Economy, Regs, & Taxes

Consumers Find Seattle Soda Tax Distasteful

What happens when it costs $20 or more dollars — for Coke? You buy it elsewhere, of course. Welcome to federalism!

Jordan Candler · Jan. 11, 2018

Seattle Council Member Teresa Mosqueda made an interesting statement regarding the city’s implementation of a soda tax: “One of the most important outcomes that we’re interested in studying is how children’s sugary beverage intake changes in response to the tax.” Her shortsightedness provides yet another sweet lesson on the workings of federalism — and revolt.

First, some background. The city council signed off on a 1.75 cent per-ounce sweetened beverage tax last summer, which became effective on Jan. 1. This tax encompasses anything from sodas to sports drinks. According to The Seattle Times, tax advocates — no doubt in addition to yearning for more city revenue — reasoned that stretching wallets thin by utilizing the now-fashionable health-by-legislation model would prompt massive consumer turnoff. As Mosqueda went on to say, her team aspired to “impact norms and behaviors for folks in term of choice and consumption.” There were certainly impacts — and they were directed against the “leadership” of city council members.

Just days into the new tax, Twitter users began venting their frustration. One picture, taken at a local Costco, revealed a staggering price of $17.55 for a case of three dozen 12 oz. Dr. Pepper cans. Costco took the liberty of revealing both its price ($9.99) and the cutely named “City of Seattle Sweetened Beverage Recovery Fee” ($7.56). You read that right — the tax was nearly aligned with the retail price. Gatorade wasn’t any better — for a person buying 35 of the 16.9 oz. variety pack, the retail price ($15.99) and the “recovery fee” ($10.34) added up to $26.33. But Costco, in text conveniently located alongside the price description, rose from masterful trolling to superior outwitting. The store pointed out to customers that a short drive to the suburbs could save them big bucks.

Of course, such backlash was hiding in plain site. For example, in Philadelphia, where a similar scheme was enacted, research by the marketing firm Catalina discovered a 55% sales decline on soft drinks within the city limits, whereas sales climbed 38% in the outskirts. Catalina tellingly noted, “Many shoppers are now traveling outside the city to buy their sweetened beverages.” Seattle is going to experience the exact same aftermath. And its suburbs will gladly take the financial boon.

Seattle has quickly become one of the nation’s premier examples of socialist incompetence. In 2016, the city concealed its “gun tax” debacle after it ran into similar misfortune and firearms dealers packed up to set sail for more business-friendly surroundings. In 2017, the city’s attempt to foster a “livable” minimum wage had unsurprisingly inverse results. In essence, the poor become poorer. And in November, a superior court judge ruled against an income tax on wealthy residents. Now city residents are faced with an absurd, autocratic and Orwellian ordinance that demands they get healthy. Which is ironic coming from Democrat leaders who continuously preach, “My body, my choice.” No wonder residents are resorting to revoltish tactics.

Click here to show comments

Subscribe! It's Right. It's Free.