San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener will always have a special place in my heart. Braving an onslaught of puns in a wiseacre nation, Wiener sponsored legislation to require that naked guys place a barrier between their butts and park seats. Later, he pushed for and won a ban on public nudity on city streets (except at events where people have grown to expect some exhibitionism). It was a gutsy move in a city where political correctness too often trumps common sense.
Thanks to Wiener, I haven't seen a naked guy's privates in public for months. Thus, it is in sorrow and not in anger that I report on Wiener's latest brainstorm, a 2-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary beverages, to be placed on a future ballot. Because the revenue would go to local health and exercise programs, Wiener may succeed where earlier soda taxes -- such as the soda tax proposal in Richmond, Calif., rejected by 67 percent of voters -- failed.
Wiener visited the San Francisco Chronicle's editorial board Tuesday with a group of fellow do-gooders in tow. Representatives from parks, hospitals and youth groups spoke up for the effort -- and not just because they stand to get a bite at the anticipated $31 million in annual revenue.
They mean well, of course. "We are experiencing an epidemic of health problems caused by sugary beverages -- including diabetes and obesity afflicting adults, teenagers and even young children -- and we have a responsibility to act to confront this escalating public health challenge," Wiener said in a press release.
He's right about America's obesity epidemic. Still, Wiener should resist the dangerous urge -- so prevalent among members of the hallowed political class -- to punish others for not being more like the political class. You don't see a lot of Big Gulps in City Hall. This is another San Francisco "why can't everyone else be more like us?" tax.
And it picks an easy target -- fat people.
If Wiener wants to scold people who drink too much sugar, fine. But it's not his job to squeeze residents and tourists because he doesn't approve of their choice of beverage.
Who pays for this tax? Soda drinkers, of course.
Large businesses and tony restaurants won't feel much of an impact from a soda tax, said Baylen Linnekin of the anti-regulation group Keep Food Legal. It's the "the small-business entrepreneurs, the taco trucks" that will pay. Linnekin believes that higher soda taxes will push sugar lovers to buy other sweets, also high in calories.
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