Seattle’s mayor eyes diet soda tax to combat ‘white privilege’

Seattle mayor Ed Murray has now included diet soft drinks in his soda tax to tackle “white privileged institutionalized racism.”

Murray originally called for a tax on sugary drinks as part of his February state of the city address, demanding that distributors pay two cents per ounce in order to improve Seattle’s educational opportunities for students of color.

That plan was estimated to bring in some $16 million a year, according to Reason.

But the Democrat changed his tune after aides told him that the tax would disproportionately affect poor minorities, who drink more soda than affluent whites, after distributors passed the cost of the tax on to consumers.

So Murray added the diet soft drinks favored by his wealthier, whiter constituents to the list of beverages included in the tax — despite the fact that they tend to have no calories and thus do not contribute to obesity and other weight-related health issues.

Calling it an “issue of equity,” the mayor defended the new tax as a means of combating “white privileged institutionalized racism.”

His proposal now includes a 1.75-cent tax per ounce on all types of soda, as well as energy drinks, bottled coffees, sweetened teas and fruit drinks, which would theoretically generate an extra $2 million in revenue each year.

However, supporters of the proposal face a hard road ahead, even in the notoriously liberal city. The local Teamsters Union and the CEO of popular fast-food chain Ezells Fried Chicken are among the highest-profile critics of the mooted tax.

But the soda issue, contentious though it is, may also provide a welcome distraction for Murray. The openly gay mayor has recently been the subject of sexual abuse allegations and claims that he hired teenage males as prostitutes decades ago. He denies all the charges, with his office calling them a politically-motivated “sensational media stunt.”

Other cities which attempted a soda tax also provide cautionary tales.

The people of Santa Fe, N.M., voted down a similar measure in a referendum last week. Philadelphia-area businesses are already planning hundreds of job cuts in the wake of the skyrocketing prices and plummeting demand that came after city’s beverage tax went into effect in January.

Seattle’s city council, which counts a card-carrying Socialist among its membership, is expected to consider the measure next month.

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