The New York Times editorialists today back the idea of a federal tax on "drinks loaded with sugar." It is the ninth different tax increase that the Times has supported in the past six years, to judge by this New York Sun editorial on the first eight tax increases. The editorial doesn't explain what is particularly nefarious about drinks loaded with sugar as opposed to say, cupcakes, or cotton candy, or other sugary treats that are constituted as solids rather than liquids. What's next, a tax on newspapers with food sections carrying articles that encourage eating sugary treats?
As the Times food section editors apparently recognize, but the editorialists apparently don't, sometimes eating or drinking is just an individual choice, not a public policy matter to be decided centrally from Washington. The Times says the sugary-drink tax idea is inspired by the tobacco tax. There are some similarities — Coca-Cola and Pepsi can be demonized just like the big tobacco companies were. It's harder to demonize the local cupcake baker, which may be one reason why the taxers are targeting the soft drinks rather than the solids. And just as the federal government was handing out crop subsidies to tobacco farmers at the same time it was taxing smokers, the federal government is subsidizing domestic sugar production through tariffs, quotas, and price supports (same as it does with corn syrup) at the same time as it is apparently contemplating a new tax on the end users.