If you live in the city, you’ve probably caught wind of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s plan to increase Baltimore’s beverage tax by another three cents a bottle. And it’s not unlikely you first heard about it from Stop the Baltimore City Beverage Tax, a coalition of mostly beverage companies and food stores formed in 2010 to oppose the introduction of the tax. SBCBT has hit the airwaves as well as the streets with propaganda urging Baltimore City residents to oppose the increase with materials that are noticeably light on information.
I don’t know about you, but when I receive a post card covered in exclamatory phrases demanding that I take a stand on something — without presenting enough information to let me decide for myself — I feel insulted and suspicious.
A visit to the Stop the Baltimore City Beverage Tax website’s FACTS page yields a lot of claims but few hard numbers. The only verifiable “fact” on the page is that five cents is more than twice as much as two cents.
The most valid argument offered in SBCBT propaganda is that taxing a staple hits the poor the hardest. But this is only really a half-argument. The materials fail to either suggest an alternate revenue source, or even mention what the $10 million in additional funds would be spent on (by the way, it’s to fix dilapidated school buildings, and we mean dilapidated — at least one broken down portable classroom is “riddled with bullet holes”), let alone refute its necessity.
SBCBT, if you have a strong argument against the tax increase, don’t be afraid to disclose all the facts. Trust the intelligence of the people you mean to persuade.