Even if soda ban fails, Bloomberg did the right thing
I am developing a pantheon of profiles in courage on some political issues. Governor Andrew Cuomo did the right thing when he signed into law the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013 (NY SAFE Act), giving New York state the most comprehensive gun laws in the nation. Now New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg gets my vote for trying to save lives by attempting to initiate a ban on large sugary drinks.
Let’s face it, we have a problem. Unlike the tiny Lilliputians, we as a society are overweight. This has led to an epidemic of diabetes, with huge numbers of Americans either diabetic or pre-diabetic. Of course, sugary drinks are not the only reason we are too fat but they are certainly a contributing factor. Obviously, Bloomberg would not have gotten away with banning sugar laden drinks altogether, at least not yet. So, his first step was to ban drinks more than 16 ounces in some situations like restaurants and theaters. When you are one of the richest men in the world and term limited, you can pretty much do what you damned well want to do. When history records the physical decline of our civilization, Mayor Mike is going to have statues erected in his honor, dedicated to his decency and perseverance. He is just trying to protect us.
Many kids spend a lot of time in front of computers or TVs. Gym classes have become a casualty of tighter school budgets, so they don’t get the exercise that they need. Not only do we eat too much of the wrong things, we just eat too much altogether. Go look at your neighborhood mini-mart and just try to find something nutritious on the shelves. During the time of the blitz during World War II, the British people had far less to eat and their overall heart health was much better than ours. When we drink stuff with too much sugar in it we are ingesting empty calories that present a clear and present danger to our health.
To those who decry a “nanny state” government dictating what we eat, I’m here to remind you that our society has always regulated what we can put into our bodies. One role of government is to protect its citizens and up to now that has paid off big time. Simply put, we are living longer. Men and women who used to die in their forties and fifties back in the “good old days” are now living well into their eighties and beyond.
Judge Milton Tingling Jr., a rather large man himself, has told Mayor Bloomberg that he doesn’t have the right to issue the 16 ounce regulations. We are reading that the judge doesn’t like intrusions on our personal liberties. As a political scientist with an interest in judicial decision making, I often wonder how much is law and how much is a judge’s personal opinion. In this case, I hope that the judge gets what he deserves, which is reversal by a higher court that will certainly say, “This diabetes epidemic is a national emergency and God bless Michael Bloomberg for trying to save us from ourselves.”
For those of us who drank too much you-know-what as kids and now have to stick ourselves in the finger every morning, it may be too late. But there is still time for our children and their children. Some localities are banning soda machines in schools, which is exactly what they should be doing. While we know diabetes has a genetic component, we also know that in many cases, it can be treated with diet and exercise. Even if the judicial system wrecks the Bloomberg plan, the mayor has done a great thing here. Every time someone goes into a theater and orders a giant soda, Bloomberg’s face will appear. He truly is the great and powerful Oz.
Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 3/19/13