Michael Bloomberg is back with his Big Gulp obsession. Years ago, I wrote a series of columns contesting the legality and the logic of his ban on sugary drinks, which were later struck down by the courts. Now he has successfully targeted my home city of Chicago with a $1 million contribution to pass a heavy tax on sugary beverages in Cook County and it appears that it may pass. While I agree with the sentiment (and we try to keep sugary drinks away from our kids except on rare occasions), I view these laws as ineffective, regressive, and paternalistic. The tax passed yesterday by a close vote.
The law combines two problematic trends in Chicago: ever rising taxes on every aspect of life and paternalistic regulations dictating proper living.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle proposed the tax which will bring in more needed money. The entire state is still struggling with ruinous pension deals cut by politicians with unions, particularly the teachers’ union. Those deals got them endorsements but gutted the state. Despite those deals (and horrendous give aways like the infamous parking meter deal), those politicians were simply reelected and no one has faced any repercussions for the poor (and at times corrupt) decision making. I have family and friends who complain that every aspect of life (even putting words on your business windows) are taxed or subject to permit fees.
Preckwinkle cast the deciding vote after a tie on the tax. The tax go into effect July 1. The county’s 5.2 million residents will see the tax on all sugar and artificially sweetened drinks, including pop, sports drinks, lemonade and iced tea. They will see a staggering increase of 72 cents on the cost of a six-pack of soda or 68 cents for a 2-liter bottle. That is not a lot to my family but it is a lot to many families struggling to survive in this economy. It will also add 32 cents to fountain drinks at a penny an ounce so a 7-Eleven Gulp would go up 32 cents and on a Double Gulp to 50 cents.
What do you think?