Monday, June 4, 2012

“Donuts – Yes. Large, Sugary Soft Drinks – No.”

Sydney M. Williams

Thought of the Day
“Donuts – Yes. Large, Sugary Soft Drinks – No.”
June 4, 2012

How ironic! Two days after announcing his intent to ban the sale of super-sized sugary soft drinks, Mayor Bloomberg marked the 75th anniversary of National Donut Day by signing a proclamation in Madison Square Park, surrounded by over-sized donuts, some of which, if we are to believe a New York Times photographer, were at least two feet in diameter!

While Gertrude Stein might have alleged that a sugar cube is a cube is a cube, the Mayor would seemingly beg to differ, though he did recommend moderation when downing donuts. Since becoming Mayor, Mr. Bloomberg has banned smoking in public places (including, if he has his way, in one’s own apartment), food with trans fats in restaurants and the “overuse” of salt. Interestingly, an op-ed in Sunday’s New York Times, by Gary Taubes, entitled “Salt, We Misjudged You,” points out the obvious, that science and personal health remain a work in progress – that too little salt is bad for you. There seems to be a general acceptance, writes Mr. Taubes, especially by the Left, “that studies that go against prevailing beliefs should be ignored on the basis that, well, they go against prevailing beliefs.”

And, of course we should not forget that Mr. Bloomberg chose to violate a ban that was law when he became mayor – a ban against third terms. “But,” he must have reasoned in 2009 when he lobbied for and won the exemption, the people of the City of New York still need me. Like small children, he must have assumed, they require adult supervision.

Such paternalism is offensive to independent minded New Yorkers. Though I did note a survey of social networks, as reported in the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal, indicated that of a 1000 posts, 64% of people favored the ban, which, in my opinion, says a lot about people who use social networks! Sheep, it must be remembered, are always followers.

Now that the Mayor has taken on the soft drink industry, soon there may be no need to teach children to become responsible adults because all decisions will be made for them, by a loving and caring government, one led by those who know what is good for us! Even the New York Times, probably coming off a sugar high, deemed the proposal “A Ban Too Far.”

What is sad and irritating about this juvenile behavior on the part of the Mayor of the world’s greatest city, however, is the message it sends: ‘I know you cannot take care of yourself. I realize you have no self-control, but fear not, Uncle Michael is here to help.’ What chutzpa! What a waste of time, energy, resources and money.

Unemployment in New York City at the end of March, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, was 9.8%. High taxes have stunted growth. Despite being the port through which the majority of legal immigrants enter the United States, the city’s population over the past decade grew at one fourth that of the country as a whole. Some streets in Manhattan have potholes large enough to hide a yellow cab, and traffic is often gridlocked with nary a policeman in sight. We have New York City banks taking risks on securities that have little, if any, economic value. And, we have a stock market that declined 6.3% in the month of May. And Mayor Bloomberg’s concern is soft drinks!

Since it is obvious to anyone that the ban is pointless, in that a diehard sugar devourer can simply order two or more smaller containers, Mr. Bloomberg rationalizes his decision on the basis that people have no ability to restrain themselves. He is telling us that we have no self-control. If a large plate of French fries is set before us, he believes we will eat each one. If someone sets down a 64 ounce container of orange soda, he suspects we will drink it all. Can you not picture a scene at Yankee Stadium? A thirteen old boy – in the midst of his growth spurt – asks for and receives a large coke. Before he takes the first sip, out jumps the “soft drink” police, who measure the container, and then either return it or haul off to jail both the vendor and the kid. When I was young (I hate starting a sentence with that line, because I heard it so often 60 years ago!) we learned both restraint and discretion, sometimes the hard way. Once, about the age of thirteen, I ate a dozen jelly donuts at one seating. In the succeeding fifty-eight years, I doubt I have eaten a dozen jelly donuts. It was a lesson learned well; no ordinances were broken and there was no cost to the town of Peterborough or the State of New Hampshire to ensure obeisance.

Besides demeaning and belittling the citizens of Gotham with an attitude of “father knows best,” there is an economic cost to the ban Mr. Bloomberg has proposed. Rules will have to be drawn up; regulators will be hired and enforcers deployed. Unless the City cuts expenses somewhere else – a probability that is virtually nil, taxes will be raised; for new regulations bear a cost.

In his Business World column in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, Holman Jenkins aptly described the rights of eating food products with excessive trans fats, or lugging into a ball park a 32 ounce container of Pepsi as not being “precious.” But government engendering a lack of personal responsibility produces an increasingly dependent people. Where does government stop?

The lesson the Mayor should urge is one of moderation. Benjamin Franklin once suggested, “Do everything in moderation, including moderation.” Thank God he never took his own advice. Mark Twain had more appropriate advice: “Too much of anything is bad, but too much whiskey is just enough.” My advice to the Mayor: worry about the bigger issues. There are a lot of them. We live in a dangerous world. The global economy could easily tip into another recession. Stock markets around the world have given up their gains for the year. Our President seems unaware that his economic policies have not only not worked, they have taken a dicey situation and made it worst. We need responsible, not sheeplike, citizens. Crony capitalism and union leaders who see fit to line their own pockets at the expense of taxpayers are the real enemy, not a large sugary drink.

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