Tonight, the Richmond City Council in California will take a vote on whether or not to place a soda tax on the November ballot. That tax – or “business license fee” – is intended to raise revenue for community gardens, cooking classes, soccer fields and other efforts the Council thinks will reduce obesity among the children in Richmond, CA.
Childhood obesity has increased at a staggering rate in America. Pediatricians report never before seen levels of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and high levels of triglycerides in young people. Sedentary lifestyles in front of the computer, television or video games are contributing factors, as is the lack of physical education in schools across the country. Kids just don’t move as much as they once did.
But should small businesses and restaurants be responsible for the cost of building playgrounds and gardens? Should the person who purchases cranberry juice or chocolate milk in the city of Richmond bare the cost that gets passed along to them at the point of sale? Can businesses and consumers afford to pay more?
As of March 2012, the unemployment rate in Richmond sits at a whopping 15.9 percent – nearly double the national rate. Inflation in California is forecast to increase to between 3 percent and 4 percent, from a rate of 2.6 percent in 2011. Despite the financial hardships in the city, the council is considering adding an even greater burden to small grocers and restaurants in their jurisdiction.
A tax on soda is bad public policy for many reasons we’ve discussed before. We encourage city council to stand with the hard-working families of Richmond, instead of adding to their burden by increasing the cost of their groceries.