As fellow blogger Pied Type noted this morning, NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg has done a significant thing by banning sugary drink sizes larger than 16 ounces. Pied Type doesn’t like this interference in private affairs at all. I for one sympathize with Bloomberg on this one but at the same time I have to note that he is a better patriot than a politician. There is no political upside to what he has done. But as Dr. Nancy Sniderman on ABC News said last night, nobody’s rights are being infringed here. People can still buy all they want, just in less than gigantic sizes, and she says it’s true that people often end up being satisfied with smaller servings. My parents would often tell me the old adage, “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach.”
Bloomberg is concerned because obesity and its almost inevitable consequence, diabetes, is a massive national health problem that threatens to swamp our already way too expensive healthcare system. I really don’t think most people understand the seriousness of it because it is so gradual. If you have a heart attack they can often operate and fix it but when you develop diabetes it’s damn hard to reverse it. You start with meds, end up in an electric cart and face an early but lengthy death while being a burden to both society and family. I would be a lot less concerned about other people in this regard if everybody were responsible for her own healthcare costs, but that’s not the system we have. We have the EMTALA law, a law that says we all pay with our taxes when the individual can’t, and that’s why your health is Bloomberg’s (and government’s) business.
Frankly, I think a better way to do it is to raise taxes on unhealthy things, i.e., use sin taxes. Pied Type doesn’t like those either and addresses them in a 2010 post, linked on her recent post. Taxes of any kind are resented by most people, and especially conservatives. But I must point out that they’ve been fairly effective with tobacco and I think they could be with food. My wife has noted that fresh, healthy foods are more expensive than unhealthy foods. It appears to be a trend that is irreversible – when faced with a choice of buying fresh, chopping, mixing, cooking, or, just popping a prepared high-calorie TV meal in the microwave, easy is going to win with most people. Especially when those prepared foods contain lots of salt and delicious fat.
There’s a grocery store in our town that happens to have an outstanding Deli in it and one of the things we’ve been getting once a week is two fried chicken legs, one for her and one for me. Dang, those are good, and the skin is the best part, nice and fatty, not to mention crunchy. Aroma, taste, tactile chewiness all in one package. We buy them, usually on a Thursday and then just warm them in the microwave that evening, adding various fresh salad items to round out the meal. When we’re finished with the chicken there’s nothing left but bare bone with gnaw marks on it. We’ve trained ourselves to be satisfied with the one piece, but I must say it’s a good thing the rest of the chicken isn’t there in front of us on chicken-leg night. I actually find myself looking forward to Thursdays. Visceral appetite will beat intellect every time. Sorry, Michael Bloomberg. You mean well, but you’re doomed to disappointment on this one.