Defining the relevance and importance of this type of tax is going to be difficult for liberals or conservatives. Those opposed to these measures will use the epithet “sin tax”. I couldn’t remember where I read this yesterday – I quickly word searched Matthew’s column, then Rose’s and Fred’s blog before it finally dawned on me. I read “sin tax” in the comment zone of the liberal Tuluwat. *sigh*
Especially in Humboldt passing measures like these are an almost certain loser until we start talking about weed, when many of us environmental liberals will find allies with many social and religious conservatives.
“Sin tax”, “nanny state”, etc. are the Luntz-approved words that will separate what we traditionally think of as conservatives and liberals – ie KINS v KGOE or Rush v Thom.
Despite Berkeley’s success I wouldn’t underestimate the power of this “sin tax” meme to influence those in the middle. Berkeley is the one place this could have passed and their citizens will be better off for it. However, I think the left has to realize what a huge rhetorical liability the ideas of “sin tax”, “nanny state”, and “legislating morality” are.
They are and should be winnable debates, because imposing taxes on items that leads directly to societal ills is a legitimate and important function of the public sector in my opinion. We’ve accepted Coke’s right to modify our behavior with advertising. We should also accept the government’s role in calling foul.
It’s not just on the individual to be able to navigate through our consumer society, it’s also our shared responsibility to make sure we minimize the profits of preying on our known human weaknesses. I think a tax on soda helps to make a more honest and arguably freer market by trying to add some of the society’s cost back into the cost of a soda.
Local fellow commentariat Yogi Beara on sin taxes and the Lamprey Prohibitionists? Huh?
Alameda County’s Measure D’s unofficial results. (75% t o 25% – way to go People’s Republic of Berkeley)
Robert Reich winning the debate on “sin taxes”.