We just got a “sugar” tax in Philly, which is to pay for free pre-K.
Yay! Pre-K! Yay, free! So glad we could get something so progressive passed in Philly!
I really do wish they had gone about it in a different way, however.
Basically my issue is with the fatphobic way these taxes are justified. First of all, they aren’t actually a tax on sugar, even though that’s how they are advertised. The tax applies to diet/sugar free soda but not to candy. But we call it a sugar tax because people are way into a The Demon Sugar kick.
Sugar = diabetes (in the rhetoric) & basically all calls to “prevent” diabetes are fatphobic dog whistles. (More on that later.)
The argument in Philly was- we can prevent 250,000 case of diabetes A YEAR (a number we hear all the time as utterly fake statistics on death by fat). A statement that is backed up by basically nothing and is a patently ridiculous thing to claim.
Then add to that- while claiming these fantastical reductions in diabetes cases (not how any of this works), the mayor also claimed that the tax would be low enough that people wouldn’t even notice it.
Which… it can’t be both.
It can’t prevent all the fatness and diabetes and all shame disease by forcing those bad fatties to stop drinking soda and be so small no one will actually notice it. Not at the same time.
Why do taxes on cigarettes actually show results? Because a 1–2 dollar hike a pack is enough to be felt. And I believe the studies back that up.
Additionally- taxes on cigarettes actually target smokers pretty well, since they are the ones who buy cigarettes. People who smoke are basically the only people who buy cigarettes regularly, so they’re easy to target with a tax intervention.
A soda tax is a very inefficient way to target fat people- not all fat people drink soda. Sometimes THIN people drink soda too! (Shocking!)
So, the whole internal logic of the thing is fucked from the start, and that’s even setting aside that all sales taxes are regressive, meaning they target poorer people more harshly as a percentage of their income.
My personal experience of the soda tax in Philly is that it really isn’t noticeable. And since we really do need free pre-K, I’m not mad to pay it.
But I wish the city government had been like, “Look- Soda is a luxury. This is a small luxury tax.”
Rather than participate in political fatphobia. Which is what they actually did.
At this point in our political life, all sensible forms of taxing the people who should be taxed (rich people) are now politically cut off.
So politicians are stuck trying to raise money off of people that are considered “icky”.
And that’s no way to run a society.
Originally published on Twitter and then on Medium.com