Thursday, October 7, 2010

Food Fight

Approximately two out of every eight denizens of New York city--plus some forty million Americans across the nation-- are buying groceries with the assistance of government issued food stamps.

Prohibitions against using food stamps to buy alcohol, cigarettes, pet food, vitamins or household goods already exist. But in the interest of restraining the epidemic of childhood obesity and encouraging delinquent parents to supervise their children’s diets more closely, NYC Mayor Bloomberg and Governor David Paterson have issued a fatwa against sugared drinks for the impoverished masses receiving the food stamps.

Bloomberg, who has already been responsible for outlawing trans-fat in restaurant foods and for restaurants posting calorie content on their menus, has joined an anti-salt campaign as well. He is quoted as saying: “This initiative will give New York families more money to spend on food and drinks that provide real nourishment.”


Maybe New York families living on the edge of poverty will suddenly become avid nutritionists, but probably not. It seems anxieties over economic survival, rampant crime, lack of employment and the disintegration of the family are some of the prime reasons for worries among inner city residents, trumping anxiety over the excess consumption of Coca-Cola. They just don’t seem all that worried over sugar.

More pressing anxieties aside, do any but the most dedicated health food advocates really think food stamp recipients are going to stop buying sugary drinks—much less cigarettes and alcohol--just because of new regulations?

Of course not.

For those already offended because their idea of a enforced health food utopia has been sullied; yes, excess consumption of sugar is not healthy.]

And by the way, does anyone really think Mayor Bloomberg is going to serve guests invited to NYC’s galas club soda and carrots instead of alcohol, sweets and other forbidden goodies—goodies also paid for by tax payers’ money?

Of course not.

But as usual, austerity measures are applicable to the lower classes, not to the ruling class. Carrots for thee, but caviar for me. But isn’t this the usual bifurcated standard for the virtuous ruling class, whose motives are, of course, impeccable but whose actual behavior is not expected to be held to the standards they apply to those on the government handout list?

Regardless of whether the anticipated virtuous outcome will match the sterling motives of the originators of the new regulations, Mr. Bloomberg’s push for new rules dictating what the recipients of food stamps may and may not eat are clearly illustrative of a larger issue than children swilling Coke and Dr. Pepper.

The fact of the matter is that whenever government doles out largess, for whatever sacrosanct reasons—in this case supposedly the health of youngsters—that largess always comes with the big, fat price tag of government control and intrusion into family life and individual choices. It also will come with a new bureaucracies complete with employees whose nanny state mentalities compel them to look into every suspected unhealthy purchase. If the USDA approves Bloomberg’s new regulations, many “well meaning” US citizens will be involved in making sure those regulations are enforced against their comrade citizens.

All for the greater good, of course.

What can the unhappy beneficiaries expect? Is it outside the realm of possibility that every checkout clerk in every grocery store will be required to supervise what food stamp recipients buy, acting as a quasi Stasi citizen food police looking out for food transgressions?

Is it difficult to envision an extension of the rationing, controlling, supervisory mentality to include benefits given—or denied--to recipients of health care? But of course, we already have such a health care system in place, complete with the 159 or so new bureaucracies and agencies “needed” to run it.

In the meantime, we are learning there’s not only no such thing as a free lunch, but apparently, there’s also no such thing as an unregulated lunch--at least not for food stamp recipients. Who knows who is next? Maybe those nefarious three martini business lunches could be brought under state control by requiring everyone to submit his/her lunch selections to a supervisory health board concentrating on business executives. Then again, with the current anti-corporation mentality, it might be better to let the greedy capitalist pigs have their rib roast and booze, the better to hasten the demise of the evil profit mongers.

Bottom line, it just won’t work.

Fact of the matter is, that for every heath food devotee, like Jerome Rodale, who died on live TV-- doubtless from eating too many roots and berries coupled with asparagus boiled in urine—somewhere in Japan there’s a little 112 year old man who will attribute his longevity to drinking twelve bottles of sake per diem.

Plus, recipients of food stamps are just as bright as the next guy, and will be busy subverting regulations every way they wish to.

So why continue pushing nightmarish and ultimately unenforceable regulatory complexities?

How much simpler it would be to encourage the education of parents (and children) about basic rules of nutrition and health in order they begin by their own free will to make sound choices for themselves and their children. The basics of the food pyramid are not all that hard to learn and implement.

But I guess that would be just too easy.

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