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January 03, 2017

Sticker-shocked soda-tax sheeple playing right into bottlers' hands

Opinion Soda Tax
Soda Tax protest Brian Hickey/PhillyVoice

Daniel Grace, left, head of Teamsters Local 830, emceed a June 2016 rally against Mayor Jim Kenney's proposed soda tax.

Today’s apparently the day that a lot of people rousted themselves from a year in hibernation and got woke about their feelings on the soda tax. (Fine, it started Sunday, but we’re all just getting back into the swing of the new year thing.)

Welcome to Philadelphia 2017, where people apparently paid little mind to an initiative that, having failed to pass legislative muster five years ago, returned to the forefront in Mayor Jim Kenney’s budget address last March, and raged through its June passage.

They must’ve missed the TV commercials that both sides launched in a battle for the hearts and minds of the people.

And they must’ve gone the earmuffs route when Big Soda sent a caravan of tractor trailers out to honk their horns with the expressed purpose of – I don’t know – getting people so annoyed they wouldn’t want Philadelphia to expand pre-K offerings for those in need.

What those shortcomings have brought about is a feeling of “sticker shock” about the “jaw-dropping” new tax.


Sure, if the sticker-shocked were news-woke, they’d have known this was coming, but what’s the use of paying attention to things that’ll impact your future if it strips you of the ability to bitch and moan about it when it actually happens, amirite?

It’s easier to just ride the coattails of splintered partisanship and use it as a way to rail against the other side’s political leanings.

Case in point: This Twitter post, typed 300-some miles away in Mt. Lebanon, Pa. and based off someone else’s Facebook update:

It uses a voided receipt from a Frankford Avenue ShopRite to make the point that “no wonder folk revolted.” (Yes, yes, a $3 expense is totally worth throwing a nation into the compost heap.)

Sure, the picture was allegedly taken in a city where the establishment presidential candidate carried 82.3 percent of the vote, but whatevs. Facts aren’t important anymore. Kneejerk reactions are.

Like the one from the guy who used a $3.04 tax to make sweeping statements about family planning.

Or the fella who envisions law enforcement assassinations as a result of this tax.

Bold takes, folks.

Anyway, my kneejerk reaction was to find out a) if the receipt was legit and b) how much special water would’ve been purchased to hit that $3.04 in tax.

As for the latter, Kenney spokeswoman Lauren Hitt responded “for the tax to be equivalent to $3.04, the Propel would have needed to be six liters, and the cost would have had to be passed down entirely to ShopRite from their distributor.” (It was a 12-pack of 16.9 ounce Propels, so the numbers add up.)

As for the former, Alex Novak, manager of the ShopRite of Morrell Plaza in Northeast Philadelphia noted that he’d seen it and he had no reason to think it wasn't real. He ain’t much a fan of the tax itself, either.

“It’s the biggest ripoff since the Boston Tea Party,” he said. “A lot of people are going to lose their jobs because of this (tax).”

So yeah, welcome to America 2017, where it's as easy a posting a Tweet to sow irreparable discord. 

I paid attention to this mess last year in an effort to avoid sticker shock (and do my job).

What this receipt speaks to is my prediction that quadrillionaire soda bottlers would regressively – and instantly – foist it entirely upon supermarkets and customers rather than pretend to have a lick of civic responsibility.

Also, they would do so while presenting themselves as victims of a system stacked against them as they pretended to have the little guy and gal’s best interests at heart when that wasn’t anywhere nearly the case.

To me, that's the wrong way to run a business in America. But to many, selfishness is the peak of morality these days. Sounds familiar, huh? 

All of which is to say I wouldn't expect the soda-tax kvetching to quiet any time soon.

Now that they have a certain president-to-be's blueprint to follow, they’d be foolish to employ facts, logic, compassion and honesty, even if it's a matter of helping bolster a much-needed social program. 

In fact, they’ll probably raise their prices even further to cover the millions they wasted on lawyers in a fight they righteously lost. 

That the ShopRite location takes a financial hit by dropping the price on products (like that 12-pack of Propel) to help its customers acclimate to the soda tax will matter little.

The bottlers will still shirk a financial burden with support from many of the people who will suffer as a result.