Each month seems to bring a new joke from the state Legislature. February saw an Assembly resolution to make the first week of March "cuss word-free." Now, legislators have a new idea: Tax soft drinks to make Californians slim down. In reality, it's just another scheme by politicians to raise money while ducking serious issues.

Public health activists have declared sugar-sweetened beverages – soft drinks, fruit juice, sports drinks, even chocolate milk – a supposed menace in an effort to get the government to tax them. Following Sen. Alex Padilla's kangaroo court of a public hearing in November on the alleged link between soda and childhood obesity, Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, now wants to tax beverages for every teaspoon of sugar they contain.

There's no convincing evidence that "fat taxes" on food or drinks are an effective way to force weight loss. Writing in the Review of Agricultural Economics, a team of researchers determined that a small tax on snacks "would have very small dietary impacts." As for a larger tax, it "would not appreciably affect" the average person's diet.

California already has a 7.25 percent tax on soft drinks, enacted in 1933, but that hasn't stopped waistlines from expanding.

Moreover, taxing soft drinks may even be counterproductive. Researchers writing in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine noted that taxing soft drinks may result in people simply substituting untaxed beverages that are still high in calories.

For example, orange juice and 2-percent milk – which would not be taxed under Florez's plan – contain more calories per ounce than cola. If the Florez tax really worked, it would cause a substitution of these other beverages – resulting in people consuming more calories than before.

Florez's assumptions are also off-target. Because many factors contribute to obesity, no one kind of food or drink is solely responsible for weight gain. An October study by University of Minnesota researchers discovered no association during a five-year period between the consumption of sugared drinks and adolescent weight gain. Previous research came to similar conclusions.

The latest line is that soda taxes are "voter-backed." One anti-soda activist group recently released a poll purportedly showing that Californians favor a soft-drink tax. But what it really shows is how pollsters can skew public opinion by telling people it's a "small tax on sodas and other sweetened beverages" for "raising funds for childhood obesity prevention" instead what it really is – a large tax to satisfy government's craving for money.

Tax revenue is fungible. There's no guarantee that money raised from a tax on soft drinks won't be funneled somewhere else. In New York, for example, the Service Employees International Union is backing a soda tax campaign, knowing that a tax can help the union keep its pensions funded.

And consider that the money from a 1992 Arkansas soda tax was supposed to go into the state's Medicaid program, but was diverted into the general fund. Given California's budget woes, we can expect nothing different.

One soft-drink tax poll was conducted in September by the Opinion Research Corp., the same group that CNN uses. That poll found that close to two-thirds of Americans are opposed to using taxes on soft drinks to make us slim down.

That's because most Americans believe that what we put in our mouths is our own business. Creating phony scientific "consensus" for the idea that soft drinks are a singular cause of obesity is the tactic for dodging personal responsibility. And blaming one kind of food or drink for obesity is like saying a baseball game was won or lost on a single pitch.