On Wednesday's "Good Morning America," fill-in host Bill Weir and reporter Dan Harris touted the benefits of New York's proposed 18 percent obesity tax on soft drinks. Weir teased the segment by enthusing, "One official says making you pay more could actually save your life later." Harris repeatedly played clips from New York's state health commissioner, Dr. Richard Daines, who created a YouTube video to promote the tax.
After one such snippet, the reporter parroted, "No one likes taxes, he says. But this one, he argues, is actually good for you." At another point, Harris touted how this tax would "save" New Yorkers money and noted the nanny state advantages such extra cash would create: "But Dr. Daines insists this new tax will save people money. Not only on overall obesity-related health care costs, but he also says if everyone in a family of four drank one can less of soda a week, they would save $100 a year."
And despite guest host Weir promising in the tease for the segment, "We'll hear from both sides," very little of that actually occurred. Harris did play a snippet of one anonymous New Yorker complaining about taxes. He then featured a single clip of Susan Neely, the president and CEO of the American Beverages Association. She complained, "The last thing we should be doing in these economic times is to put a sales tax or an aggressive tax on hard-working families."
In contrast, GMA highlighted five excerpts of Daines' YouTube video, where he argued that although the obesity tax is 18 percent, health care costs will go down as a result. (At one point, Daines suggested in a paternal tone, "With the money we save, we can buy some new jogging shoes.") Since ABC seems so taken with the idea of a tax on soda, one wonders if the network will continue to feature all those ads from Pepsi and Coke?
A transcript of the segment, which aired at 7:15am on December 31, follows:
BILL WEIR: Also coming up this morning, a New Year. Could it bring new taxes? A new tax on soda. One official says making you pay more could actually save your life later. And others say it's just another example of a nanny state. We'll hear from both sides.
KATE SNOW: Well, the new year will mean new taxes on a lot of things. What if they said, though, that they were going to put a tax on sugary soda? It's a controversial idea New York's health commissioner is proposing. And he's pushing the idea on YouTube. ABC's Dan Harris has more.
ABC GRAPHIC: Should Soda be Taxed? One Politician's Push
DR. RICHARD DAINES (New York State Health Commissioner): In 1970, each New Yorker drank the equivalent of about five cans of soda a week.
HARRIS: This five-minute video released this week, and called "Soda Versus Milk," is a low-budget, low-key affair, featuring one mild-mannered Mormon physician politician, with a lot of props.
DAINES: Over the course of a year, we take in about 13 more pounds of straight sugar.
HARRIS: New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Richard Daines made the video to support a proposed obesity tax. Which would put an 18 percent sales tax on sugary drinks, like soda, to help close the state's huge budget gap. The money would go towards health programs. Danes says increased soda consumption is boosting childhood obesity.
DAINES: 21,000 extra calories becomes about six pounds of fat.
HARRIS: He apparently decided to make the video after seeing a poll showing 60 percent of New Yorkers oppose an obesity tax.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I'm frustrated. I'm annoyed. They're taxing everything.
DAINES: I just thought, you know, a dry letter to the editor or something isn't the way to do it. My kids said do a YouTube.
SUSAN NEELY (President/CEO, American Beverages Association): The last thing we should be doing in these economic times is to put a sales tax or an aggressive tax on hard-working families.
HARRIS: But Dr. Daines insists this new tax will save people money. Not only on overall obesity-related health care costs, but he also says if everyone in a family of four drank one can less of soda a week, they would save $100 a year.
DAINES: With the money we save, we can buy some new jogging shoes.
HARRIS: No one likes taxes, he says. But this one, he argues, is actually good for you.
DAINES: Here's to Governor Paterson's proposal to reduce obesity. And here's to your health.
HARRIS: For "Good Morning America," Dan Harris, ABC News, New York.