Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.

Jared Bernstein was on Bill Maher’s show yesterday, trying to convince him that a tax on soda was a good idea. After all, he says, soda contributes to obesity, and obesity contributes to chronic diseases that cost all of us a lot of money:

But Bill’s point, which I ultimately found pretty convincing (he kept hitting me with it after the show!), is that there’s tons of stuff like that—behaviors that people engage in with potential negative externalities. To suggest taxing them all is what give liberals a bad name, he asserted in terms rarely heard in policy seminars.

Maher is right. Liberals are annoying almost by definition. We are constantly hectoring people to stop doing stuff they’re comfortable with and to instead do brand new stuff that they find awkward, difficult, embarrassing,and wearisome. There’s no help for that—it’s part of the essence of liberalism—but the key to success is to pick our battles carefully. The game needs to be worth the candle.

Unfortunately, we do have a wee tendency to overdo things, which creates lots of resentment for no appreciable gain. It may seem unfair that overdoing things modestly hurts us more than genuinely nutbag stuff—like, say, the video on the right—seems to hurt conservatives, but that’s life. Extremism in the defense of the status quo just isn’t as scary as the opposite. This has been true approximately forever, I think.

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate