Monday, February 7, 2011

"Give Me a Break": Americans Against Food Taxes TV Ad

While a bit of today's water cooler conversation will be spent mulling over yesterday’s Super Bowl commercials, there’s another commercial—with a decidedly political message—that I wanted to discuss.

It’s a spot created by a group called Americans Against Food Taxes to counter the movement to tax sugary drinks, including sodas and sports drinks:

Americans Against Food Taxes is a consortium comprised predominantly of industry groups and businesses—i.e. Burger King, the Society of the Plastics Industry, the Florida Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, Delta Air Lines—that have huge financial stakes in the sugary drink business.

The entire spot infuriates me, but the “They want to put new taxes on a lot of groceries I buy” line may be the most clandestinely deceiving, especially for those who don’t know the details of the larger conversation.

Consider the visuals, including the actor’s shopping cart. Sorry, but no new taxes are being discussed for pineapple, peppers and beef. Any tax would be levied on the saccharine drinks that are making us sick and putting an undue burden on our health care system.

If the taxes go to offset the huge financial burdens placed on our health care system because of these drinks, I am in favor. Our always ballooning health care premiums and taxes are ridiculously high, thanks in part to soda and its kin. I’d much rather have my tax dollars fund afterschool sports programs and extended hours for the public library instead of drugs and surgical procedures needed to fight unnecessary (soda-induced) diabetes and obesity.

Two arguments against the tax are that we should be educating hard-working Americans about proper food choices—not creating more financial burdens with more taxes—and that the government should not be interfering in our personal lives.

Those arguments are, in theory, admirable, but reality proves—witness Pepsi’s Refresh Project—that most of the educating and interference is really done by the beverage companies, which are more interested in their financial health (via the continual harvesting of new generations of customers) than society’s well-being.

Your thoughts?


alex said...

Here here Rob, I agree!

Zach said...

Ideally, we should be educating people about the dangers of soda, etc., and allowing them to freely make the right choices. Decisions made by the people are more likely to be followed than decisions imposed upon the people.
However, considering how much money the industry puts into promoting their products, it is unlikely that educating people on adverse effects of those products will work. I'm not convinced taxes to the consumer are the right way to deal with the problem, though; how about the government gets rid of the support they currently give to industries which produce unhealthy products?

Heather said...

Here in Washington State, we recently voted to get rid of our "food tax." The commercials and flyers were deceptive in several ways. One way was that they actually made it sound like a new tax would be levied. Anyway, the food tax was rescinded (and other taxes were voted down, as well) and our state is reducing our budget dramatically, harming our health and educational systems in particular.

Chef Rob said...

Zach - I agree; discontinuing the ridiculous subsidies would be a great start. Unfortunately, it'll never fly politically. Maybe in 10 to 15 years . . .

Heather - Thanks for the information. Sounds a little like what happened in Seattle with the proposed charge on plastic bags.

Esteban R. said...

Your commentary is particularly spot on.

I've been personally grumbling over this commercial for months. It troubles me most when the actress who speaks not from the perspective of an ailing culture of poor dietary habits says she "can decide what to buy without government help." As if the FDA and other agencies have been utterly useless in attempting to keep the public safe and informed.

I'm just totally against the how lax our government is when dealing with corporations that cling to their capitalist ideologies without thinking twice how much damage their products deal their devoted consumers.