Will Philly Finally Pull Itself Up by the Bootstraps?

Thursday’s vote on the soda tax will tell all

You have to give credit where it’s due.

Thanks to Mayor Nutter, folks have laughed more over the last two weeks than at any time in recent memory. If laughing is good for the soul, Philadelphians are in great shape.

What was so funny?

Watching Nutter keep a straight face while proposing another 10 percent hike in property taxes (which would be in addition to last year’s “temporary” 10 percent increase and the 100 percent increase in the city portion of the state sales tax), higher parking fees, and yes, the resurrected sugary drink “soda” tax, which would impose a two-cents per ounce tax on sugary drinks.

But Philadelphians’ collective rage at the Mayor’s ideas was downright priceless.

If it wasn’t so funny, it would be pathetic.

*****

The fact that there is any outrage or surprise is inexplicable. What did these people expect?

“These people” being the 80 percent who just voted for Nutter in last month’s primary election.

No, that’s not a typo. A whopping eight of ten Philadelphia voters ushered Nutter back into the Mayor’s office (a done deal, since he cannot lose in November), welcoming him back for a second term with open arms.

To those folks, a suggestion: stop doing drugs. They make you hallucinate.

What part of The Nut’s sham did you buy? That he would make the city’s business climate better so that it could attract more companies, thus creating more jobs? Freindly Fire is no economist, but it knows that when you want less of something, you tax it. That’s fact, not opinion. So based on the crushing levies being proposed, how exactly the Mayor plans to incentivize companies to stay in the city, much less locate here, remains a mystery
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But how could anyone oppose the soda tax, since its objective is to combat obesity? Oh wait, that was last year’s pitch, which was so disingenuous that the proposal landed in the drink.

This time, the Mayor is taking a different tack, presciently pointing out that no businesses — even the beverage retailers — will really be harmed by the tax.

“These are individual business people who will make individual business decisions,” Nutter said.

Of course, the Mayor failed to explain how paying a mandated soda tax — a certifiable job-killer — would be an “individual business decision,” since failure to comply would unleash the city’s Gestapo Tax Squad.

When asked if businesses would leave the city, he stated, “No, that’s laughable. I mean, that’s just a cruel joke… they’re trying to scare people with these tactics.”

Spoken like a career politician who has never held a private-sector job in his life, and has absolutely no clue how devastating the soda tax would be on the city’s businesses.

Here’s what the Mayor doesn’t want you to know: a soda tax, while a burden to all, would be especially harmful to the poor, who can least afford another tax. Remember, these people are already living in what is, cumulatively, one of the highest-taxed cities in the nation.

More important, there’s no such thing as a “tax on soda.” It’s a tax on people. Period.

Which is why the Mayor is dancing the Philadelphia Two-Step, doing everything in his power to distract the voters and avoid the real issues.

Mayor Nutter incorrectly believes that government and “government money” creates jobs and wealth, when in reality, the exact opposite is true.

Government creates nothing, nor should it. Rather, it’s free people in a competitive environment who are the engine of a thriving democratic society. Government should be there to serve the people, not the other way around. Nowhere is that more apparent than in once-great cities like Philadelphia, where the economic lights are on their last flicker.

Math doesn’t lie. Two plus two will always equal four — whether one chooses to admit that or not. Out-of-touch politicians like Michael Nutter can promise an empty bill of goods to our citizens. But just because he chooses not to acknowledge the real problems doesn’t mean they’re not there.

*****

The ball is now in City Council’s hands. They have the sole power to approve or reject the Nutter tax proposals. While conventional wisdom says the votes aren’t there for passage, nothing is certain, especially with so many retiring Council members with “nothing to lose” if they anger the voters.

Sure, the city is facing fiscal problems, but breaking the backs of citizens to fix problems not of their making is simply wrong. Retiring or not, what politician really wants his or her only legacy to be a tax-raiser who presided over a violent, insolvent city with vastly deteriorated city services?

It is rare that a City Council vote holds so much importance. In this instance, the significance is not just whether a sugary drink tax is passed or defeated, but the message behind that vote:

Will Philadelphia continue its decline by engaging in more of the same failed policies?

Or will it finally turn the corner, firmly stating that it will no longer look to the state and federal governments for bailouts which only serve to pass the buck on accountability? And that, instead, it will pull itself up by its own bootstraps, embracing the spirit of its citizens rather than crushing it?

*****

Here’s the truth. Residents are leaving Philadelphia in droves — some to make purchases across county or state lines to avoid city taxes, and hundreds of thousands who are just leaving altogether.

If Philadelphia is to ever put the brakes on this exodus, and begin the long road back to respectability, it is mandatory for City Council to step up and resoundingly reject the Mayor’s sugary drink tax proposal.

Anything else will just be “sugar” coating a tragic situation — forcing residents to pour a drink much stronger than soda.

City Council, your 15 minutes are upon you.

Chris Friend is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com. Readers of his column, “Freindly Fire,” hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including
The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick Morris’ recent bestseller “Catastrophe.” Freind, whose column appears regularly in Philadelphia Magazine and nationally in Newsmax, also serves as a frequent guest commentator on talk radio and state/national television, most notably on FOX Philadelphia. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com.

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  • Bill Shaw

    Everybody poops…why not tax toilet paper by the sheet?

  • I need a drink!

    Great. Just what we need. ANother tax. Time to pack it in, Philly!

  • more taxes!

    Bring on all the taxes! And when our city gets worse, then what? When will it end? At least not until Nutter leaves. Four more years!

  • Lana Kane

    To Bill Shaw: Shut Up!! Don’t give them any ideas. Don’t forget that we are dealing with Democrats and no idea is too stupid for them to implement.

  • SLumdog

    Will the last Republican to leave Philadelphia please remember to turn the lights off?

  • Sam Feed

    You have to give Nutter an A for keeping a straight face while trying to sell his sleezeball tacticial screw job. I think we would all agree the city is in finacial trouble. They need money… Hey , I have an Idea? Maybe our city politicians should start with cutting their own salaries, eliminating their pensions and start fending for themselves like the rest of us…and stop financially RAPING the citizens and the people who contribute. And one more thing, who every is in charge down there, your FIRED!

  • Howard Roark

    What do you with cancer? Death is inevitable. 80% of people in Philly are hooked on getting some of other people’s money and they will keep voting the nut job in office. That’s democracy for you. People vote for people who can provide them something – no matter how much that is. Greed is bad at any level – rich and poor alike.
    There you have. Look at mirror real carefully.

  • jrnrf

    I am amazed that anyone would single out soda and sweet drinks for taxation especially under the guise of staving off obesity. First of all many off the folks that are morbidly obese are doing alot more than drinking sweet drinks. Should we also tax pasta,candy, butter, ice cream? What really makes me angry is that all this tax money is going for so called education in the public schools in Philadelphia. Has anyone taken the time to analyze where the money is actually being spent? Is it going into faculty that has tenure without having to meet standards. Do we really need so many teacher’s aides? The demands of the teachers union (PSEA) becomes a driving force is escalating school budgets. How much money actually goes to better facilities or updated books? Take a look at the number of dropouts or those who are allowed to graduate unable to add two plus two and cannot read passed a third grade level. What other profession gets all summer off along with every snow day, personal days, sick days, Thanksgiving break, Christmas and Easter break and every three dqy holiday that occurrs during the school calender year? If we are worried about obesity how about trmming some of the fat salaries that the school employees get, We should start with the Superintendent of Public schools. Also remember that teachers also work only nine to ten months and if they teach summer school, coach sports , run clubs after school, moderate anything they get paid.
    In the end who pays the taxes and who gets the benefits? This question should be answered.
    Also both in NJ and Pa the loudest screams heard are by the teachers unions of both states when many other factions involved in the budget cuts understand(they may not like it) tht it has to be done. Mr. Freind I would love to see how much money is being spent on TV, radio, newspaperr and billboard ads against Governor Christie by the New Jersey Educatipn Association. Wake up taxpayers do not become the sheep being led tothe Tax Slaughterhouse.