Tomorrow evening, February 12, President Barack Obama delivers his fourth address to Congress on the State of the Union. The themes of the address, as they always do, loom large. The President is expected to call for new spending to boost jobs. On the matter of national security, the President is expected to recommend “radical reductions” in America’s nuclear arms. And many in Washington, D.C. will be listening for clues about how the President may use Executive Orders to accomplish his domestic agenda over the next four years.
The same day that Pres. Obama outlines his legislative priorities of national significance, another briefing of far, far lesser significance will take place on Capitol Hill. This briefing, being held earlier in the day, will not address major headlines: gun control, immigration reform or deficit reduction.
Nope. This briefing explores a federal tax on soft drinks as a “mechanism for health behavior change….”
Never ones to let go of a bad idea that the public opposes and science shows would be pointless, Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) continues their years-long effort to tax your soft drinks. Judging by the national polls, CSPI is on a fool’s errand.
An Associated Press poll released in January finds “There is little support for policies that would constrain consumer choices such as limits on the amount or type of food that can be purchased or taxes on unhealthy foods or drinks.”
The AP Poll is similar to a Harris Interactive poll from a year ago that shows 62 percent oppose “Putting a new tax on soft drinks with high sugar content.”
As for changing behavior through taxes or regulations, a 2012 poll conducted for Reuters found that 71 percent of people say limiting soda cup sizes would not impact obesity rates.
Over the past several years, approximately 30 states and cities across the country have proposed or introduced beverage taxes. All have failed.
Last November, two cities in California with a history of voting in favor of local taxes overwhelmingly rejected beverage taxes by margins of two to one. The state legislatures in Maine and Washington passed beverage taxes, and in both states voters overturned those taxes at the ballot.
The message from voters to proponents of taxing soda, fruit juice, sports drinks, sweetened teas and enhance waters should be clear: What you eat, drink and feed your family is your choice and does not need government control oversight or influence.
As the nation’s capital prepares to tackle weighty issues during the President’s address, activists like CSPI will be up to their usual game of small ball and sticking their noses where they don’t belong – in our grocery carts.