business news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB took note yesterday of a New York Times report that the food and beverage industry is hunkering down to do battle with NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who as part of his broader battle against obesity wants to prevent residents from using food stamps to buy sugared soft drinks.

I commented that I know there will be folks who will say that the Bloomberg initiative is yet another example of “nanny government,” that it is an unnecessary intrusion by government into people’s personal behavior:

I understand this thinking, and respect the rationale behind it. But there also is the matter of public policy, and a legitimate discussion needs to take place about whether public money should be used to support lifestyle decisions that could create health issues that could cost money down the line in terms of health care costs, and that could certainly qualify as a discretionary purchase, an indulgence. I just hope that the discussion is mature and measured, not hysterical and purely ideological.

One MNB user disagreed:

That's the beauty of socialized medicine:  It makes everything you do everybody's business.

I’m not sure that’s the point.

This public policy debate is not about making how people behave “everybody’s business.” It is about how people spend public money, and if they do so in a way that is not injurious to the public’s best interests - both health-wise and financial - in the long-term.

Isn’t this the very definition of fiscal responsibility?

MNB user Carlos Guzman wrote:

I happen to agree with Bloomberg. Nobody is saying that people on assistance cannot drink soda or other sugared drinks, they simply should not to be allowed to do it with tax payer money. It mirrors the reasons why people on assistance cannot purchase liquor, cigarettes, junk food, and many other things with their food stamps.  They are free to consume any of those goods just not on the dime of the tax payer, especially when it will have health implications down the line and we will end up footing the bill for that, too.

Another MNB user responded:

I'm actually going to agree with Mayor Bloomberg on the soft drink issue.  I also am going to say this for the first time - I agree that w should have a nanny government when it comes to food stamps.  If you have your hand out for help, than there should be expectations in terms of what you do with the help that apparently you needed so badly.

From another MNB user:

Food stamps are funded by taxpayer dollars.

If the recipients of food stamps buy healthy food, they potentially stay healthier.  If they buy food that historically has direct links to health issues, such as soft drinks with high fructose corn syrup,  as a taxpayer I absolutely want those food stamps to support fruits, vegetables, and healthy food selections. Because when (not if) they get diabetes from those choices, then again, the taxpayers are hit with the health care costs.  Double hit for the hard working taxpayer.

If the food stamp recipient doesn’t like it, well, get off food stamps.  There are many ways.  Get a job.  Get a 2nd job.  Make it happen.  Sorry, there are too many victims and not enough encouragement to take responsibility for one’s circumstances.  There are also many stories of persistence, success, for many who started with nothing, or had family issues, health issues, yet determined to find a way out of their limitations they did.  There are so many stories, from immigrants who arrived on USA shores with nothing, that now own businesses.

And, another MNB user wrote:

A person on food stamps should be focused on "needs" and not "wants"  -  Soda is "want."   The government is here to  help with "needs"  so that people can eventually get their feet on the ground to enable them to earn their own "wants."

As a previous grocery store checker, I can tell you most things are automated.  Food stamps are now electronic and participants use debit cards.    Checkers scan the grocery's and items that are "approved" are paid for using a  "food stamp debit card."   A remaining balance shows up for items that are not approved.   There is no "logistic bottleneck at checkout" and I don't understand how eliminating soda stigmatizes  poor people using food stamps.

Isn't being on food stamps in the first place where the stigma comes from?   When I was a checker (BTW-my 2nd job to make ends meet - I didn't collect government handouts) I used to be appalled by what people would buy using food stamps.    I personally think food stamps should be limited even further to just meat, fresh fruits and vegetables or canned fruits and vegetables.  Period.

When I watch a woman pull out a food stamp debit card from a Gucci wallet to buy soda, sugary cereal, boxed and processed foods, to go with her filet mignon it nauseates me.   Trust me, it happens a lot.    As far as I'm concerned, the government has every right to limit what they are willing to pay for and what they are not.   If the people taking the free money don't like it, then they better get up and find a job that allows them earn more of their "wants" in life. Maybe limits would motivate them to do that.  If not, at least they'd be eating  healthier and wiser.

On another subject, MNB user Chris O'Brien wrote:

I got a chuckle out of this morning’s Eye Opener about the Royal Palace guard who was suspended for bad-mouthing the princess-to-be on Facebook. Obviously, it was a bonehead move given the guy’s job—but also funny that English Royalty continues to reinforce its own sad stereotype. Good luck to Scotland Yard with this critical investigation. Off with his head!

We had some discussion yesterday here about Walmart’s decision to begin once again selling guns in some US stores, while simultaneously participating in Mayors Against Illegal Guns Campaign. One MNB user objected to the latter, saying that he would not shop at Walmart anymore because of what he sees as the Campaign’s anti-Second Amendment bias.

I commented:

Methinks I do not want to get myself involved in the gun debate.

Though I do find it amusing that Walmart is now getting criticized by this reader not for selling too many guns, but for being willing to engage in a discussion about responsible gun ownership.

May I suggest that Walmart could not engage in a national urban strategy without being willing to deal with the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Campaign. It would just not be politically possible. And I don’t think it would be responsible.

Kevin, thank you for the laugh, what? You don’t want to be caught bringing a pen to a gun fight? If you did I think I would still put my money on you.

First let me make it clear that even though I do not own a gun I am an American citizen that supports the Second Amendment. With that said I am perplexed how there a so many that see organizations such as MAIG as such a threat to say things like “MAIG wants is to punish the millions of responsible, legal gun owners in America.”

Really? Punish? Even with my limited knowledge of MAIG I would certainly doubt that “punishing legal gun owners in America” is their goal. What is the MAIG declaring a War on Guns?

Okay, back to Wal-Mart. It is rather interesting that a company can at one point remove the sale of guns in some areas for what must have been good business reasons or perhaps political reasons or perhaps social reasons and is now looking to reverse this prior decision in hopes to regain lost sales.

But with that said, even though I am not a big fan and do not shop very often at Wal-Mart I have to give them credit for engaging in “the discussion”.

I truly believe as American citizens the best and only way to preserve our Second Amendment rights is to be part of the solution to the problem of “illegal gun ownership”. And the way we can do that is to either be involved directly in the discussion, support all those who are willingly involved in the discussion or even better offer more solutions to remove illegal guns from our society.

And another MNB user wrote:

Can we focus on the facts at hand rather than taking opposition based on fictional doomsday scenarios?  Yelling about a slippery slope does not make it so.   Mayors Against ILLEGAL Guns does not call for the elimination of firearms. Regulating advertising to kids and putting healthy drinks in school vending machines does not mandate what parents can buy for their family.  I’m not suggesting what anyone’s opinion should be (though mine are obvious), only that those opinions should be based on the matter at hand.  Asking, “what is next?” is fair, but it can’t be the sole factor in a decision.

Okay, maybe I will get involved in the gun debate...

To be transparent about this, I am not a gun owner. Never held one. Never shot one. No desire to.

I am always fascinated by this debate. I’ve never understood why it is somehow seen as a total violation of Second Amendment rights to exercise a certain amount of control and oversight over who owns guns and where, and what kinds of guns - like assault rifles - are owned. Quite honestly, my knee-jerk reaction to the gun debate is that we should just take them all away ... and that anyone who uses a gun in the commission of any crime ought to be put away for a minimum of 20 years with no chance of parole.

But I also recognize that knee-jerk reactions usually are not the smartest reactions. Second Amendment provisions ought to mean something - just like the First Amendment, which is particularly dear to my heart. And so I think that we can’t just take all the guns away, much as it might seem like a good idea, and we have to figure out a way to respect responsible gun ownership while also figuring out how to protect the potential victims of gun violence. Does this mean longer waiting times before being able to purchase a gun? Does it mean more effective approval processes before someone is allowed to buy one? Maybe. Maybe it just means better enforcement of existing laws, which is what some folks would argue.

As a citizen, I’m open to all of these options. I think they ought to be discussed, examined, and that reasonable people ought to be able to come to a reasonable and acceptable resolution of the issue through reasonable compromise.

What I am appalled by is when people - on either side of the aisle - refuse to budge off their ideological positions. It strikes me as indicative of the death of reason, because I fervently believe what Pete Hamill once wrote - that “ideology is a substitute for thought.”
KC's View: