by Sara Novak, on 11. 8.09
Americans Against Food Taxes is flexing its political muscle in an effort to halt the passage of the proposed sugar sweetened beverages tax. While the group's commercials portray the tax as symptom of a runaway government unnecessarily dipping its hands into the pockets of struggling families to rob them of simple pleasures like of sipping on a soda, the crafters of this message are decidedly corporate. The membership and pocket book of Americans Against Food Taxes is dominated by Coca Cola, Pepsi-Cola, McDonald's, Domino's Pizza, Delta Airlines, and other corporations who know that any increase in the cost of sugar sweetened beverages will cut into their bottom line. And Brian wrote that the tax could actually generate a combined $10 billion per year in revenue to cash strapped states.
The coalition has already poured $24 million into lobbying efforts against the tax. The group has already spent $5 million on advertising alone, according to Huffington Post.
Are commercials like this meant to convey the pleas of hard working Americans who can't speak for themselves, or are they just disingenuous corporate speech?
A Win-Win For Consumers
In order for health care reform to be effective, it must address preventative care issues as a primary avenue for cost reduction.
According to BarackObama.com
"The nation faces epidemics of obesity and chronic diseases as well as new threats of pandemic flu and bioterrorism. Yet despite all of this less than 4 cents of every health care dollar is spent on prevention and public health. Our health care system has become a disease care system, and the time for change is well overdue."
American soda consumption is not simply a casual pleasure sipped while camping or at the family dinner table. The average American drinks more than 50 gallons of soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages each year. That level of consumption adds about 39 pounds of sugar to a person's diet.
According to Dr. Harold Goldstein of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, "[t]he science [is] clear and conclusive: soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages are leading contributors to the nation's runaway obesity epidemic."
Sugar-sweetened beverages account for 10 to 15 percent of the calories consumed by children and adolescents, according to an April 2009 report in the New England Journal of Medicine written in Huffington Post. One way of combating this self-inflicted epidemic that will continue to weigh down the cost of health care is by creating a disincentive to unhealthy behavior that can also help fund remedial care with a soda tax.
Soda Taxing the Planet?
Soda ain't what it used to be. The soda fountains of yore have long been replaced by mega-corporations that mass produce gluttonous batches of corn syrup and artificial flavorings. Natural flavoring and actual sugar have long been replaced by a cheap derivative, corn syrup. It's one of the laundry list of artificial ingredients that adorn the sides of the soft drink industry's endless cascade of aluminum cans and plastic bottles.
High fructose corn syrup comes from corn that is grown as a monoculture. I've written before that monocultures are often dressed with a toxic cocktail of pesticides so that the homogenous grain can survive in evolving circumstances. Monocultures can also deplete the nutrients in soil and lead to erosion. In addition, these massive corporations consume a tremendous amount of energy in processing the sugary paste that keeps America on an unnatural sugar high.
Americans Against Food Taxes against the American voter! By:Eugene Halus Montgomery County Democrat Examiner
September 25th, 2010 9:09 pm ET
Americans Against Food Taxes present themselves as being reasonable and on the side of taxpayers. In a current television commercial that they are running they begin with a mother speaking the line, "Feeding a family is difficult in this economy…", as she begins to unload a cart full of groceries. The first thing she unloads is a two liter soft drink bottle. She goes on to talk about how unfair taxes on food are and asserts that the government is trying to control what we eat and drink as if it were some innate liberty. Not a fruit, vegetable or lean protein is within sight.
The commercial is actually quite condescending to the average American, and an examination of the website of Americans Against Food Taxes only further evidences a lack of concern about Americans. Understand we are not talking about apples, broccoli or chicken here. We are talking about soda, chips and highly processed foods. It's the people making these sorts of products who are claiming that the American government is impeding the liberty of citizens. They are mad that your highly caloric, tasteless piece of fast pseudo-food will be taxed. This is evidenced by the list of Americans Against Food Taxes. It reads like a list of companies that would have protested movies such as Supersize Me and Food, Inc. – 7-Eleven, Burger King, Coca-Cola, Domino's, Pepsi, Hardees, McDonald's, Welch's and Yum! Brands. It helps to keep in mind that many of these companies own subsidiaries in the fast food business too. For example, Pepsi owns Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell. Other members include automatic merchandising corporations. The folks who own the soda machines and snack machines that are nearly ubiquitous in America, especially in school cafeterias. Lastly supermarket, restaurant, and food processors associations as well as manufacturing firms that make components of fast food – think packaging, cups, plastic lids, etc. – largely make up the rest of the list of prominent members.
So what do we actually have here? A group called Americans Against Food Taxes founded by and receiving almost all of its operational funds from major corporations that serve highly caloric foods of questionable nutritional value. Where is America? The organization will say it is in all of the people who have signed their petitions. Let's grant them that for a moment. Is this still a group that is representing the views of the American people and not its own profit margin? That is doubtful at best.
The clear interest in the profit margin is made all the more clear when Americans Against Food Taxes asserts that education not taxation is the proper solution. That if Americans only knew how many calories were in that sandwich they would not order so many of them. In reality most of these corporations have made their nutritional information available for years. This is nothing new. Although if the reader were to try and find this information in your local fast food restaurant of choice odds are you will have to ask for it and they may have it behind the counter. If these fast food companies are so sure of the importance of education why can we often not find this information in so many of these places that sell highly processed fast food? For how many years has such information been available on almost every product in your grocery store?
Americans Against Food Taxes also tries to scare anyone visiting the website by asserting that they are against taxes because taxes will inexorably result in job losses. For the fast food industry maybe a tax is going to decimate that dollar menu…not. As for the supermarkets, if the tax does indeed cause people to choose other food items over processed food are they not still the companies making the sale? The same holds true for many of the companies making the packaging.
When the fear of job losses does not work Americans Against Food Taxes turns to science, and cites numerous articles questioning the role of processed foods in the American diet. What would be interesting to know and Americans Against Food Taxes never tells is who is paying for these studies. We know that for years tobacco companies paid "scientific" researchers to produce studies asserting the safety of smoking. If these foods are so safe why are none of these CEOs offering to go on a Gordon Spurlock type diet? What would an all Burger King, McDonald's or Taco Bell diet do to you if that was all you ate for a month? If this stuff is safe then let's see a CEO pony up and prove it.
In reality what these companies are against is not taxation. They are against you eating a more nutritious diet because many of them are the ones who will not be making a profit on it. When America has an obesity crisis, record levels of heart and cancer problems and is panicked about health care costs it sounds more like government is trying to figure out how to react to a national crisis rather than developing some extensive plan to impede personal liberties. If someone eats a diet high in processed foods that are high in calories and low in nutrition one does not need a medical degree to figure out what will in all likelihood happen.
We need to realize what is really afoot here. Economists speak of externality, which in laymen's terms means the following. If in producing something one can pass the cost on to another party then it would be economically wise to do so. Americans Against Food Taxes wants to pass on the costs of their business to the rest of us. Many of the industries that are part of Americans Against Food Taxes already receive significant governmental subsidies as do the businesses that supply them such as the food processors who deal in sugar and corn. These companies already get massive subsidies, and that may be where the real problem is. Perhaps Americans should not be taxed to discourage them from eating this stuff, and we should stand with Americans Against Food Taxes on this point as soon as they tell Congress to forgo all of the massive subsidies they receive and agree to compete in a free and unimpeded market.
Start a revolution, eat a rutabaga. They actually taste pretty good.
Americans Against Food Taxes
This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.
Americans Against Food Taxes (AAFT) is a front group funded by the beverage industry which consists of major restaurant chains, food and soft drink manufacturers and their associated lobbying groups. It was organized by the American Beverage Association to fight a proposed three to ten cent tax on soda, sugary drinks and energy drinks to help fund health care reform in the United States. 
Its Web site states that Americans Against Food Taxes is a "coalition of concerned citizens – responsible individuals, financially strapped families, small and large businesses in communities across the country" who opposed a government-proposed tax on food and beverages, including soda, juice drinks, and flavored milks. But its extensive membership consists mainly of lobbying groups for packaged food and soda companies, chain restaurant corporations and the world's large food and soft drink manufacturers and distributors, including the Coca-Cola Company, Dr. Pepper-Royal Crown Bottling Co., PepsiCo, Canada Dry Bottling Co. of New York, the Can Manufacturers Institute, 7-Eleven Convenience Stores, and Yum! Brands.
The group's Web site bears quotes of opinion leaders opining against the new tax, including Tom Coburn (R-OK) quoted on National Public Radio as saying, "I don't believe we need to tax one penny more to fix health care in this country." The group's Web site also states, "Discriminatory and punitive taxes on soda and juice drinks do not teach our children to have a healthy lifestyle, and have no meaningful impact on child obesity or public health."
AAFT also has a Facebook page and a Twitter feed. Twitter feeds from July 2009 announced that the Wisconsin Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association and the convenience store chain Kwik Trip had joined the group, as well as a number of state beverage associations.
As an alternative to the tax, AAFT proposes placing the responsibility for decisions about food intake on children, saying, "Teaching our kids how to eat a variety of foods and beverages in moderation is essential to developing skills for a lifetime. That is why we support efforts to provide nutrition education in schools." The coalition also supports legislation mandating physical activity for children at school. The group's Web site also touts that beverage manufacturers have adopted voluntary codes regarding marketing to children.  
The group has a toll-free 800 number, but its fax number traces to Washington, D.C. It offers no street address on its Web site. It's domain name, www.nofoodtaxes.com, is registered to Goddard Claussen public relations, based in Washington, D.C. Goddard Claussen's Web site boasts, "Fortune magazine branded us the 'Go-to guys in issue advocacy' because of our groundbreaking public affairs and branding campaigns, our industry-leading 9 out of 10 win record on ballot measure campaigns, and our history-making issue advocacy campaigns."
New York Times "The Ethicist" on Americans Against Food Taxes
In a September 21, 2009 column titled "The Moral of the Story," New York Times Ethicist Randy Cohen wrote an article titled, "An Anti-Tax Argument that's Hard to Swallow." He wrote,
Such errors of reasoning might be seen as intellectual, not moral, failings, but it is difficult to extend that benefit of the doubt to Americans Against Food Taxes, which describes itself as "a coalition of concerned citizens —- responsible individuals, financially strapped families, small and large businesses in communities across the country." As was reported in The Times, A.A.F.T. looks like a veiled industry organization; calls to a media contact listed on the group's Web site go to the American Beverage Association. This smells like Astroturf, or corporate lobbyists posing as a grass-roots organization. It is entirely suitable for interested parties to participate in public debate; it is not suitable to conceal who's doing the debating.
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Related SourceWatch articles
- ↑ Jordy Yager GOP, tax groups criticize tax on rich The Hill.com, July 11, 2009
- ↑ Carolyn Lochhead, "Industry battles proposals to tax sugary sodas", San Francisco Chronicle, August 16, 2009.
- ↑ Americans Against Food Taxes, Twitter feed, accessed July 19, 2009.
- ↑ Americans Against Food Taxes Americans Against Food Taxes Facts, accessed July 18
- ↑ Americans Against Food Taxes About Us, accessed July 18, 2009
- ↑ nofoodtaxes.com, WhoIs Domain Name Registration , accessed July 18, 2009.
- ↑ Randy Cohen, "An Anti-Tax Argument That's Hard to Swallow", the Ethicist (blog), New York Times, September 21, 2009.