PHILADELPHIA, April 22 (UPI) -- Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders have waded into America's great soda debate -- and it has nothing to do with whether it should be called "pop."
Clinton this week publicly endorsed a proposal by Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney that would place a tax on soda in order to help fund universal pre-Kindergarten in the city.
Sanders opposes the plan despite his support for more early childhood education, saying a tax on soda would disproportionately hurt the city's poor.
Studies have shown poor people consume more soda than wealthier Americans, meaning a majority of the money raised by a soda tax would be paid by poorer Philadelphia residents.
"Making sure that every family has high-quality, affordable preschool and child care is a vision that I strongly share," Sanders said in a written statement. "On the other hand, I do not support paying for this proposal through a regressive tax on soda that will significantly increase taxes on low-income and middle-class Americans. At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, it should be the people on top who see an increase in their taxes, not low-income and working people."
Kenney, a Clinton supporter, has called on beverage companies to pay the tax, rather than pass it on to consumers. He criticized Sanders for siding with "greedy corporations" and against a plan to give thousands of children access to preschool.
"It is immoral and completely hypocritical for these vested corporate interests to pass this tax on to the very people they have profited from for decades," Kenney said in a statement.
Clinton said the ends justify the means when it comes to a soda tax.
"I'm very supportive of the mayor's proposal to tax soda to get universal preschool for kids," she said in a CNN interview. "I mean, we need universal preschool. And if that's a way to do it, that's how we should do it."
Kenney has been careful not to frame the soda tax as a public health issue after a ban on sugary drinks failed in New York City under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
In New York, Bloomberg ordered the city's health department to ban full-sugar soft drinks from being sold in more than 16-ounce quantities. Bloomberg said at the time it was an effort to reduce the city's rate of type-2 diabetes and other health problems stemming from obesity.
A New York court later ruled the soda ban unconstitutional.