Baltimore, it’s the end of soft-drink purchasing as we know it, and I feel fine.
I seem to be the only one, though. Corporations, small businesses and thirsty citizens throughout the city are outraged over the new Baltimore beverage tax on soft-drinks with high sugar content.
This may be the most dramatic beverage-related conflict since the tragic “Cola Wars” of the 1980s (not to be confused with the Cold War, which, from what I understand, was pretty dramatic as well, though not nearly as refreshing).
The first victim of the tax is claimed to be the Hampden Pepsi Plant, whose beloved “big ugly Pepsi logo” brings accurate time and weather to motorists on I-83, using stunning “digital” technology. Fear not Baltimoreans, the eysesoric … uh, I mean iconic, advertisement will not be toppled “Iraqi-Freedom” style any time soon because the location has not actually closed. It has merely ceased manufacturing operations and canned 77 workers as a result (see how I used the word “canned?” Clever, huh?).
Pepsi really wants to blame the new tax for the lay-offs, though the mayor’s office insists the job-cuts were being considered previously. Pepsi admits that the economy has also played a part in the decision, and that the tax “did not help.”
Of course they have not mentioned the fact that Americans seem to be wising up to the unhealthy effects of soda consumption, as carbonated soft-drink sales have declined every year for the last five years.
If you ask me (and why wouldn’t you?), I think the suits are still upset over that whole Chrystal Pepsi debacle a few decades back. Well, Pepsi, that’s what you get for using a Sammy Hagar-era Van Halen song in your ad campaign (remember "Right Now"? Me neither). Everyone knows there is only one true Van Halen lead singer, and his name is Gary Cherone.
Despite the tax already being in place for the next three years, the Stop the Baltimore Beverage Tax coalition is still assaulting it, dead horse-style. We’re all familiar with their billboards featuring a female mascot whom I have named Cathy the Concerned Citizen. Cathy’s catchphrase is, “What? A new hidden beverage tax?” Classic. That’s right up there with “Where’s the beef?”
It’s understandable why Baltimoreans like Cathy would view the beverage tax as a harmful and unfair sin tax (or pigovian tax if you prefer being called “pig” instead of a sinner). However, if ever given the opportunity to speak face-to-face with Cathy, I would shout the following points incessantly:
Salable items should be taxed. Most consumable goods are excluded because they are necessities. Sunny D and Red Bull? Not essential for human survival.
The tax is actually saving jobs. Its purpose is to keep city cleaning positions on the payroll. Cathy, you’re not anti-employment and pro-litter, are you?!
Despite what Cathy and the SBBT may tell us, it is seriously doubtful that the tax is prompting Baltimoreans to abandon city stores and shop for groceries in the county. Why? Meet me in my fourth point, and I’ll tell you.
It's 2 cents! The beverage tax is 2 measly cents per bottle! And it is only on items less than 2 liters! If you travel to the county to save one dollar on every 20 drinks you buy, you ... probably live pretty close to the county.
So, that’s my take on this new tax, Baltimore. If you still want to dress up like Mohawk Indians and dump gallons of Fanta into the harbor, be my guest. If there are any sea creatures still surviving in that cesspool, I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.