By Jon Decker
Thought experiment: If you were a mega-billionaire, how would you spend your earnings? Would you start a charity assisting those in need? Research and develop new cures for diseases?
Well, if you are former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, you would put that money to work to perpetuate corruption.
In 2017, Philadelphia enacted a tax on sweetened beverages – purportedly in the interest of improving “public health.” But as we now know through a meticulously detailed 116-count federal indictment, city officials were less interested in reducing calories than the number of political opponents.
Powerful Philadelphia union leader John “Johnny Doc” pleaded not guilty in federal court Friday after being accused of using union coffers like his “personal bank account” and keeping Councilman Bobby Henon on his payroll to push his agenda at City Hall…
The FBI said that Dougherty pushed the passage of the city’s soda tax solely to exact revenge on the rival Teamster’s Union, which feared the loss of bottling and delivery jobs; had city inspectors hold up the non-union installation of an MRI machine at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; and had his ally on city council investigate a towing company that seized his car…
“Let me tell you what (Councilman) Bobby Henon’s going to do,” Dougherty told a union official in May 2015, according to the indictment. “They’re going to start to put a tax on soda again, and that will cost the Teamsters 100 jobs in Philly.”
The Philadelphia beverage tax is one of the most disturbing accusations of public corruption in recent memory. Working families in Philadelphia are paying more for groceries solely because they were collateral damage in an act of political retribution.
Many Philadelphians are outraged and demanding the immediate repeal of The Philly Mob Tax. But one obstacle standing in their way: New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg.
Bloomberg is dumping money into Philadelphia defending the corrupt tax. Last week that effort included a Bloomberg-funded study purporting to show a public health benefit. The study observes that sales of sweetened beverage purchases decreased within city limits and concedes they increase significantly in Pennsylvania ZIP codes bordering the city – but claims the latter effect only offsets about a quarter of the decline inside the city.
Notably, however, it entirely excluded purchases from all towns in New Jersey which is – literally – just over the river from Philadelphia. While there are tolls on the border crossings, there are also hundreds of thousands of people who are regularly on the New Jersey side for work or leisure activities and no doubt shifting their grocery purchasing to dodge the tax.
It is the poor – who are least mobile – who are most likely to pay the tax or cut their soda purchases. But there is no evidence they shift to healthier options as opposed to say, ice cream or potato chips.
Indeed Bloomberg himself has openly celebrated the regressive effect of his beloved soda taxes:
“Some people say, well, taxes are regressive,” Bloomberg said at an IMF event last year. “Yes they are. That’s the good thing about them because the problem is in people that don’t have a lot of money. And so, higher taxes should have a bigger impact on their behavior.”
But while the analysis of the Bloomberg study was blatantly flawed, why is Bloomberg attempting to defend the public health argument that we know was merely a pretext for a corrupt tax designed to impose economic pain by one union on a rival?
It seems for Michael Bloomberg, the ends justify the means. He is determined to push his radical nanny state agenda even if it means supporting the efforts of corrupt politicians to enact it.
Aside from splurging on the recent study, Michael Bloomberg has also donated a cool million dollars to support the reelection of Mayor Jim Kenney who signed the Philly Mob Tax into law.
Mayor Kenney also happens to be “a childhood friend” of the now-indicted “Johnny Doc,” who has also already steered $200,000 to a separate PAC supporting the mayor’s re-election.
If Mayor Kenney wants to show Johnny Doc’s priorities weren’t his priorities when he signed the mob tax into law, he could start by calling upon groups to return Johnny Doc’s contributions supporting his campaign immediately.
And Bloomberg – consider putting your sanctimonious efforts and phony, deceptive “studies” to work in cities not facing major corruption scandals.
No family should be forced to pay a mob tribute every time they go to the grocery store.
Photo Credit: Bloomberg Philanthropies
By Jon Decker