A New Policy Disagreement Between Clinton and Sanders: Soda Taxes

Mrs. Clinton’s framing of the issue as she campaigns in the Pennsylvania primary echoes that of Mayor Jim Kenney of Philadelphia, who has emphasized the soda tax as a way of funding education. Mr. Kenney talks about the tax not as a way to drive down soda drinking, but as one to help fight poverty in his city. In truth, it would probably do some of both. Higher soda prices, the likely result of such a tax, would discourage people from buying as much soda. Public health reformers think such a function of the tax is desirable, since soda consumption has been linked to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.

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Jim Kenney, mayor of Philadelphia, at a roundtable with Hillary Clinton and others in Philadelphia this month. Mr. Kenney has emphasized the soda tax as a way of funding education.

Credit
Mark Makela for The New York Times

But there’s another way to view soda taxes: as measures that hit the poor harder. Lower-income Philadelphians, like other lower-income Americans, tend to drink more soda than their richer neighbors. That means that they may get stuck paying a disproportionate share of the bill.

“Making sure that every family has high-quality, affordable preschool and child care is a vision that I strongly share,” Mr. Sanders said, in a written statement. “On the other hand, I do not support paying for this proposal through a regressive tax on soda that will significantly increase taxes on low-income and middle-class Americans. At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, it should be the people on top who see an increase in their taxes, not low-income and working people.” Over the weekend, Mr. Sanders continued to express opposition to the tax, at campaign events and on Meet the Press.

The proposed Philadelphia tax would be 3 cents for every ounce of sugary drink sold by distributors, making it the…

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