The Sleaze that is the American Beverage Association

One of the initiatives on the ballot here in Washington State is I-1107. This initiative states:

This measure would reverse certain 2010 amendments to state tax laws, thereby: ending the sales tax on candy and the temporary sales tax on some bottled water; and ending temporary excise taxes on the activity of selling certain carbonated beverages, not including alcoholic beverages or carbonated bottled water. It would also reinstate a reduced business and occupation tax rate for processors of certain foods.

There’s some things you need to know about Washington to understand this initiative.

1) Washington State uses sales tax as a primary means of collecting money into their coffers, rather than income tax.

2) Food was and is excluded from sales tax, for obvious reasons.

3) When less money was coming into the state coffers (due to the recession and the fact that people are spending less money), the state government implemented a tax upon candy and soda pop. Once excluded from sales tax, the government decided that these were luxuries as these consumables generally add nothing to one’s nutrition.

When the American Beverage Association heard that Washington state was now taxing soda pop, they leaped into action. It is reported that they had spent an estimated $1 million gathering petition signatures for the July 2, 2010 statewide deadline to help put this initiative on the ballot.

Since that time they have donated an astounding $16,727,750 to fight these taxes. The have created false and misleading advertisements, saying things such as:

1)Taxing food and beverages is just plain wrong. It hurts middle-income families, seniors and other people who are already struggling to make ends meet during difficult economic times.

2)Taxing thousands of common food and beverage products sets a dangerous precedent. If we don’t repeal these tax hikes now and send a clear message, the politicians will think they can get away with raising taxes on other grocery products in the future.

If we were to tax foods of substance, let’s call it nutritious food, then it might be wrong. But the state of Washington took care to define these taxable items in such a way that made it clear that the newly taxed items were foods that added nothing of substance to our diet. We don’t need bottled water, we don’t need candy bars. At no point did the conversation come up that was along the lines of “Hey, let’s tax apples.” That simply did not happen.

As far as the “sets a dangerous precedent” line, let me point out that alcohol has been taxed here for quite some time. Taxing soda or chocolate bars is not taking us into a scary new “tax every consumable” world.

The American Beverage Association knows this. But here’s the thing. They don’t want you to associate Pepsi and Coke with Budweiser and Miller. What they want is for you to associate the products that they are lobbying for with chicken, fish, and bread. They want you to believe that every item in a grocery store inhabits a sacred area, and once entered, it means that the product is inherently good for us.

This just is not so.

And let’s not forget, as Dominic Holden pointed out in the Stranger, that a great many of the clients of the ABA already suckle at the teat of our government:

As it stands, soda companies enjoy enriched profits thanks to government kickbacks on their primary sweetener. In a report last year from Tufts University called “Sweetening the Pot,” Alicia Harvie and Timothy A. Wise wrote that U.S. farm policies gave “high fructose corn syrup producers an implicit subsidy of $243 million a year, a savings of $2.2 billion over the nine-year period, and over $4 billion since 1986.”

(For more on the HFCS bait and switch, I highly recommend you reading a previous post of mine.)

The ABA is willing to spend $16,000,000 to help define their products that way. It’s sleaze at the highest level. It prevents relevant debate, and this year, it quite literally means a reduction of core services to various areas within our fine state. From KUOW:

Public safety took a big hit in the budget. It makes up more than three–quarters of the county’s spending. King County Sheriff Sue Rahr says what that means is that so–called low–level crimes will not be investigated. Say your wallet or car were stolen. Sheriff Rahr says none of those crimes will be assigned to a detective for a follow–up investigation.

Rahr: “I’ve had to make a choice between some very, very bad choices. And I had to choose between crimes against persons or crimes against property; it’s a terrible place to be because common sense — history shows when you stop investigating property crimes, everything else gets worse.”

In all, the sheriff’s department is expected to lose 71 positions. Many detectives will be demoted, assigned to patrol duty. At the prosecutor’s office the budget proposes to eliminate 22 deputy prosecutors and 11 legal support staff. And 42 positions in the Superior Court are slated for cuts.

From Northwest Cable News:

Budget cuts continue to trickle down across the state. One of the latest effects is long-term care and that means some senior-services will be forced to scale back.

From The Stranger:

The city will be forced to make make millions of dollars in unplanned cuts if several tax-repeal measures pass on the November ballot. In a worst case scenario for the next two years, the city will face—in addition to the $67 million shortfall already on the table for next year—“$11.7 million in deficit, depending on the voters’ choices,” council staffer John McCoy writes in a brief he presented at a Seattle City Council budget hearing this morning.

The looming threat puts the council’s budget decisions in limbo—waiting for the election results—and makes city leaders particularly nervous that vital funding for human services could vanish.

But what’s a few police offices and and healthy senior citizens when we get save 2 cents on a 12 oz. can of Pepsi.