Michael Bloomberg, the super-rich purveyor of business news, fancies himself the Terminator. The food police took a knockdown last week in Chicago, when the Cook County board of commissioners repealed a tax on soda pop, but the former mayor of New York City promised defiantly, “I’ll be back.”
Mr. Bloomberg just can’t take no for an answer, and the commissioners were loud enough, voting 15 to 1 to repeal the tax not even a year after they enacted it. Connoisseurs of the fizzy can drink up Dec. 1 without paying a surtax on sugar and taste.
Mr. Bloomberg was so wroth about the vote that some bystanders thought someone should call a doctor, perhaps Dr Pepper. He said he would support candidates for the commission who oppose the repeal (if he can find any.)
He spent more than $10 million of his own money on advertising to preserve the soda tax in Cook County. But he has a lot more cash to dispense; the Forbes 400 list of filthy rich Americans estimates his wealth at $46.8 billion, No. 8 on the list.
The soda tax, imposed at 1 cent per ounce, adds 72 cents to the price of a six-pack of 12-ounce cans and about 68 cents to the price of a two-liter bottle of the most popular brands of the most popular beverages. The tax is levied not only on sodas, but on sports and energy drinks, sweetened tea and even “waters containing natural or artificial sweeteners, beverages containing 50 percent or less fruit or vegetable juice, and all other preparations commonly known as soft drinks.” They forgot only rainwater.
Mr. Bloomberg and the Cook County commissioners hadn’t counted on the resistance of consumers and were counting on wearing everybody down. Many of the thirsty merely drove to nearby Indiana, where the beverages of choice were free of the sin tax (if not necessarily free of other sins).
As a consequence, the tax hasn’t generated the revenue windfall the board was told it would. They counted on the revenue to assist in plugging a $1.8 billion budget gap. Apparently nobody thought of cutting waste and expenses.
“I have heard from the people of my district, overwhelmingly,” Commissioner John Daley said on repeal of the tax. This has not been a happy year for Mr. Bloomberg and his war on soda pop. Earlier this year voters in Santa Fe, N.M., rejected a soda-pop tax in a landslide vote, and such a tax in Philadelphia may be on life-support because it hasn’t generated the expected tax revenue, and the brothers of the City of Brotherly Love can go to convenient shops elsewhere to quench their thirsts.
“We don’t expect to win everywhere,” Bloomberg spokesman Howard Wolfson told The Washington Post. “We’ll continue to go forward and fight the soda industry in jurisdictions that want to protect the health of their citizens.” But you might call the liberation of soda pop a “pro-choice” vote. Choice is not for abortion only.