Cook County Passes High Tax Increase On Sugary Drinks

110px-Big_gulp6480250px-municipal_flag_of_chicagosvgMichael 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?

68 thoughts on “Cook County Passes High Tax Increase On Sugary Drinks”

  1. I quit smoking in 1982. I didn’t need big brother to help me. Enough with government intrusion in our lives.

  2. Excises on discrete commodities are a bad idea unless they are a crude substitute for tolls and fares, or they are meant to correct for an externality, or they are meant to discourage consumption of vice goods (in part because these have unpriced social costs).

    Revenues from a substitute for tolls and fares would have to go into a dedicated fund and used only for that purpose. An example would be an excise on motor fuels which is devoted entirely to road maintenance and captures all the costs of maintaining roads not maintained with tolls.

    There are not appreciable externalities involved in the consumption of Coca Cola and the like. A levy on waste or industrial effluvia or perhaps certain sorts of fertilizer would capture externalities (though you can never locate the optimal rate, you know the optimal rate is non-zero). They’d function just as well if you took the proceeds and distributed them to the public on a per capita or per household bases (say, as a credit applied to your state income taxes or your local property taxes). The name of the game is to change relative prices and thus people’s sense of the optimal consumption bundle. A levy without revenue accomplishes that.

    Coca Cola is not a vice good and not the sort of thing a non-insane person would want vended in some other neighborhood to to effects on social environment. Strip shows are a vice good; liquor by the drink is a vice good. (Tobacco might be or it might be a good with externalities). And, again, levies on vice goods need not be revenue generators. Fines do not need to be, either. Put them in a fund and then empty the fund out at the end of the year by a per capita disbursement.

  3. IMHO, Chicago is right to pass the tax. The fact is, people there, particularly the black women, need to lose some weight. The fat is killing them. Here is some information about this inconvenient truth:

    FOUR out of five black women are seriously overweight. One out of four middle-aged black women has diabetes. With $174 billion a year spent on diabetes-related illness in America and obesity quickly overtaking smoking as a cause of cancer deaths, it is past time to try something new.

    What we need is a body-culture revolution in black America. Why? Because too many experts who are involved in the discussion of obesity don’t understand something crucial about black women and fat: many black women are fat because we want to be.

    There is a lot more at the link. This is a serious problem.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

    1. I don’t feel I have to apply my health ideals to people. If they are good with being fat and are comfortable living their lives in this way, it’s no one else’s decision. There is help for them if they seek it out, but I don’t think it should be mandatory. Supposedly, for the time-being, we still live in a free society.

      Of course that leads to the question of who is responsible for healthcare. I don’t want to be responsible for their heath (outside of providing the cleanest possible environment), and I don’t want them to be responsible for mine.

      1. I agree slohrs; I also accept the fact others will not. What I will never accept is to weaponize (read: use unconstitutional means) to achieve the ends they desire. Why is that so controversial?

        1. What should be done for those on public assistance?

          I do not see Medicaid, Medicare, or Food Stamps being dismantled or reduced significantly.

    2. “The fat is killing them.”

      Not quite.The inability to access the energy in fat and stored micro nutrients (or insufficiency of micro nutrients) is killing them (and the rest of us).

      And, it is not outer fat so much that’s a problem, it is the fat in and around organs. A person can look trim but have type II diabetes because of where they put their fat.

      Blacks actually can carry, for the most part, a higher BMI than whites and Asians before getting diabetes. See Dr. Robert Lustig’s Fat Chance and his presentation at UCSF Sugar: The Bitter Truth for more details.

  4. George Harrison understood the underlying principle involved in his iconic song, “Taxman,” written in 1966. Although the clever taxmen here sell the tax as something that’s good for the public, that simply a marketing scam.

    George’s song will be true as long as people permit insatiable governments to extract more and more money from the public to feed their waste, fraud, and corruption. I present the lyrics below, along with the introduction to the take the Beatles used on their “Revolver” LP. Incidentally, George’s reference to “one for you, nineteen for me,” is factually and mathematically correct, as the Beatles were held liable for a 95% supertax introduced by Harold Wilson’s Labour government, in power at the time.






    Let me tell you how it will be
    There’s one for you, nineteen for me
    Cos I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman

    Should five per cent appear too small
    Be thankful I don’t take it all
    Cos I’m the taxman, yeah I’m the taxman

    If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street
    If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat
    If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat
    If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet

    Cos I’m the taxman, yeah I’m the taxman

    Don’t ask me what I want it for (Aahh Mr. Wilson)
    If you don’t want to pay some more (Aahh Mr. Heath)
    Cos I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman

    Now my advice for those who die
    Declare the pennies on your eyes
    Cos I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman

    And you’re working for no one but me

  5. Speaking of weaponizing government, a lot of my taxes support the military and military industrial complex [this includes all military and related costs] and I’m a pacifist. . Do you agree that I have a right to protest this use of my tax dollars?

  6. Prairie Rose, of course has it right. Smoking decreased dramatically thank to education led by Surgeon General Koop. But, as I said previously, this is a pretext to simply raise taxes, hitting poor people much more heavily than upper middle class people.

  7. The tax includes artificially sweetened drinks as well so I think we can rule out the health of their constituents as a motivation. People will just stock up in a neighboring county.

    It will be as effective as the ban on the sale of spray paint.

    1. So, all those people who quit smoking because it was too expensive are victims. Brilliant. If you cost the society through health care issues because you smoke then that cost should be born by the smoker. A smart guy like you who has been everywhere, done everything, and can read anyone should be able to understand that.

    2. Paul D.,
      Artificially sweetened drinks are not healthier. Some of these “sweeteners” affect the nerves, most still raise insulin and cause metabolic derangement.

  8. If your cool with weaponizing government to tax anything they deem necessary “for the public good” then you have absolutely no legitimate argument when they impose a tax on anything. It’s no wonder there exists a tremendous amount of fear over losing elections. That fear stems from a worldview that a government should have that kind of power so “your side” MUST win or else. When you accept weaponizing the government over the rule of law then you really do deserve the government you get.

  9. Definitely agree did they also ban violent Saturday morning cartoons with non stop sugar laden cereal commercials. Or were they half assed. OK for a local area to do that as long as some idiot Sorista Judge doesn’t decide it applies to the rest of the nation.

    Two points. As per Heinlein’s prediction in this country we treat our dogs better than our children thanks to progressivism

    Cook County. Isn’t that the home base of Comrade Obama? Let them have their little Safe Spot. What need of Chicago?

  10. Taxing garbage like soft drinks, beer, chips, etc is the appropriate way of ‘paying at the pump’. Only a fool would dispute that regardless of health care insurance, health care costs, those who pay for their health care insurance and health care costs pay for ALL health care costs. If someone is so stupid as to consume so much garbage so as to need health care and force the costs on ALL then they should pay up front and the tax should go to offset the costs of health care.

    If ever there was a more appropriate system of mitigating the costs to those of us who live healthy lives it is the pay at the pump tax. The more advanced countries have these taxes and vastly superior health care systems at substantially lower costs to the participants. I do resent having to foot the bill for those with avoidable health problems such as diabetes and alcohol related maladies.

    There is an obvious shortage of bricks here exhibited by those who complain about making the person responsible to pay for the bills just because it is an affront to some perverse and limited understanding of rights.

    1. Issac,
      Your arguments would be better received if you chose to avoid phrases like

      “Only a fool would dispute that”


      “There is an obvious shortage of bricks here”

      1. That should only matter to you if, well…… I’ve been called everything on Turley’s blog by Turley’s mob and I still participate. That is where I stand.

        1. @IsaacB

          And kudos to you for enduring the slings and arrows that come your way! But what people are trying to tell you, is that you ain’t Albert Einstein. and your mouth ain’t no prayer book! Just because you believe something, or as is quite often the case, an entire class of people, is stupid – – – is not true simply by virtue of you speaking the words. Sometimes you might actually be right, but you to need to do a better job of connecting up the your conclusion, with the facts.

          As it is, you just come off sort of aloof and grandiose, like Dudley Manlove:

          Squeeky Fromm
          Girl Reporter

        2. Issac,
          I am sorry you have been called names. That is not fair.

          But generally insulting opponents does not help matters.

          The quality of the arguments matter to me, particularly when it is on the side I am advocating. You care about what you write; I bet you want others to come to the same conclusion.

          I try to be fair and encourage better arguments on both sides. It improves the conversation overall on the blog.

          1. You are a lot better person that I am, because I love to call some people names and give ’em hell. I do try to go beyond just name calling and provide some basis for why I am being abhorrent, but I know I don’t always succeed. But hey, nobody’s perfect!

            Squeeky Fromm
            Girl Reporter

      1. Doglover – if these ‘sin taxes’ on soda, chips, liquor, cigarettes actually went to help with healthcare costs, maybe even I could get behind them. However, it all goes to pay for union pension funds, pet projects, etc. that the ruling elite have in mind.

        1. That is where the apathetic voter and public must come in. In more advanced countries the sin taxes do go to pay for health care and education. The luxury taxes, sin taxes, and other taxes on non essentials support the higher standard of living in these more advanced countries. Americans are born with an ideological silver spoon up their…. There is no involvement to being number one except for those that serve. Most Americans therefore do little if any thinking and take next to no part in choosing their representatives. The public will in the more advanced countries demanded and received higher standards of living, health care, education etc not by simply being born there but by participating. It is obvious to all but the most obtuse that our present dysfunctional political system is an oligarchy because its citizens are placated by cheap gas, food, and TVs. Material wealth in America and for the most part the illusion of material wealth dominates the population. If ever there was a nation of people who drool after those that are paid tens and hundreds of millions while they buy lottery tickets and watch reality TV shows, and then elect the show host as President it is America.

          First you demand a law that taxes crap and guards the funds for the proper uses. You only elect those that….well we just elected a carnival barker so I guess things have to get a lot worse, a lot worse before…..

          My level of frustration is evident in this response to the Blog’s most accomplished contrarian. Paul, you remind me of that five year old trying to fend off going to bed with more questions and inane responses.

          1. “In more advanced countries the sin taxes do go to pay for health care and education.”

            That would depend on what worldview they are advancing towards. Based on your body of work on this blog, I am hopeful we’ve stopped the advancement towards your worldview.

          2. issac – I have achieved the peak of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: accomplished contrarian. What more can I ask for? ;:

  11. Do you object to high taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products? The tax was to discourage smoking and many have quit or cut down because they can no afford it. And we find people selling onesies because that’s all the customers can afford, one at a time. I have no problem with high taxes on sugary drinks. They are addictive regardless of which sweetener is used. (I hope the tax includes the diet drinks as well because their sweetener attacks the nervous system producing systems mimicking lupus, MS, and other neurological diseases.) As Prairie Rose has stated so well, the drinks are a health hazard. So boycott the tax and show him/them, switch to water, you’ll feel better and your health will improve.

    1. bettykath – the revolution begins when they raise the taxes on my chocolate shake. πŸ˜‰

          1. Nick is correct. Dark chocolate has magnesium and some antioxidants. It is the sugar that makes it unhealthy. Raw chocolate is bitter from the magnesium and not as much fun to eat.

            Kale and almonds have more magnesium, though, I think.

            1. Prairie Rose – before coffee and tea became popular, merchants in London met in chocolate houses where they were serve hot chocolate drinks. At that time, chocolate was very bitter and often required sugar to soften the taste.

            1. I think they should tax runners. the activity leads to many health injuries which I shouldn’t pay for. I also think they should tax people who are inactive, because that leads to health issues. Yes, I’m the govt., I want it both ways.

  12. I am sympathetic to the reasoning behind the tax, but education would be a better route to getting people to stop drinking that poison.

    The sugary drinks are driving the obesity epidemic, all the cocommitant diseases, and the consequent increased health care costs.

    I am not surprised by this overbearing law. When you hand over your healthcare to the government then they get to tell you how to stay healthy because it will help lower the expenditures for the government. Sugar and processed food consumption cause people to be less healthy and therefore increase health costs.

    ” ” it is a lot to many families struggling to survive in this economy.”

    For people struggling to survive, they would be better off drinking water. The cost to their health is not worth it. I noted earlier on another post that 50% of kids in poverty are obese.

    Since Ancel Keyes pushed the fat/cholesterol cause heart disease hypothesis (which is inaccurate) and people started eating low fat diet food, and, when high fructose corn syrup came on the market in the early 80s, the incidence of pretty much EVERY chronic disease has increased.

    My kids have their blood pressure checked at doctors visit because so many kids have it!

    Our nation’s health issues are not solely traced back to sugar and processed food consumption, but it is a major component.

  13. People will just start smuggling pop into Cook County. People will start sending Chicago resident gift packages of soda.

  14. This is not even about paternalism. It’s about TAXATION. The out of control Dem monopoly house of cards is crumbling under spending and skimming of fat cats politicians. Chicago and Illinois are BROKE! Fill the Chicago River w/ Big Gulps, our modern day tea party.

  15. O have confidence in human ingenuity; people will figure out how to minimize that tax.

    Eventually even Cook County and Illinois voters will rebel (though they seem to have a remarkable tolerance for abuse).

    Maybe Illinois does have the government that it deserves.

  16. The US economy rests on three legs – oil, food with a long shelf life, and drugs – all destructive to human health.

  17. canned or bottled pop has a long shelf life. Go on a road trip across the county line and buy a year’s worth of pop at one time, free of this ridiculous tax. Then, the county can lose the ordinary sales tax on the pop purchased elsewhere.

    I recognize that most people are not as determined as this to avoid the tax, but a happy medium will be to simply refrain from buying something else and even it out.

    Governments cannot get past controlling and taxing every aspect of life.

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