Elizabeth Davies: Realize what you’re spending money on
I stepped off the airplane in South Africa, my Evian bottle empty after 17 hours in flight.
Since I didn’t spot a drinking fountain after a quick look around, I stopped an airport employee and asked where it was.
“A what?” she stared back blankly.
“A drinking fountain,” I said, assuming my American accent was causing her to misunderstand.
She continued to look at me as if I had lost my marbles. So I babbled on.
“You know, with water?” I said, shaking my empty Evian bottle for emphasis. “I just want to refill this.”
An awkward pause hung between us as she struggled to compute my request. Finally, she answered.
“If we had free water, people would be walking here from miles around to get it,” she said. “You can buy a water bottle over there.”
That’s when I realized how American I really am: It never dawned on me that one would have to pay for water. Because for me, it’s always been free.
I want to scream that sentence at the TV set these days, each time I see that redheaded mother unloading her groceries in the Americans Against Food Taxes commercial. In it, she’s discussing the concept facing legislators: Whether to tax soda and juice drinks as a way to raise money to cover the nation’s health-care costs.
“Families around here are counting pennies to get through this economy,” the mother says. “They say it’s only pennies, but those pennies add up when you’re trying to feed a family.”
I have a very easy solution for this mother: Stop buying soda!
If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it. That’s called fiscal responsibility. Take those extra pennies that would be going into the tax coffers and spend them in the produce section. Or on frozen vegetables. Or on canned fruit. Or even on seeds to plant in your own garden.
But soda? It’s just not a necessity. Ironically, the one thing that is a necessity — water — is free.
Drink as much as you want, as often as you want and be glad you’re an American, because water isn’t free and plentiful everywhere.
Certainly, I wouldn’t be supportive of increased taxes on groceries across the board. If anything, it would be nice to see a tax break on fresh fruits and vegetables, the foods that can be expensive to buy but do wonders toward good health. It’s not an easy economy right now, and American consumers could use financial incentives to make the right choices for their families.
But soda? Sugary sports drinks and juices? Those just aren’t the right choices. If anything needs to be taxed, that should be it.
Of course, if that redheaded mother wants to fight against new taxes on actual necessities — toilet paper, meat or broccoli — then I’ve got her back.
Elizabeth Davies writes for the Rockford Register Star in Rockford, Ill.