In a curious move, a Nashville, TN councilman has proposed something of a “latte tax” to help local school budgets: Metro Councilman Suggests Tax On Coffee | WKRN.COM. To help fund technology upgrades at local schools, Nashville councilman Jamie Isabel wants the Tennessee state legislature to increase taxes on alcohol and tobacco, and he would also like to see coffee added to that list.

It will be interesting to see how this small example plays out, because it has potential implications for the rest of the country. With increasing demands and shrinking local budgets, all local communities are looking for new revenue sources, and commonly recognized social “vices” are ready targets (e.g., tobacco and alcohol). But lumping coffee in with the likes of the ATF is a new twist.

We’ve also witnessed examples where legislation has been selectively applied or not based on the perception of class lines — such as California’s banning of foie gras as “inhumane” (a dish with origins that date back to 2,500 B.C.) but not the modern factory farming of chicken. Could a latte tax be another proxy for consumer class warfare between the McDonald’s/Dunkin’ Donuts set and the Starbucks set? (Let alone between coffee drinkers and non-drinkers…)

Considering the per-cup prices when you compare a basic coffee with a “double-tall, four-pump vanilla caramel macchiato,” this could well amount to more of a “milk tax” than a “coffee tax”. It’s hard to say how consumers would react to such a tax. But given the last time they imposed a tea tax in this country, things got pretty rowdy down at Boston Harbor to say the least.