When [Seattle mayor Ed] Murray and Councilmember Tim Burgess introduced the tax in April, they presented it as a way to encourage healthier lifestyles among minorities and to fund programs that will help close Seattle's racial achievement gap. (Among the recipients: early childhood education and subsidies to farmers markets.) The original proposal also included a tax on diet beverages, on the theory that this would make a regressive tax more equitable. In the mayor's words, "the data showed that the diet drinks were consumed by more middle-class white people." But the ordinance that passed yesterday left out the diet drinks.We can't have all that prole adipose tissue in our Seattle stores. The good news is, stores just outside city limits aren't obligated to charge the tax, and it's likely they'll enjoy the same sort of windfall that Hammond, Indiana tobacconists have enjoyed for years.
Several activists who spoke on behalf of the measure acknowledged that the tax is regressive but argued that this would be mitigated by the spending it will allow. "We understand this is a regressive tax," said a dietitian with the group Got Green. "We only support it because we know and are pushing for it to go back and serve the community." Mackenzie Chase of the Save the Children Action Network echoed the point: "Early learning is a smart investment. We have a dramatic need for an investment and this is a smart way to do that."
Yet 80 percent of the revenue from the tax will go straight into Seattle's general fund, with no restrictions on how it can be spent. For the other 20 percent, the spending will follow a weak and non-exclusive list of priorities, including the administration of the tax and, perhaps most insultingly, training for workers who lose their jobs as a result of the tax. So even if it made sense to tax low-income Seattleites so that supposedly smarter officials could then give the money back to them in the form of services the government thinks they need, there's no guarantee that the soda tax will do even that.
Ah, Seattle, the perfect foil for one of Mark "Carpe Diem" Perry's signature Venn diagrams.
When you have eliminated the impossible, dear reader, are you left with the conclusion that Seattle wants its poor people, particularly its overweight poor people, to vanish? Why else foreclose the entry level jobs by a $15/hr minimum wage and drive the sale of sugary drinks (but not, apparently, the frappuccino) beyond city limits?