Mayor Bloomberg has decided what New York’s biggest problem is. It’s not nearly 10 percent unemployment. It’s not some of the highest taxes in the nation.
It’s that poor people drink soda.
His solution? Create a new rule that bans food stamp users from buying their favorite soft drinks. Instead, those people will only be able to buy what Bloomberg and his cronies have deemed “healthy” enough for them.
The mayor thinks that what other people eat is his business. But Bloomberg’s fat-headed assault on soda won’t make anyone skinnier.
One recent Boston study found that kids drinking zero-calorie beverages, for example, didn’t lose weight compared to those who drank regular soda. And a review of evidence in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition last year found no association between kids’ weight gain and soft drink consumption.
Why? Because soda is not a unique cause of weight gain. The fact is that calories are calories, no matter if they’re in soda, juice, bread, or bananas. And the National Cancer Institute recently determined that soft drinks account for only 5-1/2 percent of the average person’s calories — a minor amount.
Obesity is simply a matter of consuming more calories than you use up through daily activity. And the fact is that people are getting less and less activity as we drive more, walk less, and automate more daily tasks. (In fact, recent research in the journal Science found that obese people sit two hours more per day than lean people.)
Bloomberg’s push is also a clear case of “soda for me, but not for thee.” The irony in all this is that Bloomberg doesn’t seem to believe his own health messages. The New York Times reports that Bloomberg’s own company hands out free soda to its staff. “We have all the junk in the world up there,” described one employee.
It’s not just with soda, either. Bloomberg has lectured New Yorkers and Big Apple restaurants about consuming and using too much salt — all while Bloomberg himself reportedly pours the white stuff on by the shaker-load over everything from his pizza to his popcorn.
There’s a reason that the New York Post has derided the Bloomberg administration as “a national laughingstock” and a “Nanny State on steroids.” And The Wall Street Journal has sarcastically asked, “Is government to be the servant of the people, or their (thigh)master?”
After this push fails to make poor New Yorkers healthier, Bloomberg will simply call for more and more restrictions on what people eat. Ice cream and chips will be easy targets. Even the mayor’s favorite Cheez-Its could be put on a blacklist.
It’s the city’s prerogative to try to set limits on what food stamps can buy since taxpayers are paying for them. But Bloomberg has given every indication that he’s not willing to stop with food stamps. He wants to control what all New Yorkers eat — rich, middle class, and poor alike.
J. Justin Wilson is the Senior Research Analyst at the Center for Consumer Freedom, a nonprofit coalition supported by restaurants, food companies and consumers to promote personal responsibility and protect consumer choices.