Combating the scourge of white privilege looms large on the minds of liberals, including Seattle mayor Ed Murray. But Murray’s solution to leveling the playing field is a tad unusual. It is to impose a tax on beverages sweetened with sugar.
The Seattle Times explains:
Under Murray’s initial plan, announced during his State of the City address in February, distributors of sugary drinks would have paid 2 cents per ounce.
The revised tax would cover sodas such as Coke and Pepsi, energy and sports drinks such as Red Bull and Gatorade, fruit drinks such as Sunny D, sweetened teas such as those sold by Arizona, and bottled coffees such as those sold by Starbucks.
The changes were recommendations that emerged when staff from the mayor’s office and the office of Councilmember Tim Burgess studied disparate impacts the tax could have on people with low incomes and on people of color, according to Murray.
That work involved conversations with community advocates, public-health professionals and business owners, according to the mayor. After Murray’s initial announcement, some suggested the exclusion of beverages with artificial sweeteners would be unfair because affluent white people tend to consume more diet drinks.
Reason gives a preview of the likely impact of the proposal on the city’s economy by citing data from another metropolis that has already implemented such a plan:
Philadelphia’s soda tax — which went into effect in January — has seen price hikes of 30 to 50 percent along with job losses in the beverage industry. Philly.com has reported that one of the city’s largest drink distributors said it will cut 20 percent of its workforce, while an owner of several ShopRite stores said he will cut some 300 jobs.
Similarly situated businesses and residents in Seattle are already pushing back on Murray’s proposed soda tax.
The local Teamsters Union has already come out against it with their Secretary-Treasurer saying that his union “will not support a tax that will put hardworking middle-class Americans out of a job, no matter how well-intentioned the tax may be.”
Local business owners have pushed back as well. One burger joint in the city put up a sign reading “Hey Mr. Mayor, $5 sodas? Your pop tax sucks!”
Reason further notes that for Murray, it has become “an issue of equity,” a way to tackle “white privileged institutionalized racism.”
He’s got a point. Sugar is white.
Heat Street suggests a possible ulterior motive:
The white privilege tax may be a distraction for Murray, who’s facing accusations from four men that he paid for sex and sexually abused them in the 1980s when they were teen boys. A high profile lawsuit from one of the men filed last month claims that Murray “raped and molested him” over several years, beginning in 1986 when the man was a 15-year-old high-school dropout. Murray has denied the accusations.
Meanwhile, the tax is set to be considered some time in June by the Seattle City Council, which, by the way, includes a real-life socialist.