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So Long, Soda Tax: The ABCs Of An Idea Gone Flat

The sticky set of issues behind the failure of President Obama's proposed penny-per-ounce tax on sugary beverages turns out to be anything but sweet.

Soda bottles

Photo: Miss Shari (flickr)

The soda tax was crushed by some serious lobbying expenditures by large soda manufacturers.

Remember all the buzz about a new tax on soda several months ago?

President Obama pushed the penny-per-ounce tax on sugary beverages, saying it might not only be a good way to raise cash for expanded healthcare coverage, but could also help with the obesity epidemic.

If soda is a bit more expensive, maybe Americans won’t drink quite so much of it.

Well, the initiative fizzled out. Tom Hamburger and Kim Geiger of The L.A. Times explained the sticky set of issues behind the soda tax failure that turns out to be anything but sweet.

The ABCs Of The Soda Tax Failure

A is for Americans Against Food Taxes. The AAFT is a coalition of soda-makers and junk food giants like McDonald’s and Domino’s that enlisted several prominent Latino and Hispanic groups. The coalition argued that higher soda taxes would burden poor minority groups.

B is for the beverage industry. The American Beverage Association launched a website campaigning against the soda tax that pointed to three scientific studies claiming there is no link between soda consumption and obesity. All three studies were affiliated with either a soda company or the top high-fructose corn syrup maker.

C is for Congress. Democratic Rep. John Lewis, in whose Atlanta jurisdiction thrives Coca-Cola headquarters, rallied against the soda tax under the premise that it would lead to a food tax – an unwanted financial burden during a recession. Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) heard from Pepsi, Coke, and the National Milk Producers Association, who said the soda tax would also affect chocolate milk sales. Kind also did not support the tax out of fear that it would cripple his state’s main industry.

See also: this chart of beverage industry lobbying expenditures (also from the LA Times).

Megan Meyer

Megan Meyer was in the company of foodies for most of her formative years. She spent all of her teens working at her town's natural food co-op in South Dakota, and later when she moved to Minneapolis, worked as a produce maven for the nation's longest running collectively-managed food co-op. In 2006, she had the distinct pleasure (and pain) of participating the vendanges, or grape harvest, in the Beaujolais terroire of France, where she developed her compulsion to snip off grape clusters wherever they may hang. In the spring of 2008, Megan interned on NPR's Science Desk in Washington, D.C., where she aided in the coverage of science, health and food policy stories. She joined Indiana Public Media in June, 2009.

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