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
.
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.

Around The Web


Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.