"Our Country!
In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right;
but right or wrong, our country!"

    --Commodore Stephen Decatur

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Unintended Consequences

Amid all the destruction and terror of this past weekend, it is reassuring to finally hear some good news.

The Washington Post reports that the D.C. City Council is reassessing earlier plans to enact a soda tax similar to the one which has prompted outrage in New York after being proposed last year.  However, the fact that this tax was even contemplated should be cause for concern.  In both cases, the cities would levy a tax of one cent per ounce.  For the 12-packs of Coca-Cola pictured above, the tax of $1.44 per case would amount to 43 percent!

The proponents of the crippling soda tax have forgotten that the rise of soda fountains and of soft drinks in the first place was largely a reaction to prohibition.  As the New York Times reported in 1916 when the temperance movement was at its height, "The wave of prohibition that is slowly sweeping over the country has done more than any other one influence to develop the soda water trade."  Ginger ale and root beer were once billed as the healthy alternative to their alcoholic namesakes.

Meanwhile, the District of Columbia has some of the lowest alcohol taxes in the nation.  The tax for wine is only 30 cents per gallon, or roughly one-quarter of a cent per ounce while the tax for beer is an embarrassingly low nine cents per gallon, or less than one-tenth of a cent per ounce.  By raising taxes on soda to several times that of beer and wine, the D.C City Council will effectively encourage the citizens of our nation's capital to drink more alcohol instead of soft drinks.

Ironically, what started as the cure for the supposed evils of alcohol may ultimately cause more alcohol consumption. 

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