From CBS News:
By Michelle Castillo
(CBS News) While the New York City Board of Health approves of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to cut all large sugary drinks from New Yorker’s diets, some members are taking issue with one major point: They don’t think the plan goes far enough.
The city’s Board of Health met on June 12th to approve the Mayor’s proposal; they scheduled a public hearing on the proposal for July 24th, and a final vote on September 13th. If approved, the new regulation would take effect six months later.
Certain members spoke up, however, saying that the proposal should include other items. Board member Bruce Vladeck questioned why large tubs of popcorn were not included in the ban, according to the New York Daily News. Another member, Dr. Joel Forman, pointed out that even 100 percent juice and milk-containing beverages have large amounts of calories and should not be excluded.
While Dr. Kenneth Popler, board member and president of the Staten Island Mental Health Society, recognized that it would infringe on New Yorkers’ rights, he felt that the health benefits were worth it, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL reported. Obesity has led to 5,800 deaths a year in New York City and costs taxpayers $4 billion, according to statements presented at the meeting.
Fox & Friends had a short segment on this issue this morning1, and a nutritionist and dietitian, Laura Cipullo, presented the “pro” side of the argument. As always in these brief segments, Mrs Cipullo didn’t have a lot of time to flesh out her arguments — pun intended — but she began by noting that the government has assumed a responsibility for the individual’s nutrition with the Food Stamp program.
Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, in his
skewering questioning of the hapless and hopelessly overmatched Solicitor General, Donald Virrelli,2 suggested that the Obama Administration’s position on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act could extend to requiring people to buy broccoli3:
Could you define the market — everybody has to buy food sooner or later, so you define the market as food, therefore, everybody is in the market; therefore, you can make people buy broccoli.
If it is within the government’s authority to require health care coverage, and if it is the government’s ultimate responsibility to see to it that everyone has sufficient food on which to live, and if obesity and diabetes are serious health care problems which place financial burdens on the government and the public in general, your Editor fails to see why the government wouldn’t or shouldn’t have the authority not only to compel you to buy broccoli, as Justice Scalia mockingly suggested, but to require you to eat the broccoli as well. After all, broccoli is good for you, being high in nutritional value and low in calories, and the more you fill up on green vegetables, the less room you will have for soda and popcorn and milk shakes, keeping your weight down. Your Editor noted, in 2005:
There are plenty of people who seem to find themselves in the business of regulating private conduct. We see it most obviously when it comes to tobacco: several major cities have major bans on smoking in public places and even private clubs. One company, Weyco in Michigan, has not only banned smoking on its property, it has banned smoking among its employees . . . even at home.
Weyco doesn’t see any problem with banning all of its employees from smoking, even off the premises, even in the privacy of their own homes, and has enforced the policy through at least three terminations. “There’s not a liberty right or any other right to have any particular employment, and I think it’s time for people in our country to start taking personal responsibility for many aspects of their life, including health care,” said David Houston, Weyco’s general counsel.
Well, if Weyco, a private company, can regulate its employees’ liberties to the extent that they cannot both smoke and remain employees, why couldn’t the federal government, if it were responsible for all health care costs, determine that Americans (all covered by the national health insurance (Jonathan) Cohn4 and so many others advocate) simply couldn’t be allowed to smoke?
Or eat fatty foods?
Or make any of the other private choices Americans are wont to make that don’t necessarily have the best of consequences?
The real problem with Mr. Cohn’s logic is that it is unassailable: he’s actually right about this!
- If government is going to be obligated for health care costs, government has a reasonable right to take steps to lower those costs; then
- Government has a reasonable right to lower the costs for which it has assumed responsibility; and thus
- Government has a reasonable right to regulate private behavior which contributes to higher costs.
Smoking is the most obvious case, and there are plenty of people who advocate government stepping in and making the use of tobacco illegal, period. The fat police (and the ambulance chasers who Mr. Cohn noted were now following pizza delivery boys) have declared war against fatty foods, and if lawsuits against McDonald’s haven’t been successful yet — nearly 90 percent of Americans say they oppose obesity lawsuits against the food industry — it wasn’t all that long ago that the notion that tobacco companies being responsible for smokers’ illnesses, being that smoking was a private decision, was considered ridiculous. If the current lawsuit fails, which it probably will, there will be another, and another, until some idiot jury decides that someone is too fat not because of his hand-to-mouth disease, but because McDonald’s forced him to eat that food!
Count on it: federal government action against food producers and restaurants that serve fatty foods won’t be far behind, at least not if government has a huge vested interest in health care costs.
Of course, the New York City Board of Health isn’t the federal government, but their way of thinking is becoming fairly standard liberalism these days: if your individual choices happen to go against what some official panel of experts believes is contrary to the public good, those choices will simply have to be restricted. And we really shouldn’t object, after all, because it is for our own good!
They will never admit it, of course, and many have probably not even thought about it in any depth, but for many of our friends on the left what is really harmful to our own good, and to society, is freedom. The notion that your choices should not be any of the government’s business unless those choices violate someone else’s rights seems to apply only to abortion these days.
Cross-posted on TRUTH BEFORE DISHONOR.
- During the 0700-0730 segment. ↩
- Even The New York Times, which editorially supports the health care reform law, noted that, during verbal arguments before the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Solicitor General “got off to a rocky start and never seemed to quite find his footing during his hour at the Supreme Court lectern.” ↩
- Department of Health and Human Services v Florida, Transcript of oral arguments, March 27, 2012, page 13, lines 8-12. ↩
- The article was in response to Jonathan Cohn’s argument in The New Republic that the government had a reasonable right to punish or restrict personal behavior that costs the government money:
When you put it that way, the idea of a “Twinkie tax,” as it has come to be known, really does sound absurdly paternalistic. If you want to load up on french fries, health risks and all, why is that the government’s business? Unfortunately, fat consumption really is the government’s business in one, very literal, sense. As taxpayers, we all bear the burden of higher medical costs–either directly, by paying for Medicare and Medicaid, or indirectly, by subsidizing employer-based health insurance (which is tax deductible). So, when some people choose to eat poorly, we all end up bearing the financial burden for their decisions.