Oct 16, 2017
Cook County’s pop tax was repealed last week. The Cook County Commissioners passed the tax, which charges an extra penny for every ounce of soda, just a few months ago. It became wildly unpopular when it took effect in August – following close on the heels of big property tax hikes by the City of Chicago and an income tax hike by the state of Illinois. Three months later, most of the commissioners have had a change of heart. The tax will now end at the beginning of December.
The tax was county president Toni Preckwinkle’s pet project. She posed it as a way to address health problems like obesity and diabetes. Of course, these are real problems for the society, and for the working class in particular. To address the problem, Preckwinkle could have proposed to go after the beverage industry, which makes billions off of the working class by selling unhealthy drinks. Or she could try to make healthier drinks more available. Instead, she addressed the problem by treating soda pop like cigarettes or alcohol – that is, by heavily taxing those that buy them.
The campaign to end the tax was funded by the beverage companies and restaurant lobbying organizations. Small businesses like local grocery stores and restaurants undoubtedly put a lot of pressure on the politicians. These forces are more concerned with their own profits than people’s health. But their appeal garnered wide support against a tax that touched a nerve.
The County now faces a $200 million dollar deficit. The County provides vital services for the population, most importantly running the County Hospital system. There is plenty of money in Chicago and the County to run these services – the city center full of glittering skyscrapers is proof enough. Many corporations in Illinois pay no taxes at all. Yet the only solutions the Democratic politicians pass are ones that dig ever deeper into the pockets of the working class.