STUMP » Articles » Friday Foolery: More Centless in Seattle! And Cook County Regrets? » 19 January 2018, 03:57

Where Stu & MP spout off about everything.

Friday Foolery: More Centless in Seattle! And Cook County Regrets?  


19 January 2018, 03:57

So I don’t rot my teeth (or my mind) on this lovely new soda tax brou-ha-ha, I will put this silliness on Fridays. I think Fridays are good days for silly stuff.


One interesting hero in the Seattle Soda Tax fight is Costco. Obviously, when a soda tax is imposed per fluid ounce, and the retailers’ model is to sell huge quantities at once, the soda tax will pile up to impressive amounts.

Soda Tax Sticker Shock Grips Seattle

On January 1, Seattle had several new progressive laws go into effect. Along with mandatory paid sick leave, mandates for employers to post work schedules 14 days in advance, and severe restrictions on short-term rental platforms (Airbnb, VRBO, etc.), Seattle imposed a massive new soda tax — 1.75 cents per OUNCE on sugary drinks.

In response, at least one major retailer advertised in detail the reason for the significant increase in prices.

Costco, famous for selling products in bulk quantities, faces especially stiff price increases. On the previously mentioned pallet of 35 bottles of Gatorade, a list price of $15.99 is taxed $10.34, with a total cost of $26.33. Signs all over the Seattle [Costco] stores list the tax separately, and then have another sign offering solutions to the consumer:

This item is also available at our Tukwila and Shoreline locations without City of Seattle Sweetened Beverage Tax. (Sweetened Beverage Recovery Fee)
Notice that they try to hide its true nature by calling it a fee instead of a tax. That is a common tactic among public officials looking to appear tough on tax increases.

I don’t think anybody is fooled by the fee v. tax difference.

Two weeks in and this issue still dominates social media — and for good reason. Sticker shock has gripped Seattle. Luckily, a solution presented itself right away, as Costco pointed out. Just head to the next town over to avoid the tax!

The same solution that occurred to people in Philadelphia and Cook County.

After all, people are going to Costco to bulk up. It’s not like they’re drinking two cases of Coke in one day (well, not individually. But if you are hosting a soccer team party, it would be easy to blow through that in one afternoon.)

So they hope to curtail this unhealthy behavior, and when people still buy these drinks anyway, the tax revenue will help the city. And people aren’t going to think about paying 40 cents less by driving a mile and a half outside of town to purchase a product they were going to buy anyway.

Yeah, that’s always the thing. It’s supposed to be a tax so high it will change people’s consumption behaviors, but won’t change their shopping behaviors. And magically, there will be enough suckers to keep paying the tax so that politicians can fund their little projects.

When this hare-brained proposal was first floated last spring, it originally included coffee drinks that contained sugar, and also diet drinks — because not including them would be racist.

That would kind of undermine the message this was to make people cut down on their sugar consumption (the diet drinks), but to hit the coffee drinks… in Seattle… oooh, honey, you’re playing with fire.

Eventually, the City Council left these beverages out of the final ordinance.

Billionaire Michael Bloomberg has made it his personal crusade to raise these taxes in municipalities all across the nation, funding campaigns in several major cities. Despite the high-minded objectives of forcing people to avoid risky behavior — to save them from themselves — most observers realize this move for what it is: nothing more than a dressed-up revenue grab.

Amusingly, Bloomberg is being about as successful in the soda crusade as he is in the anti-gun crusade. But hey, it’s his money to waste. It keeps him out of other trouble.

Here’s an interesting quote (though I see no link to video or printed story)

Chris Snowdon is director of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs in the UK. In an interview, he said:

Many politicians have given up the pretence that soda taxes are about anything other than raising revenue. France taxes diet drinks at the same rate as sugary drinks and Portugal plans to do likewise. Claims about health and obesity were only ever used to provide for cover for taxes that hit the poor. The ‘public health’ lobby have been the useful idiots for a political tax-grab.

Again, it’s like the climate change folks. We all know it’s about the money and controlling money. Fund those boondoggles, y’all.


For my own amusement, let me go back to my first love, the Cook County soda tax.

WASHINGTON: County repeal of soda tax was a mortal mistake

I hope Big Soda’s politicians are happy. That was the Fat Nag’s reaction to a recent news brief in the New York Times.

“Obesity is the Main Contributor to Diabetes in Blacks and Whites,” it headlined.

“Type 2 diabetes is almost twice as common in African Americans as it is in whites. Obesity, rather than racial factors, is to blame,” the Times reported, citing a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study, released in late December, hasn’t gotten much play. Too many of us have been too busy hanging on every idiotic tweet from a certain president.

The Fat Nag, my lifetime alter-ego, has been preaching that sermon for decades. Black people don’t have to be fat. They don’t have to get diabetes. We are not genetically infected with “the sugar.”

The study followed a cadre of 4,251 black and white men and women ages 18 to 30 who were not diabetic. Researchers conducted periodic interviews and health examinations over an average of 25 years.

When compared with whites, black men were 67 percent more likely to develop diabetes over the period. Black women, nearly three times more likely.

The study controlled for “a long list of modifiable risk factors” — fasting glucose, body mass index, waist circumference, blood pressure, location of residence, socioeconomic status, etc.

“The difference in diabetes incidence between the races disappeared,” the Times reported. The key cause: “obesity, which is tied to all of these risk factors.”

Let me give the bottomline: soda ain’t causing these people to be fat.

I’m fat. I know a lot of other fat people (whether white, black, or other). Many of us drink no soda whatsoever. Other things got us fat. Like, lots of yummy yummy food. In my case, red wine has contributed, but mainly it’s just sitting on my butt all day. I could stand to lose 40 pounds, for sure.

The soda tax would not have made me skinnier, and unless you were going to make food and drink so expensive that the poor would be skinny for the traditional historical reason – that is, not enough food – this soda tax would not have whittled down obesity in Cook County one bit.

The soda tax was a money grab. Be serious.

We just missed out on one big fix — the chance to curb our extreme sugar consumption. The politicians are still crowing about their decisive defeat of the late, great Cook County sweetened beverage tax.

In October, after a massive lobbying effort, the pusillanimous Cook County Board repealed the one-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks. The tax would have reduced sugar consumption, particularly among blacks and Latinos, who suffer high obesity rates.

Adults who drink one soda or more every day are 27 percent more likely to be overweight or obese than those who do not, research shows.

I bet adults who inhale a bag of chips or more every day are also much more likely to be overweight or obese than those who don’t. It’s not the soda – the type of people who regularly drink soda may be correlated with other behavior that makes it more likely to be fat…. like sitting on your ass all day (my main issue).

Children who consume higher amounts of sugared drinks have a 55 percent greater chance of being overweight or obese compared with those who consume less, according to a study in the British Medical Journal.

Does the term “sugared drinks” include juice? Many juices are just as sweet, from a calories-from-sugar-point-of-view, as sodas.

Anyway, boo hoo.

It wasn’t Big Soda that killed the Cook County soda tax any more than Big Gun kills anti-gun bills. It’s that huge number of people hated the tax. And the Democratic pols saw that there could be electoral repercussions.

That’s the only way to keep politicians “honest”: threaten their livelihoods.


(Okay, will do only so many of these)

Reason Hit & Run Blog: Seattle Soda Tax Prompts Price Increases, Small Business Pain

When Seattle’s soda tax passed in July of last year, its proponents promised that it would accomplish all good things.

Tacking on just 1.75 cents per ounce to sweetened beverages, said then-mayor Ed Murray, would not only encourage healthier consumption habits, but also generate enough revenue to subsidize trips to the farmers market, to pay for free community college, and even to roll back “white-privileged, institutional racism.”

On January 1, the tax went into full-effect, and while all those vaunted progressive goals no doubt are just over the horizon, Seattle shoppers are starting to see a more immediate effect of the tax: massive price increases.

The cost of a typical can of coke is now 20 cents higher. That adds up fast: A typical 36-can case of soft drink is now $7.56 more expensive, nearly doubling the price at many retail outlets. Stores are only too willing to let customers know who is responsible for the cost increases.

Pretty much how it worked out in Cook County, Illinois.

But proponents are standing firm, claiming that the tax won’t hurt business. It’ll just change consumers’ preferences, they say. Victor Coleman of the pro-tax Healthy Choices Coalition told Seattle’s Fox affiliate that people in other cities with soda taxes “are simply choosing to purchase other grocery items.”

The evidence suggests otherwise. Philadelphia implemented a 1.5-cent tax on soda in January of last year. By March, Pepsi had decided to discontinue the sale of 12-packs and 2-liter bottles in the city. It also opted to lay off some 80–100 of its workers. By August, the marketing firm Catalania found a 55 percent decline in the sale of carbonated soft drinks within the city limits—and a 38 percent jump in stores just outside of Philadelphia.

Revenue from Philidephia’s soda tax has also proven disappointing, coming in at $7 million below projections for fiscal year 2017.

Such results were enough to get Cook County, Illinois—which contains Chicago—to repeal its highly unpopular soda tax.

So far Seattle is sticking by its soda tax, which it is counting on to bring in $15 million in its first year. That revenue is intended to pay for a grab bag of progressive goodies, including more educational services, $2 million for subsidies to farmers market shoppers, $1.4 million in community college tuition assistance, and $500,000 to retrain beverage industry workers who lose their jobs.

So let’s see. Philadelphia came in $7 million under their projections of $46 million, or they undershot by about 15%. Philadelphia’s tax was lower than Seattle’s… should be interesting to see how the numbers shake out.

Hot Air: That New Soda Tax In Seattle Is Working Out About As Well As Chicago’s

Men of the West! The day may come when state or municipal governments impose a tax on sweetened beverages which functions perfectly as intended. But it is not this day!

Another year, another soda tax. This one was shoved through in the city of Seattle by the municipal government. As usual, its purported intent was to improve the health and lives of residents by “modifying their behavior” and having them drink fewer sugary beverages. And it’s definitely a muscular incentive for new behavior to be sure. The price of soda has nearly doubled overnight. Seattle residents must be feeling healthier already! (CW33)

As noted in the article, in one of the more creative and admirable moves by a retail chain in recent memory, Costco took to changing their price signs, showing how much the beverages should cost, and then tacking on the new tax as a separate line item.

Again, not a new idea — some Cook County retailers did something similar.

This is yet another example of the theory of the frog in a boiling pot of water. People are used to having their taxes increased if they live in cities run by Democrats. It’s just a fact of life. And if you increase the tax slowly over time, let’s say by twenty cents per year, many of them will adapt to it. (That’s how they did it with tobacco in most places.) But if you literally double the price overnight, that horse is going to buck.

If they really wanted the revenue, they should have eased into it. If they wanted behavior change… well, this will likely change behavior.

Perhaps voting behavior.


The soda tax isn’t the only thing that’s kind of high in Seattle (no, that wasn’t a drug joke):

You probably remember Subway’s famous “five-dollar footlong” promotion as much for the obnoxiously catchy jingle as for the sandwiches themselves. (Sorry for getting that stuck in your head all day.)

The sandwich chain recently resurrected the promotion in a national advertising campaign promising foot-long subs for just $4.99—but the special deal won’t fly at one Subway restaurant in Seattle, where owner David Jones posted a sign this week giving customers the bad news.

Here’s that sign, courtesy of Krisitin Ellis, an executive assistant at the Washington Policy Center, who tells Reason she spotted the dismaying sign yesterday afternoon while picking up a veggie footlong in the SoDo neighborhood:

If you look closely, you’ll see she mentioned the soda tax… and a bunch of other stuff.


Okay, another item from the Cook County soda tax:

Karen Lewis backs bid to dump anti-pop tax Cook County board member

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis is backing a bid to unseat Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin, an outspoken leader of the pop tax repeal that led to a trimmed-down county payroll opposed by several unions.

Lewis has endorsed CTU organizer Brandon Johnson in the March 20 Democratic primary. “Working families have a commissioner who works against them, not for them, and consistently pushes an anti-labor agenda,” she said in a statement.

The endorsement — and the language used by Lewis — rankled Boykin, who noted that he has voted to approve all county worker union contracts and co-sponsored measures increasing the county minimum wage and mandating paid sick leave.

Boykin said he has a target on his back because he pushed for the pop tax repeal and helped shape a budget that led to the elimination of more than 1,000 unfilled county job posts. That spending plan also included hundreds of layoffs opposed by the unions.

“This is the labor unions getting behind this guy, because they say ‘We gotta send Boykin a message, that we don’t like the fact that he closed those vacant and open positions,’ ” Boykin said in an interview. “And we don’t like the fact that he led the repeal effort on the sugar tax. Quite frankly, I think that the working-class families whose pocketbooks we protected, I think they’re going to stand with me and see right through this.”

Thing is, Karen Lewis has a point. It means nothing to agree to contract provisions, if you’re never going to actually find money to pay for them.

But she may find the people of Cook County have about had it with taxes, and would rather not shovel more money into the maw of the CTU.

I guess we’ll find out, won’t we?


Unintended consequences:

Cook County’s short-lived penny-per-ounce tax on sweetened beverages not only failed to bring in as much revenue as projected, but it might also have cost the county millions in sales tax revenue as consumers crossed county and state lines to buy their groceries.

In a revenue report released ahead of today’s county board meeting, receipts from the first three months of the ill-fated tax show it generated $46.4 million. That’s less than the $55 million the tax initially was expected to raise during those three months, though projections later were revised to $49.8 million.

Meanwhile, the county’s home-rule sales tax revenue was off by $12 million for the year, the revenue report shows. Cook County Board Commissioner John Daley attributed that to consumers angry about the sweetened beverage tax shopping elsewhere.

“I’ve never heard so much animosity to a tax than this,” Daley said. “People were telling me they’d go to Indiana to buy soda, and they weren’t just buying their sodas there, but all their other groceries, too.”

Oh lookit that.

Unintended consequences all over the place.

I’m sure Big Soda was paying for people to drive outside Cook County to buy stuff.

Or, just maybe, individuals make individual decisions that should have been foreseen.

Receipts from November — the fourth and final month the sweetened beverage tax was in effect — aren’t expected until next month, county officials said. But even then, the county will likely have to rebate a significant portion to retailers who prepaid taxes on inventory that wasn’t sold before the tax ended on Nov. 30, just as those retailers paid millions on inventory purchased before the tax went into effect Aug. 2.

That’s gotta hurt.


And now for my favorite twitter: soda tax twitter.

See ya next Friday!

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