Unlike other ‘sin’ taxes, soda tax in plain sight
Are you aware of the nearly 11-cents-an-ounce potent beverage tax paid by customers in Chicago?
The tax dwarfs the new pennyan-ounce sweetened beverage tax that now has so many Cook County residents in an uproar, but I’m guessing you’re fairly oblivious to it.
You may not regularly purchase alcohol that’s 40 proof and up — think bourbon, whiskey, vodka, tequila, Everclear and so on. And even if you do, the state, county and city “sin” taxes that add up to $13.73 a gallon are hidden inside the shelf price.
The same is true of the combined nearly 36-cents-per-cigarette tax Chicago smokers pay at the register. Of course they’re aware that the combined $7.17per-pack taxes more than double the price, but they don’t see what the various government bodies are nicking them for.
Ditto gasoline taxes. The Illinois Petroleum Marketers Association says invisible federal, state, county and city taxes and fees boost the per-gallon price of gas by about 50 cents, and the law forbids stations from advertising a pretax price.
“When customers actually see the tax, they tend to get angry,” said Carol Portman, president of the Taxpayers Federation of Illinois. She said she suspects part of the reason the public is so irate about the sweetened beverage tax that went into effect in August is that it’s a line item on grocery receipts and not simply tucked into the price.
County officials wanted it otherwise. The original ordinance said the tax “must be included in the selling price ... (as) advertised or posted,” and that retailers could state it separately on receipts if they chose.
But due to complexities in the tax code, the Illinois Department of Revenue ruled that adding sales taxes on top of the beverage tax would amount to double taxation. Retailers identified the additional problem that purchases by those in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, informally called food stamps) are exempt from state and local taxes.
Both are issues that nimble point-of-sale software could address, but the SNAP problem suggests a bigger question:
If these sweetened beverages are as bad for you — as nutritionally empty and disease-enabling — as the current pro-tax advertising campaign has been insisting, then why does the government help low-income people buy them?
SNAP benefits don’t cover booze or cigarettes, after all. So by the same health-based logic used to justify the sweetened beverage tax, SNAP should exclude soda, energy drinks, bottled Frappuccinos and all the other drinks to which a penny an ounce has been added to the price.
Such a change would send a dramatic signal to parents of all income levels to stop encouraging their kids to swill pop and maybe cut back a little themselves.
And it would be consistent with one of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s main arguments for the tax, which is that it will discourage consumption in impoverished communities that suffer disproportionately from ailments related to excessive sugar consumption.
Of course such a change would require a federal waiver that Big Soda would try mightily to block. Taxpayers subsidize sugar crops, then subsidize the purchase of sugary drinks, then subsidize the health care for those sickened by them, and that’s how they like it.
Far likelier is that the Cook County Board will vote next month to repeal the tax as public clamor is demanding.
Would it have been more popular if it had been hidden? We’ll probably never know.
Equifax hoovers up my personal data without my permission or consent, lets hackers into its digital back door to steal my data and now I’m supposed to contact it? To protect myself from its blunder?
Look, I understand the need for credit rating agencies and the services they perform, mostly for financial companies and major retailers. They facilitate commerce. And to do so they need to keep track of how we’ve been interacting with our creditors.
But I’ve never hired Equifax or its main competitors, TransUnion and Experian. I’ve never agreed — except, perhaps, by checking a box on a terms-of-service contract that I didn’t read — to let it assemble a dossier on me that includes my Social Security number, birth date, driver’s license number and other personal data useful to identity thieves.
When I learned that last week Equifax had suffered a security breach, discovered July 29, that may have compromised 143 million accounts including mine, I had no opportunity to curse myself for trusting the agency. Instead, I simply cursed. Cursed at Equifax’s delay in announcing the breach and cursed especially at the company’s directive to go to its website to determine if my personal data was among the stolen information and then to proceed to enroll in setting up free credit monitoring for a year.
No. Since you didn’t protect the data, Equifax, you contact the victims and you set up the free credit monitoring. It’s absurd that any of this is on us. All credit rating agencies should be required by law to monitor the credit of everyone on whom they have created a profile without personal consent.
Let these companies make it easier — and free — to freeze your credit account to protect from fraud. Tell them to stop making us work and pay to compensate for the inadequacies in their system. If they can’t safeguard our information, force them to make it less valuable to thieves.
Survey says …
“I can’t think of anything worse than having government more involved in your health care,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday, reacting to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ ambitious single-payer health insurance proposal.
Really? Gallup took a survey on this very point in 2015 and headlined its report “Americans With Government Health Plans Most Satisfied.”
Under the heading “Percentage satisfied with the way the health system is working,” military personnel and veterans topped the list with 78 percent satisfaction. Recipients of Medicare (77 percent) and Medicaid (75 percent) were next. Then came nongovernment insurance from unions (71 percent) and employers (69 percent).
Sanders doubled down, sniffing that last year’s elections, including his own defeat in the Democratic primary, were “a pretty clear indication of what America wants to see, and its not a single-payer system.”
I dunno. Depends on how you word the question, I suppose, but a CNN poll in August found 58 percent support for “a national health insurance program for all Americans.” A Quinnipiac University poll in July found 51 percent support for “removing the current health care system and replacing it with a single-payer system.” A Kaiser Family Foundation poll in June found 53 percent support for a system “in which all Americans would get their insurance from a single government plan.” Also in June, the Pew Research Center found 60 percent support for the proposition that it’s “the federal government’s responsibility to make sure all Americans have health care coverage.”
Meanwhile, Gallup’s most recent job-approval number for Sanders’ boss, President Donald Trump, was 37 percent.
The winner of the Tweet of the Week poll was this quip by @xLiserx: “If somebody doesn’t text me back within 5 minutes I assume they don’t love me or that they’ve died from loving me too much.”
If you’d like to be alerted when each new poll goes live, email me and I’ll put you on the very special list.