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September 21st, 2009:

European-style soda taxes make inroads

€7.50 for a coke?

Are 7 Euro cokes coming to America?

Maybe the reason they don’t have free refills in Europe is because of the punitive taxes many European governments levy on refreshing soft drinks. If that is the case, then we have reason to be worried.

A recent article on Slate.com argued that although proposals to tax coke seem to have stalled at the national level, they are catching on quickly in our nation’s state legislative chambers. The latest state to increase taxes on soda and candy is Illinois. Since the beginning of the month, consumers in the Prairie State have had to fork over an extra 5-6 percent in taxes on every delicious soda or candy bar they consume.

Fittingly, the state that brought us Rod Blagojevich did not impose these new lifestyle taxes through an open and public manner. Rather, the Illinois Department of Revenue simply issued new rules redefining soft drinks, certain juices and some candies as “General Merchandise,” boosting the tax rate on these items from one to 6.25 percent.

While the new tax rate is still well below the 14.9 percent tax surcharge that France slaps on sodas and candies or the 17.5 percent tax the UK levies on such goods, it is nevertheless a dramatic increase from the one percent tax consumers in the Land of Lincoln used to pay.

Is Illinois’ new soda tax high enough to make people thinner? New research from George Mason University suggests it isn’t. But since the new tax applies to fountain drinks as well as bottled beverages, it just might be high enough to end free refills as we know them.

Disposable umbrellas

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I count five, how many can you spot?

I’ve written about this before, but here is a picture to illustrate the point.

One of the great things about New York City is that you never need to worry about remembering to carry an umbrella. Why? Because whenever there is so much as a hint of rain, an army of enterprising street merchants appear out of nowhere to sell you shoddy umbrellas that are so cheap you can throw them away when the rain stops.

Previous topics mentioned in this post:

5 Things about New York City that make America Great (and 4 that remind me of Europe)

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