For a city that loves to shout from the rooftops how much it cares about communities of color, they sure seem to love policies that disproportionately target them.
We learned from the State of the City that Seattle Mayor Ed Murray will be proposing a two-cent per ounce tax on beverages sweetened by sugar. He anticipates it will provide a dedicated revenue source of about $16 million dollars per year.
This proposed tax is not meant to get low income or obese people off of sugary drinks, which it has done effectively in other cities. This tax is specifically intended to raise money for education support to help communities of color. Not only will it not do that, it will actually hurt the people he aims to help.
This tax proposal specifically targets low-income communities of color who, demographically, are the most typical consumers of regular soda.
Indeed, according to Gallup, “nonwhites, and the low-income in the U.S. drink more regular soda than other Americans.” Making it worse, half of 18-29 year olds drink regular soda – the age group that is generally impacted the most when it comes to the rising cost of living in Seattle. Further, “nonwhites (46%) and low-income Americans (45%) — two groups among the most likely to be obese — follow just behind the young in regular soda consumption.”
Further, according to a review of a recent CDC report by The Verge, “the people who are most likely to consume sugary drinks are younger adults, men, black people, and people with lower levels of education.”
Why would the mayor support a tax that disproportionately impacts communities of color that he claims to be a champion for? And why the sudden interest in a soda tax when, in the past, he spoke out against it?
Similar taxes have helped cut down on soda consumption, which means it’s not been effective in raising the money the mayor wants to raise for education funding. For example, 21% fewer minorities and low-income resident drank soda in Berkeley after the tax. In Philadelphia, after just six-weeks, some grocers and distributors reported as much as 50% drop in soda and sugary-drink sales. In Mexico, after a year, sugary drink consumption is down 12%.
These results are great for health, but it doesn’t provide a “dedicated revenue source” the mayor says he wants to use the tax for. All this tax does is target low-income minority residents, who choose to continue to drink soda, with a tax that makes their Seattle life even more expensive than it already is.