Let’s Be Honest About A Soda Tax

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - February 16, 2011

The basic premise of raising the soda and alcohol tax reveals that your state government will stop at nothing to make a buck.

Here’s the deal. Government continually decries the effects of alcohol, tobacco, fast food, sugar and just about anything else you may enjoy.

The justification for proportionately higher taxes on these and other “sins” is that these products are a choice and not a necessity.

Really? So, if the state is correct in this justification, then conversely products of necessity should be tax-free, right?

So I would hope to see companion legislation calling for the repeal of taxes on food, prescription medication, rent, clothing and transportation. These are necessities in our daily lives. If you’re going to be true to the justification of “sin” taxes, you must remove taxes from necessary items.

Oh, wait. You say you can’t do that? So the whole “it’s a choice thing” is just a clever ruse to tax and tax and tax. I get it.

Do you remember when the congressional investigation into “Big Tobacco” was making headlines? Phillip Morris and others would stop at nothing to manipulate, lie and fabricate information to create a product that killed people. Additional allegations include that tobacco companies were developing and marketing candy-flavored smokes to little kids. The purpose was obvious: to cultivate future customers. Pretty hard core, don’t you think?

Now take your state government. Hawaii was one of the first states with its mitts out to take a cut of the tobacco settlement money - 46 states took their chunk of the $206 billion in cash turned over by tobacco companies. Yes, Hawaii was one of five states that dedicated a large portion to tobacco initiatives, but others used the cash for just about anything.

Before you start getting all weepy at how Hawaii is so gallant in its efforts, consider this: Hawaii takes money to tell people not to

smoke. But Hawaii has a budget line item for tobacco tax collections. Hawaii has a financially vested interest in people smoking. If tobacco were such a terrible product that kills, wouldn’t you think the state would do everything in its power to stop this product from reaching the hands and lungs of its people? On the contrary, the state not only doesn’t stop access to cigarettes, etc., it profits from its use.

It’s the same duplicitous position with the soda and alcohol tax increase proposal. Gov. Abercrombie is proposing an increase on soda (and sugary drinks) that will raise $44 million with $10 million going to fight obesity and diabetes. Huh? So, with

obesity and diabetes as the scourge of our Islands, the government is willing to keep 75 percent of monies raised and throw 25 percent back to those who are obese and diabetic. Nice. The state needs you to drink yourself fat and sugar imbalanced to balance its budget. It’s pretty much the same scenario for alcohol, too.

Both government and the businesses benefit from consumers using said products. The only difference is businesses take all the risk in bringing their items to the marketplace and have to compete to make a profit, while all the state has to do is slap a tax on their efforts.

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