How Michael Bloomberg Wants to Tax the Poor
Former New York Mayor and current billionaire publisher Michael Bloomberg is having to deal with a couple of issues that became controversial when he was running New York City. One of those issues was the stop and frisk policy, in which police officers would stop people on the street and check to see if they were carrying illegal firearms. Bloomberg offered a mea culpa to the effect that he did not understand how the policy weighed most heavily on communities of color. Of course, he did not also mention that the resulting decrease in violent crime disproportionately benefited the same communities.
The other policy that proved to be problematic when Bloomberg occupied Gracie Mansion was his war on large capacity, sugary soft drinks. The theory behind trying to restrict people from drinking a lot of soft drinks was that too much sugar intake leads to chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. The controversy came in when people objected to a government trying to restrict what is both the pleasant and unhealthy habit of consuming lots of Coca Cola and Mountain Dew. That brings us to the time Bloomberg was at an event sponsored by the International Monetary Fund when he expounded on the virtues of taxing the poor for their own good, according to RealClearPolitics.
“Some people say, well, taxes are regressive. But in this case, yes they are. That’s the good thing about them because the problem is in people that don’t have a lot of money. And so, higher taxes should have a bigger impact on their behavior and how they deal with themselves. So, I listen to people saying ‘oh we don’t want to tax the poor.’ Well, we want the poor to live longer so that they can get an education and enjoy life. And that’s why you do want to do exactly what a lot of people say you don’t want to do.
“The question is do you want to pander to those people? Or do you want to get them to live longer? There’s just no question. If you raise taxes on full sugary drinks, for example, they will drink less and there’s just no question that full sugar drinks are one of the major contributors to obesity and obesity is one of the major contributors to heart disease and cancer and a variety of other things.”
Bloomberg went on to compare the objections to taxing sugary soft drinks to those about banning coal mining for fear that it would put coal miners out of work. He dismissed the objection by suggesting that there aren’t that many coal miners left and that, besides, the government can find other things for them to do once the coal industry is shut down. Of course, Bloomberg said that after the 2016 elections that showed that there were enough irate coal miners to swing several states, including Pennsylvania, to Trump.
The theory behind Bloomberg’s idea of regressive taxes on the poor is that if people with less income have to pay more for sugary soft drinks, they will be forced to change to healthier alternatives. The poor would thus be healthier and constitute less of a burden on the healthcare system.
However, Hot Air weighed in and noted a real-world example of the idea of a tax on soft drinks not working the way Bloomberg suggested they would.
“The reality, of course, is very different. Remember when Philadelphia passed their soda tax? Sales plummeted by 51% in Philadelphia but rose in the suburbs where the tax wasn’t being applied. That meant lost revenue (and jobs) for local grocery stores, but not much of an impact on the amount of soda people were drinking. The same thing happened in Chicago when Cook County passed a tax like that.”
Bloomberg might reply that we need a nationwide tax on soft drinks so that people can’t rush off to low tax areas to get their coca-cola fix. After all, a variant on that strategy certainly decreased the consumption of dangerous, recreational drugs (not.) One could just imagine the money the cartels can make smuggling soft drinks across the border.
Hot Air also noted that the policy has the odor of paternalism and nanny statism. The government knows what is better for you than you do, so it has the right to hike taxes on soft drinks or, another oldy by goody favored by Bloomberg, restrict the types of firearms one can possess.