The left’s attempts to control society, curb individual freedoms and remove a sense of personal responsibility from human beings have taken many forms and expressions over the years. A textbook approach to doing so is through imposing taxes on consumer goods. Reasons to tax consumer goods usually revolve around a need to prevent people from consuming unhealthy products. However, the exacerbation of the actual problem they try to solve, that results from these attempts, is a great example of how the left is regressive.
Recently, cities in California and Colorado have mulled over the prospect of implementing a soda tax, similar to the Australian Greens’ plan for a sugar tax. A vote on this piece of legislation will take place next month in San Francisco, Oakland, and Albany in California, and Boulder, Colorado. Leftist rhetoric endorses this new tax by emphasising its aim of artificially increasing prices in order to reduce consumption of products such as sugary soft drinks and energy drinks. This is an example of the irony characterising the left, as this sort of rhetoric is eligible to be labelled as fear mongering. If the right’s use of social instability as a reason to restrict immigration qualifies as fear mongering according to the left, using the negative side effects of particular products as a reason to artificially increase prices qualifies as fear mongering as well. This makes clear the ignorance of the proponents of the tax, such as former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who donated $500000 of his own personal wealth for the cause.
Apart from the audaciousness of assuming one’s ability to know what’s best for others, this new tactic from the left is very regressive in nature. A University of California, Berkeley, study discovered that a similar tax resulted in a 21% decrease of “sugar-sweetened beverage” consumption in the local area, while consumption of water shot up 63%. A recent report by the Pew Charitable Trusts has also revealed that the tax will most likely reduce consumption of sugary drinks. However, this study has also revealed that this does not necessarily reduce consumption of sugar and high-calorie products in general, which is the ultimate goal. The report elaborates on the phenomena where consumption of substitutes increases after sin taxes are implemented. It cites a study conducted by Ohio State and Cornell universities that showed an increase in beer consumption when a tax on sugary drinks was used, which did not reduce caloric intake in the long-run.
The report also cites a study in Mexico that showed a 3% decrease in consumption after a tax was imposed, while having a negative impact on low-income neighbourhoods, as such taxes usually impact the poor because they will continue buying products despite the tax, and thus pay more. The report also uses another example:
For example, a customer buying an iced cappuccino at a coffee shop will pay no more than an 8 percent sales tax. But a customer could pay a higher rate of tax on a bottle of cappuccino from a store because the tax is imposed by the ounce, not by price.
It is important to remember that grocery store owners also have families to support. And so another argument involves the fact that grocery stores will increase retail prices on all products in order to compensate for the new tax. This will increase the cost of living for all residents, and will have an especially dire impact on poorer households. Increased prices will result in poorer people paying more, or purchasing less, in order to make ends meet. This will reduce the portion of income meant for other purposes, such as education and electricity, or result in malnutrition because grocery prices are now high. It’s a tragic example of a domino effect, and ultimately, grocery store owners will also suffer if customers spend less. All for nothing.
Middle class households will at least be able to travel to another neighbourhood that doesn’t have sin taxes to do their shopping. Poorer families may not, as they do not have the ability or opportunity, as many poorer families don’t own motor vehicles. This idea was put forth by Anthony Campisi, spokesman for the Philadelphians Against the Grocery Tax Coalition, cited in the Pew report.
The Acton Institute states that the real purpose of these excise taxes is to increase revenue for the government to fund spending, albeit under the disguise of being a force to promote health. The United States already suffers from a $20 trillion national debt. The institute also raises the profound question: “…what makes politicians better judges of what is good for us then we ourselves or those persons in whose judgment we have confidence”. Excise taxes insult human intelligence.
We understand that many left-wing individuals possess good intentions when trying to impose this tax. They want to prevent other people from suffering the negative consequences that result from consuming unhealthy high-sugar products. However, is it right for the state to assume the role of nanny and control other people’s decisions? No. Individuals should be given the opportunity to make their own decisions when such decisions have no physical impact on other people. One person’s choice to consumer soft drink does not physically harm anyone else. These attempts at controlling humans is only good at taking away a sense of personal responsibility, and thus breeding a new generation of entitled people who rely on the state for their own safety and security instead of relying on themselves as humans. These attempts are grossly anti-nature. Humans make bad decisions, and they suffer the consequences. That’s what life’s about.