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The Last Straw for Big Soda?

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It's a match made in nanny-state heaven. Having failed to ban Big Gulps in New York City, former Big Apple mayor Michael Bloomberg has dumped $85,000 into the campaign in San Francisco to pass Measure E — a two-cent tax on all "sugary drinks."

That's a red alert for the nation's big soda makers, who are already reeling from consumers' changing tastes. In a world where new supercharged energy drinks hit the market every few months, old stalwarts like Coke and Pepsi have wound up seeming not just boring, but relatively useless. Who wants mere refreshment? Kids these days want to get amped up. Even if the soda companies' competitors are also affected, a punitive tax on sodas is more than they can stand.

So the American Beverage Association is outspending Bloomberg and company by a factor of 10. Nevertheless, they face an uphill battle. And the reason why ought to give Californians a reason to rethink taxes like Measure E.

San Francisco, of course, is no ordinary city. It's filled with ideological activists and lifestyle liberals who want to do what they can to reshape society to their liking. But that instinct is as old as humanity itself. There's something reasonable about it, too, up to a point. Nobody has a human right to drink Coca-Cola at a certain price.

On the other hand, nobody has a right to force others to pay more for a product they don't like. That's why taxes like those hiked by Measure E fall into a problematic gray area.

Even though they're meddlesome and manipulative, they don't fall into the category of rights talk.

Here's the thing, though: Even more important than who's offended by the taxes is how and why the taxes would be applied. Measure E doesn't just levy a two-cent surcharge on sugary drinks. It spends the money raked in by the tax on nutrition and physical education programs for kids.

For many San Franciscans, that's an even better reason to vote Yes on the measure Nov. 4. Think carefully, however, and you'll see that the concept of taxation behind Measure E is a pernicious one, even if the results it promises could be beneficial to some. The fair purpose of taxation is to raise revenue, period — not to punish some behavior and reward others.

America has drifted far from this gold standard of fairness. Think of the mortgage interest tax deduction, which encourages people to buy homes by handing them a massive writeoff that renters just can't get.

But the logic of Measure E goes far beyond that. Studies suggest that the tax alone would slash soda consumption by a third. The programs the tax receipts would fund are clearly designed to push future consumption down even further. Measure E isn't a simple "sin tax," where government cashes in on people's appetite for pleasure so it can pay for pre-existing expenses everyone shares. It's designed to do to the soda industry what President Obama wants to do to ISIS: "degrade and eventually destroy" it.

That doesn't make Measure E unconstitutional all by itself. But it should be a warning to us all. Today it's soda. What products will it be tomorrow? The logic behind Measure E knows no bounds.

REPRINTED FROM THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM



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