I wasn’t going to write about it. And the truth is, I’m going to try to make this short. When Paul Krugman wrote yesterday, A Note on the Soda Tax Controversy, I figured I’d let it slide. After all, at this point, I do a search for “Sanders” on anything Krugman writes, and if I find it, I don’t read the article. Or at least I try to. I usually manage to read at least half the article and it is usually nonsense. It’s what I always say, and what neuroscience proves: we make up our minds and then we come up with arguments to justify ideas that might as well have come from our guts.
But then I noted this morning that Jonathan Chait (who might as well be Paul Krugman when it comes to any discussion of Sanders) wrote, Why Is Bernie Sanders Making Right-Wing Arguments Against Taxing Soda? Right-wing arguments? What could they be?! Well, it turns out it is only one argument and that it is only “right-wing.” That is to say, it’s right-wing in Chait-land where everything is either right-wing or communism if Jonathan Chait doesn’t agree with it.
For those of you not following it, Hillary Clinton wants a soda tax on these sugary drink so that America gets healthier. It’s not a bad idea. I’m not necessarily against it. Call me agnostic. And call me agnostic because there is another side to the issue. Bernie Sanders is against this tax because it is regressive. You can see what a right-wing argument he’s making there. That is: you can see it if you have Jonathan Chait’s eyes that allow him to throw out pejoratives for anything that he doesn’t happen to agree with. It’s interesting that when Michael Bloomberg wanted to ban soda in anything larger than 16 ounce containers, Jonathan Chait ridiculed it.
As Chait noted, the fact that such a tax would hit the poor hardest would probably make the tax most effective, since the rich spend more of their money on pricey Gamay Beaujolais. But it occurs to me, a liberal, that are ways to make everyone more healthy that don’t require doing it on the backs of the poor. It is only because Chait and Krugman and Clinton are all wedded to neoliberal approaches to social problems. Global warming?! How about a carbon tax! Obesity?! How about a soda tax! Both of these are regressive, but neoliberals don’t care because they aren’t poor.
And would it surprise anyone to know that the poor actually consume less junk food than their richer counterparts? But it seems that the modern Democrat has but one tool to deal with problem. So when Bernie Sanders isn’t for a neoliberal “solution” to a problem he acknowledges, then he’s “right-wing.”
I happen to know that Sanders is for a far better solution to the problem of bad eating by the poor: more food stamps. Am I the only one who remembers the article in Mother Jones two years ago, People on Food Stamps Make Healthier Grocery Decisions Than Most of Us? The issue is poverty, not “incentives.” And people like Chait, Krugman, and Clinton think the issue is training the poor, because it’s their own damned fault.
But why listen to me? I am apparently “right-wing”!