Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sweet And Sour


Coke's Kent: No pushover CEO.

Coke's Kent: No pushover CEO. View Enlarged Image

Taxes: With the federal government claiming the right to buy, manage or regulate virtually everything in the private sector, it's refreshing (excuse the pun) to see Coca-Cola's CEO fight back.

Muhtar Kent knows a thing or two about guts. His father was a Turkish diplomat who in 1943 risked his life physically intervening to save 80 Turkish Jews, as cattle cars railroaded them from Marseille to a Nazi concentration camp.

So when your father has defied the Gestapo, maybe standing up to Uncle Sam is a piece of cake. With the president considering a tax on sodas and other non-diet soft drinks to fund Congress' designs on the health care system, and to try to reduce obesity, the Coke chairman refused to go flat.

Speaking to the Rotary Club of Atlanta last week, Kent called such a tax "outrageous," according to Bloomberg News. "I have never seen it work where a government tells people what to eat and what to drink," he said. Kent, whose rise through the ranks at Coca-Cola Co. began 30 years ago, also quipped that "if it worked, the Soviet Union would still be around."

Perhaps Washington has become so enamored of the idea that capitalism is under siege that it takes someone with multicultural, internationalist credentials to provide a jolt of realism.

Born of a Muslim family in New York City and educated in Turkey and Britain, Kent headed Coke's East Central Europe Division when Eastern Bloc nations were liberated from the yoke of communism. So when he makes the Russian analogy about the state dictating what the people can eat and drink, he knows what he's talking about.

Government can't be allowed to use its taxation powers for an illegitimate purpose like directing the behavior of the populace. As Mark Levin states in his million-selling book "Liberty and Tyranny," they must be exercised "only to fund those activities that the Constitution authorizes and no others." To let Washington go further is to risk eventual statist servitude, Levin warns.

A penny-per-ounce soft drink tax could make a two-liter bottle of soda or iced tea cost 50% more. So the food and beverage industry is on the offensive, forming the Americans Against Food Taxes group this year and running high-profile ads on cable networks and in major newspapers.

But this is no special-interest issue. We've already let the government criminalize tobacco, fossil fuels and trans fat. Will we now let Washington add sugar to its index of forbidden substances?

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