In completely unsurprising fashion, notorious food cop Kelly Brownell has pounced on N.Y. Governor David Paterson’s proposed tax on soda pop in a new op-ed praising the unpopular idea.
Gov. Paterson’s proposal has been met with criticism at every turn, particularly from consumers who aren’t swallowing the need for an “obesity tax.” In one poll, only 37 percent of New Yorkers support the proposed 18 percent tax on drinks made with sugar, favoring other methods of fixing the state budget crisis instead. Seemingly unfazed by the fact that people hate this scheme, Brownell writes:
[The governor] should find a way to rescue the idea, and quick. The tax is one of the very smartest ways to fight the obesity epidemic confronting the state and country …
This tax would be a smashing success in so many ways. It would reduce the consumption of sugared beverages, now an average of 41 gallons per year per person. Economic studies predict that an 18% tax would cut consumption by 14%, a whopping public health effect. To produce a drop like this through public education campaigns would cost hundreds of millions of dollars and decades of precious time.
Brownell’s iron-fisted sentiments reveal his argument to be nanny statism at its platonic ideal. New York residents aren’t interested in being punished for drinking non-diet soda, but Brownell believes the government should impose the tax anyway to save nutrition activists some money on their campaigns. It’s self-serving for Brownell to argue that New York consumers should foot the bill for the so-called “public health effect,” given that he’s been lobbying for it ever since he came up with the Twinkie tax.
Consumers don’t want it. Gov. Paterson is reconsidering it. So maybe it’s time that Brownell and his colleagues gave up the ghost.