The mayor of Seattle has altered the rules of his proposed soda tax — which would fund education for minorities–to include diet drinks because affluent white people tend to consume them more.
Mayor Ed Murray of the staunchly liberal Seattle city originally proposed the soda tax during his state of the city address in February. Under his initial plan, distributors of sugary drinks would have to pay 2 cents per ounce.
It would cover sodas such as Coke and Pepsi, energy drinks like Red Bull, fruit drinks, sweetened teas and bottled coffees such as those sold by Starbucks.
The Mayor claimed the tax would bring $16 million in revenue that would be spent on education programs aimed at reducing disparities between the city’s white students and students of color.
But the mayor has updated the plan after the staff of the mayor’s office told him that the tax would actually disproportionately fall on poor minorities, who have higher rates of soda consumption than white residents.
Murray changed the bill, lowering the levy to 1.75 cents per ounce and included diet drinks because they are by favored by affluent white city residents, despite the fact that most diet drinks have no calories and therefore don’t contribute to obesity.
According to Reason, taxing diet drinks has become “an issue of equality” to the mayor because they more likely to be consumed by “upper middle class white people” and therefore must be taxed as a way to fight “white privileged institutionalized racism.”
The white privilege tax may be a distraction for Murray, who’s facing accusations from four men that he paid for sex and sexually abused them in the 1980s when they were teen boys. A high profile lawsuit from one of the men filed last month claims that Murray “raped and molested him” over several years, beginning in 1986 when the man was a 15-year-old high-school dropout. Murray has denied the accusations.