The Big Top

My internship is way more entrenched in the mud of politics than I ever would have expected. Naively, I assumed that education and children’s issues were pretty much a top priority for everyone, and so finding a viable revenue source must be an easy task.  I was very wrong to say the least.  Hello there, soda tax.  

The soda tax is a revenue producer for funding more subsidized pre-k seats, and for rebuilding parks and libraries that desperately need renovation.  We need to educate our children and provide safe spaces for them, and for that we need more money.  What better way to get that money than to tax an item that is detrimental to health.  Now, who could possibly oppose that concept?

It was June 23rd, and a hearing concerning the Philadelphia soda tax was being held in city hall.  The strange part was that it wasn’t being hosted by the Philadelphia City Council, rather it was being hosted by Pennsylvania state senators.  The issue?  Philadelphia doesn’t have the right to tax itself, and so the soda tax cannot be legally implemented.    

The opposition is laced with former Pepsi executives, and “big soda” campaign donation receivers.  As a political jab, these corporate senators opposed to the tax came down to city hall to tell Philadelphians what they can and cannot do.  To make matters even worse, one of the pro-tax people who was originally supposed to speak, was barred last minute from doing so.    

Unbeknownst to me at the time, this was the political hot bed I walked into on that Friday morning.  I sat down next to my coworkers and waited patiently for the hearing to begin.  However, it never did.  Instead I watched a brilliant display of democracy unfold before my eyes.  As soon as the state senators walked in, a community leader began to blow a noise-making horn, and slowly one by one every Philadelphian in that room began to create noise in defiance.

The chanting consisted of; “this is our house!” and “this is what democracy looks like!”  I joined in, sort of shyly at first and sitting down.  Then as more and more people joined in, I felt a swell of confidence.  I stood up and joined in next to my coworkers, holding a sign that said “Glad to pay soda tax for Philly kids.”  

This was not my first protest yet, I still found myself welling up with emotions, feeling proud, anguished, and anxious.  My heart was pounding and I watched in awe as pre-k providers marched their 3 and 4 year old students up to the city council seats.  The kids, holding little signs, sat and stared up at the men trying to remove their means to an education.  I thought to myself: how can these people look down at these children with their innocent, wide eyes, some plugging their ears against the booming voices behind them, and argue to take away their chance at success?

I did not and still do not understand completely the argument against the tax.  Some say it’s not a sustainable source of revenue, some say it’s putting local, family owned grocers out of business, some say it affects people disproportionately.  Others would say that the soda industry was already on the decline, they would say that those small stores were already going out of business thanks to large corporate competitors, and that low income people need education more than they need soda.  We are all entitled to our opinions, thanks Uncle Sam.  Don’t like the soda tax? Fine, I respect that.

What I don’t respect is aiming to delete the soda tax, with no other viable plan in its place for generating those crucial revenues.  Until there is a solid alternative source of revenues to fund the success of our future, please keep the soda tax.  It means the difference between thousands of kids succeeding and thousands of kids spending their futures incarcerated.  

Don’t just oppose something because your party doesn’t like it.  Where’s your honor as an individual? Don’t just disagree to disagree, be rational. No perfect policy exists or will ever exist, so recognize when something has a net positive effect for your constituency. For the sake of practicality, wake up! Stop wasting time trying to figure out a revenue source that doesn’t upset your campaign donors, that doesn’t hurt your precious share, and that wifey agrees to.  Quit trying to align yourself with the beliefs of a party for the sake of marketability. Separate your personal business endeavors from people’s lives.  Stop focusing on how you are perceived and start doing what makes sense.  

The people will thank you for it, and you can go to bed at night not feeling like an ass.

I think I speak for alot of people when I say I am fed up with the circus.  Now to loudly bang on my keyboard, and angrily punch numbers into an Excel spreadsheet.

Bye for now.

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