As San Francisco debates important issues like affordable housing and raising minimum wage, the Board of Supervisors is passionately pushing for a sales tax on sugary drinks known as Measure E.
While the programs Measure E is earmarked to fund — physical and nutritional education of children — are political slam dunks, it should be the city’s large number of rich people and corporations who pay this tax burden, not everyday consumers and small businesses.
Measure E would put a two-cent-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. The problem I have with the tax is not about having to pay a few more cents for a Coke, it is about what the government should have the authority to control and regulate in citizens’ daily lives.
If San Francisco continues to uphold its liberal reputation on big issues like gay marriage, marijuana, abortion and free speech, why do so many seemingly more mundane things seem to be okay for the government to restrict?
No matter what proponents of Measure E say, this is about a lot more than sugary drinks. This is continuing San Francisco’s recent obsession with politicizing our personal habits.
In the past ten years alone, San Francisco has taxed paper bags, banned smoking in public parks, developed increasingly Byzantine parking restrictions and outlawed sitting and lying on public sidewalks. Time and again, voters have approved these measures, only to complain about them later when they actually affect their daily lives.
While there are plenty of philosophical problems with Measure E, there are practical problems as well. Most supporters of the bill point out that the extra money will go toward good causes.
However, Supervisor Scott Wiener himself, who authorized the measure, said that the primary purpose of the law is to stop people from drinking sugary drinks. Therefore, it will be considered a perfect success if no one buys these products and ergo the amount of money raised for kids’ programs is zero.
Despite this, people against the bill are being attacked in Internet forums as kid haters. For example, one Internet commenter accused the Milk Club of being a “hate group,” because they voted against the tax. As if an LGBT club wouldn’t have legitimate concerns about government control and judgment over personal habits!
Instead of voting for another regressive petty tax that nickel-and-dimes consumers and small businesses, we should support universal physical education and other programs for San Francisco kids by making donations, holding fundraisers or volunteering our time.
If we are going to raise money for these programs through taxes, the burden should fall on the rich, or for that matter on “big corporations,” which everyone on Measure E’s side loves to hate.
The money should also be raised in a way that guarantees the funds will go to kids’ programs, for example through closing corporate tax loopholes. Since the point of the tax seems to be making people not want to pay the tax, it does not inspire confidence that they really even want the extra money.