The P.A.

A weekly address from Patrick Adams,
President of St. Louis Community Credit Union

Unintended Consequences

On August 21st, 2017, posted in: Uncategorized by

soda bottlesI get it. You want people to be physically healthy for a myriad of reasons: quality of life; lower insurance/medical expenses that leads to a better financial security; and reduced costs on support services to those who might otherwise be taxing the system(s) that provide for the infirm. Personally and corporately, healthy people are better for the communities in which we live.

How do you get people more healthy? It’s not the end that fosters debate — it’s the means. How do we bite this big elephant in order to reach a goal of healthy people, reduced costs and improved services? It is a daunting proposition to say the least. I personally don’t know what to do other than to say that you might not want to do what they did in Philadelphia. I’m just saying.

Philadelphia’s city government (mayor and city council) chose to tax soda 1.5 cents per ounce of the sugary elixir. Well, it worked (kind of) in reducing soda consumption within the city limits — by some estimates as much as 45%. So, collectively, Philadelphia must be better off, right? “According to who” is the follow-up question that is being pondered.

There is always the “yin and yang,” and government officials don’t always see the collateral damage to their pen strokes when they create a bill. According to union officials, truck drivers who once delivered the soda have lost half their income as the number of cases of soda (for which they once got paid) has darn near been cut in half. Local bodegas, supermarkets, c-stores/gas stations and other purveyors of the sugary delight have had to lay off north of 150 people, in addition to  slashing others’ hours. Two out of every 10 Pepsi workers got the axe as well.

Uh-oh. In addition, the extra tax provided for has an added result in that low-cost beer now costs less than soda.  Not surprising, says a 2013 Cornell University study. Ale purchases do go up, the study finds.

Over many years on this rock we call Earth, I have witnessed countless times the unintended collateral damage resultant from a plan of attack on a prevailing problem. Unfortunately, too many times, the solution is of greater negative consequence than the resolution proposed. Is that the case here? Great question.

There are two sides to every coin, and I guess that’s what I’m asking problem-solvers to consider. When a solution is pursued inside the boardroom, council chambers, leader’s office, please do a 360 on all that might occur. Human nature is to become myopic regarding only the benefits of the solution at hand, without regard for the damage that may be facilitated along the way. Sadly, the next thing you know, the good has been greatly diminished by the negative impact. Unintended as it may be, it happens way too much.

The City of Brotherly Love…Hmmmm.

Did things get better? It depends on who you ask.

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