Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent has lashed out at a proposed federal tax on soda as “outrageous” and something akin to the policies that landed former Communist regimes in the dustbin of history. “I have never seen it work where a government tells people what to eat and what to drink,” he said. “If it worked, the Soviet Union would still be around.”
Kent’s statement was in response to comments by President Barack Obama in the latest issue of Men’s Health magazine. When asked about taxing soft drinks, the President answered that ‘‘I actually think it’s an idea that we should be exploring There’s. no doubt that our kids drink way too much soda.”
While the U.S. government has, in fact, told consumers what to eat or drink, through everything from prohibition to agricultural subsidies (not to mention the venerable food pyramid), it seems unlikely that a national soft-drink tax will be enacted any time soon. Even local efforts, such as one proposed earlier this year by New York Governor David Paterson, have faced stiff opposition (in Paterson’s case, that included a threat by New York-based Pepsico to leave the state if the tax was passed).
We do understand why Comrade Kent is concerned with Soviet-era food policies. After all, it was a backroom deal between Nixon and Khrushchev that got Pepsi into the Soviet market in the 1970s, forcing Coke to wait until the 1980s to compete. When Coke finally became available in Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe, the cadre of executives that helped bring it to the masses was led by none other than Muhtar Kent. Under the same circumstances, we might grow to resent the policies that allowed the competition to get a foothold so much earlier. Resentment could turn to obsession. And then, well, before you know it, you’re scrawling acronyms on scraps of paper and grumbling about fluoridation. And we all know where that leads.
Coca-Cola Chief Says Soda-Tax Idea Is ‘Outrageous’ [Bloomberg]
Paterson backs down on ‘fat tax’ [Newsday]