from the theoretical free-market ideal, it is also thought that a healthier living environment can bring more investment into the civil infrastructure. On the other hand, the market for beverages itself, from the highest levels, is quite compromised from being "free" under the current corporatism, i.e. via farm subsidies on corn syrup and sugar, etc.

3) Is this tax fair? Whom does it target? Logically, taxing the people at the point of sale of sodas makes more sense than taxing people who never drink sugar-laden drinks. Individual choices is honored in that sense, whereas if people who never buy sugar-sweetened beverages were to bear the tax burden, that would not be fair.

4) Can the same revenue be more fairly generated in any other way, such as taxing the drink manufacturers directly? Large corporations are known to flee toward where the corporate taxes are the lowest.

5) Who is "Coalition for an Affordable City?" The "NO ON E" website says, "with major funding by American Beverage Association California PAC." They are a soda-industry-funded group. To increase profit as their first goal, they may be aiming to keep sugary drinks prices of distribution down and thus maximize these beverages' consumption.

6) Should the tax hold up in court? Mayor Bloomberg's large-sized soda ban in New York City did not hold up. However, taxes are different from bans, and there is not a large legal precedent for product taxes in a city being judicially overturned.

This electoral face-off brings up certain central questions regarding making a healthier world. Many health advocates believe that it's all about choice and will sit this election out. Perhaps, the election will hinge on which side more of the cities' health advocates who do vote decide to land on.

Sources:

1) http://blogs.kqed.org

2)www.choosehealthsf.com

3) www.berkeleyvsbigsoda.org

4) www.affordablesf.com

5) www.sodaseries.org

About the author:
Michael Bedar MA, BS, is the co-founder of YoelMedia.com. He is a writer of both nonfiction and allegories. As a researcher, writer, holistic wellness counselor, certified Live-Food Nutrition Counselor, and filmmaker, he is the associate producer with a founding role in the documentary, "Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days" and is the writer-director of "EcoParque." Bedar, who studied Cognitive Science and Environmental Chemistry, teaches meditation weekly in the San Francisco Bay Area, and supports people to benefit in their wellness through nutrition support, juice cleanses, and counseling. He has a master's in Live-Food Nutrition from the Cousens School of Holistic Wellness, is a minister, and is co-director of Tree of Life - Bay Area.

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