Hot new idea from New York: Let’s ban sugary drinks for people on food stamps

Alternate headline: “Poor people to be deprived of one of few remaining simple pleasures.”

Bloomberg and Paterson planned to announce Thursday that they are seeking permission from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the nation’s food stamp program, to add sugary drinks to the list of prohibited goods for city residents receiving assistance.

If approved, it would be the first time an item would be banned from the federal program based solely on nutritional value.

The idea has been suggested previously, including in 2008 in Maine, where it drew criticism from advocates for the poor who argued it unfairly singled out low-income people and risked scaring off potential needy recipients…

The ban would apply to any beverage that contains more than 10 calories per 8 ounces, except for milk products, milk substitutes like soy milk and rice milk, and fruit juices without added sugar.

It’s designed as a two-year temporary program so city officials can study the effects and it would only reach beverages, not other forms of junk food, since they’re allegedly the main drivers of obesity. I’m curious to see how you guys react to this one. On the one hand, if you’re willing to take government money, you play by government rules. (Unless you’re dead, of course, in which case you’re free and clear.) On the other hand, no one who’s read the previous post will fail to make the connection between (a) government agencies trying to limit consumption of certain foods for public health reasons and (b) the idea that it’s constitutionally okay to mandate certain health-care activities because we’re all participating in interstate medical commerce to some degree. If the feds can force you to buy insurance to help spread the costs of medical care, surely they can impose restrictions on consuming sugary drinks in the interest of keeping the costs of medical care related to obesity down. The only question is whether they’d have to do it on the demand end, by somehow penalizing purchasers (a nice big tax on soda!), or whether they could go after the actual suppliers. DOJ vs. Coca-Cola? Let’s do this.

Seriously, though, at some point the government meddling would so infuriate people that the electoral backlash would wash it all away, no? If you think the left is going to take a beating this November, imagine the beating they’ll take once Coke is eight dollars a bottle. Four hundred Republican House seats or bust!

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