The Surprisingly Similar Attacks on Sanders Regarding the Soda Tax

Jonathan Chait - For Soda Tax If Sanders Is Against ItI 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.

Paul Krugman - For Soda Tax If Sanders Is Against ItAs 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”!

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

16 thoughts on “The Surprisingly Similar Attacks on Sanders Regarding the Soda Tax

  1. People who can afford to eat better always blame the poor for bad food choices. And also, why they aren’t working out at the Gym more? I don’t think the rich drink a lot of Gamay. They opt for the great red and white Burgundies and Bordeaux growths. Throw in a few over-big California Cabs and they have a wine cellar. Doesn’t sound to bad to me either.

    • I used to enjoy a $10 bottle of red. I determined that above it; I couldn’t really tell the difference above that price. I’ve switched mostly to beer now. Right now it is “Double Bastard” which is just the best beer I’ve ever drunk. Of course, it is $8 for 20 ounces.

      The upper and upper-middle classes love to claim that the poor deserve their poverty. David Brooks has made a career out of it. The fact that actual scientific research goes exactly against that doesn’t matter. There are Times readers who want to hear about how they deserve what they have, so Brooks will always been in demand.

  2. Yeah, it’s a legitimate policy discussion and I see both sides. I don’t begrudge Krugman for having an opinion, but his somewhat arrogant attitude of “Sanders is so obviously wrong on this” was off-putting.

    • Certainly Krugman’s take was better than Chait’s. I agree with the idea that sometimes economics gets trumped but something else. But to complain that the candidate who is all about economic inequality is wrong to stick with my narrative when it comes to something as relatively trivial as soda is pathetic. Will taxing soda really reduce America’s BMI by 5 points? I don’t think so. Krugman thought better before he spent so much time in the gym.

  3. As it happens, I have a serious soda habit. I’ve considered limiting myself to flavored seltzer, but it would cost me two to three times as much as the store-brand diet or sugared stuff I usually buy. There’s no reason for that except segmented marketing, but there it is.

    • I used to. I traded it in for a serious tea habit. And I don’t think it is any better, although it probably has fewer calories.

  4. Sanders may stay in until June but since he has essentially lost, I am going not say anything else on him.

    But I can say that I miss aspartame.

      • So the reason I like aspartame is it tasted right although it did have a slight burning sensation. This new (or old since I don’t have a can to check) chemical tastes annoying but I can’t give up my caffeine and I don’t like coffee or tea.

        • You know it much better than I do. They are all caffeine delivery systems. But you have to be introduced to tea by someone who knows how to make it.

          • I have had tea made by mass process, my mother, stepmother, sister, random person, friend from northern Ireland, barristas, at least one person in England, Teavana clerk, and myself.

            I have had bag, loose leaf, bubble, sun made, boiled and ice blended.

            I don’t know how else (or who by) to have it made that would make me like it.

            • Like most things, it is an acquired taste. But most of those people you mention don’t know how to make tea.

              I still have to drink my coffee with about 1/3 milk. It’s far too intense a drink.

  5. Is Krugman just anti Sanders, or is there a range function on his liberalism? Because prior to the last few months of this primary he was a reliable spokesman for me on any topic he chose. I’m leaning towards the former.

    • You are right: it is the range. At least 5 years ago, I wrote that I was looking forward to the day when Krugman and I disagreed. I always knew he was considerably more conservative than I am. But our country was so out of wack that I always agreed with him. Over time, I think he has become more liberal (so have Summers and Bernanke) — still more conservative than I am. And the county is still out of wack. But Sanders showed the limit of Krugman’s liberalism. It’s healthy. If you aren’t doing so, you should be reading Dean Baker.

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