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Why not ban ability to buy soda using food stamps?
dennis Wyatt web
Dennis Wyatt

You've heard the pitch.

We need to slap sin taxes on soda due to the growing obesity rate that is hitting children - especially ones that are poor.

It is what inspired Berkeley voters in 2014 to slap a penny tax on each ounce of soda distributed in that city. As of March soda drinkers have been taxed $1.5 million for money earmarked for community health efforts including school gardens.

It is being slapped on the distributors of soda and not at the point of retail sales.

There is a politically correct reason for this - a very big politically correct reason.

One dare not tax soda at the point of purchase not because it would be transparent, although the PC crowd prefers stealth taxes as it doesn't raise the ire of consumers. If they did tax at the point of purchase an inconvenient truth would be unmasked: Those buying soda with food stamps are exempt from all taxes on eligible items which includes "healthy" items such as soda, cookies, and candy.

That's right. Soda - the boogeyman robbing young, poor children of their health - can't legally be taxed at the point of sale when food stamps are used.

If the PC crowd working in concert with the food police and those that want to build a more socialist union via the nanny state wanted to strike a blow for improved health of poor young people they would ban soda from being eligible for purchase with food stamps.

Since there are more than 45 million Americans receiving food stamps making soda ineligible for purchase using the assistance program would have a much bigger impact than some stealth tax.

Given the soda tax movement sweeping the land it is rich how the United States Department of Agriculture's proposed food stamp rule change requiring stores to carry a wider variety of meats and vegetables while selling less hot food items in order to be eligible to accept food stamps isn't being attacked by the PC crowd.

The rule change would essentially eliminate mom and pop corner stores and businesses such as 7-Eleven and Walgreen's from participating in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, (SNAP), which is a sugar-coated way of saying being able to sell to food stamp recipients.

On the surface, it sounds good. What taxpayer or advocate for health doesn't want to see the $74 billion spent annually on food stamps done in a wise and efficient manner?

But here's the problem: The change, if implemented, would still allow food stamps to be used for less than optimum healthy choices at places such as Wal-Mart that already meet the proposed SNAP change.

If the reason behind healthier choices is to want food stamp recipients to practice better nutrition then make hard-fast rules that a percentage of a monthly SNAP allowance must be spent on fresh vegetables and/or meats. Simply requiring retailers that want to be a part of SNAP to carry a certain level of fresh produce and meat selections doesn't mean food stamp recipients will buy them.

It would be the height of political incorrectness to tell food stamp recipients that have to buy certain things in order to get SNAP assistance.

It is why the health thugs don't go after the SNAP rule that allows food stamps to purchase soda.

They will tell you that they don't do so because people should be free to make choices even if they are spending money that is given to them.

But in the next breath they will vow to fight to the death to impose their will on others by slapping sin taxes on soda and such.

In other words, they believe you are free to choose without penalty as long as you are spending someone else's money but if it is your money then you will have to pay extra taxes to spend it in the manner that you wish.

If Big Soda - as the sin tax crowd gathered under the banner of better health like to refer to soft drink firms - is making America sick then they need to take on the biggest enabler.

With over 1 in every 7 Americans depending upon food stamps, those that lay this nation's collective bad health at the feet of Big Soda have a moral obligation to carry their fight to the USDA.

That, however, would, violate the cardinal rule of the PC crowd: Thou shall not tell those who receive government assistance what they can or cannot do.

As for the rest of us they can tax us into oblivion for not forsaking soda as they so decree.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.