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Soda and Salt Behavior Taxes

By Jose B. Rivera

imageThe New York State legislators propose laws that would tax the purchase of soda and other sweet beverages sold in the state. There has also been legislation proposed that would curtail the amount of salt contained in all foods cooked and sold in the state. Both of these are attempts by legislators to modify our eating habits. The salt reduction legislation in food would take the choice away from citizens/consumers. While the soda tax would make it more expensive for families to purchase sweet beverages.

Both of these proposed laws are an affront to our basic rights as citizens in a free society.  Never before in American history has the population had simple and small everyday choices being curtailed and taxed.  Our Foundling Fathers never envisioned a state like that. Remember, they started a revolutionary war just because of the tax on tea.

Soda Tax
Under the guise of helping to prevent obesity, New York State Governor Patterson proposed adding a few pennies tax on each once of soda or other sweet beverages, including powdered drinks. The Governor is ” picking” on an industry with a “reason” that seems plausible and not likely to be able to generate great opposition. After all who can argue against wanting teens and the obese to lower their sugar consumption?  And one gets to help balance the state budget at the same time.

But there are problems with this soda/sweet beverage/powder tax. It pretends to want to reduce the consumption of non-diet soft drinks but it’s real and sole purpose is to tax the citizens of the state, young, old, under weight, over weight, everyone!.  The supposed target of the “soda” tax are teenagers. The rationale being that teens will not want to pay more for soft drinks and thereby reduce their intake of sugary drinks. But think about it, what teen will let a few cents get between a soft drink and them? If they purchase over priced sneakers for for a hundred bucks or more for vanity and pride sake, why would a few pennies prevent them from enjoying a cool and refreshing soft drink?  The Governor and his supports are counting on people’s love of these drinks to overcome any increase in price.  They know people, especially teens will pay the extra taxed amount.  If they actually thought that people’s consumption would decrease dramatically, they would not impose the tax as no money would be generated from it. They are banking on people buying these drinks.

The soda tax is also unfair in that it targets everyone.  Under weight people can not present their bodies to the store owner, show that they are not obese and then purchase their drink without the tax.  In other words although the tax is to help reduce obesity, it is imposed on those with no such problem. If the Governor wanted to reduce the sugar intake of obese people, he could try to make it a law that the obese could not buy these drink, and thereby not impose the tax on the rest of us who are not obese (not constitutional by the way). But the real aim of this tax is to generate revenue and not to diminish the number of obese people in the state.

Hurts Business
The tax on soft drinks also hurts local business owners. Teens will not cut their consumption of soft drinks, but low income families, principled people, and those who can drive out of the state to obtain soda elsewhere will cut their buying of soda locally.  This hurts business owners, bottlers, truck drivers and the soda companies themselves. This could end up costing jobs in the state as these industries cut jobs to adjust to the lower consumption of their products.  This is not what the State of New York needs, not at this or any other time, but especially not during a recession.  It is penny and pound foolish. Recommendation - Soda companies should lower their prices a bit to offset any future taxes on their products, thereby nullifying the tax on the product.

Salt Regulations
Other state law makers want to impose what they consider a proper diet on the rest of us.  High salt consumption is the leading cause of high blood pressure in this country.  State Assemblyman Felix Ortiz proposed a bill that states: “No owner or operator of a restaurant in this state shall use salt in any form in the preparation of any food for consumption by customers of such restaurant, including food prepared to be consumed on the premises of such restaurant or off of such premises,” (bill,  A. 10129).  This bill would dictate how all foods are prepared. Even well known dishes that require salt to be the specialty dish that they are.  Some restaurant dishes can not be cooked without salt.  This is a case of using a blunt instrument when a scalpel is needed.  The law is too broad and too imposing on citizen’s rights.

Under the guise of making people eat healthier these food dictators want to restrict our God given freedoms by imposing what they believe is proper for us.  This nanny state mentality has got to stop.  Legislators have to stop trying to limit our freedoms.  Freedoms which we have had in this country for over 200 years.  People have to lower their salt intake on their own.  This is known as taking responsibility for one self. The state should not dictate what we are to eat, how much to eat and how much sugar and salt we consume.  In taking responsibility for one’s health one also suffers its consequences or its rewards.

The New York State Legislature continues to discriminate against groups of people based on their behavior just to generate revenue.  Smokers, soft drink and salt consumers, and the wealthy.  The wealthy being taxed just for having more, which is no justification for doing such a thing.  The legislators continue to seek out causes that seem to want push tax payers to healthier behaviors, all the while knowing that addiction to these foods and drink guarantee a huge revenue windfall, as consumers are unlikely to change their consumption habits.  Why are we letting legislators tax our behaviors?

Over Bloat
The state has overlooked the worst habit of all, that of an ever increasing budget full of pork and waste.  None of new taxes would be proposed if the State of New York lived within its means. The state needs to trim its budget by cutting out unnecessary spending most of which is in the area of “fixing” inequality in outcome types of programs.

Writing to your state representative and let them know your opposition to these new taxes.  Life is more expensive in New York State, and it is hard to make ends meet when the state nickle and dime us to death with taxes. Business with jobs would flock into New York State if taxes were a lot lower.  It cost too much to do business in this state. Adding taxes at this or any other time hurts the state in attracting businesses and jobs to our state.

It is also recommended that consumers go around these taxes and restrictions by not purchasing their soft drinks, cigarettes and salt in New York State. The internet is full places where consumers can shop for the same items, but at a lower price and with no New York State Tax.  You have the constitutional right to shop where you want in order to get the best price.  Laws which tax outside items to obtain the tax that such an item would have gotten in this state should be challenged and over thrown.  States need to compete with each other when it comes to lowering taxes.  The consumers can only be winners in such a competitive process. And bring your own salt with you when eating out.  It is not the restaurants fault that legislators may require them to change how they cook.

Nanny State Socialism
Only a Communist or Socialist state would impose restrictions on what and where you can buy a product.  This nanny state mentality does not trust the citizen to decide on whether to put some salt on their foods or what soft drinks to buy. And although the current president and his liberal congress would welcome such restrictions to our freedoms, the American people will not stand for it. You can be sure that real change is coming soon at the voting booth. People have the right to vote elected officials out of office. Especially those who impose restrictions which take away their freedoms and who create undo burdens on the electorate. Education is the best way to lower salt and sugar intake.  Then you leave it up to the electorate to make their own food consumption choices. If they choose not to eat healthy, they suffer the consequences of their actions. The rest of the electorate should not be made to suffer extra taxation because some can not control themselves. The state is sticking its nose where it does not belong.  Keep out of my kitchen and pocket!

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