“I want some of that purple stuff…” (c) Dave Chappelle

Some ideas sound good, others are good; however, the meeting of the twain is not always inevitable.  Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Paterson, respectively of New York City and State, have petitioned the federal government to eliminate sugary drinks as eligible purchase items for food stamp recipients.  Health initiatives are not new to Bloomberg, as New York has become all but smoke free under his administration.  It’s not surprising that he would tackle the growing problem of obesity.  Sodas and similar beverages hold little to no nutritional value, and are directly linked to obesity.  Additionally, anyone who simply goes outside in the morning has seen a small child gulping down a sugar boosted drink, quite possibly accompanied by an equally unhealthy honey bun.  The eating habits of this country are out of control.

In support of this initiative, New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas A. Farley and New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Richard F. Daines penned the op-ed article “No Food Stamps for Sodas” in the New York Times today, stating:

The city’s proposed program would not reduce participants’ food stamp benefits or their ability to feed their families a nutritionally adequate diet.  They would still receive every penny of support they now get, meaning they would have as much, if not more, to spend on nutritious food.  And they could still purchase soda if they chose — just not with taxpayer dollars.

Simple enough.  Something needs to be done.  Something other than this half-cocked, presumptuous proposal.

Let’s first address the aspect of what is and is not being done with taxpayer dollars.  We live in the United States of America, where money is so much of a religion, the words “In God We Trust” are printed on it.  After seeing the ten thousandth person joke/comment about their tax dollars being spent on food stamps and welfare, I decided to research how much was actually being spent on those programs.  I had to do a lot of digging to find the answer. The percentage, when I looked it up in 2004, was in the single digits.  Don’t believe the hype – this country is not going broke taking care of poor people.

But so what?  The people receiving this money are receiving taxpayer dollars, right?  So why should they be able to buy a Coke at my expense?  Perhaps because they’re buying it at their expense.  Though it would be convenient to believe that every food stamp recipient is a welfare queen that does nothing but drink, smoke, and collect government funds, many recipients work; some work full time jobs or are full time students.  Every working American can recall that sickening moment when they looked at their first pay stub, and realized that Uncle Sam’s cut goes all the way down to the bone. 

What’s that son?  You only made $85 for two weeks?  You sure?  Looks to me like you made $75 for two weeks.  *snatches your ten dollars from your boss’ hand*

This jack-move does not exclude people who scrub floors, bag groceries and hold down other honest jobs for peanuts.  Annually, a minimum wage employee, working 40 hours weekly, will earn $17,160.00 before taxes.*  Two children would put an individual with this income below the federal poverty level.  In theory, one could use this example to espouse the benefits of higher education and achievement.  Yet that begs the question, in a nation full of doctors, lawyers and engineers, who’s going to mop the floor?  Who will work for the business owners who unscrupulously schedule a person to work 28 hours weekly, because at 30 hours, they would qualify for health benefits?  Once someone steps up and assumes these tasks, how much are you willing to pay them?  These jobs almost invariably start at minimum wage.  It is ludicrous to assert that these tax-payers do not have the right to marry, procreate and feed their families.  I would be remiss if I did not point out to tax-payers not on public assistance, that they are looking to levy higher taxes on soda purchases as well, so before you wage war against the under privileged, put down your cash purchased soda and mull that over.

Things such as this pick up speed, because middle class American’s of all walks of life, will only look at the term “government assistance,” and immediately turn up their noses.  Momentarily they forget that, oft times, they are within $1,000-$2,000 annually from public assistance themselves.  They won’t address some of the public programs that they have lied about to attain eligibility.  (People talk, and every single one of you at least knows someone who has done it, if you haven’t fudged a bit yourself.)  A large swath of the United States is in the middle to lower-middle class trenches, but unquestioningly will leap on the side of the privileged on this matter.  The majority of working people would be forced to make a bee-line the welfare line when faced with unemployment.  But until then, it is okay to cast shame and aspersions on those in need, without thinking for one moment that those on assistance were once working stiffs like them.

In addition to the concern about tax-payer dollars, Bloomberg simply wants to see if this will have an effect on New York City’s obesity rate.  As a mayor, he could set an example, causing a ripple effect throughout the US.  Well, what about as a business owner?  According to the New York Times, his company, Bloomberg LP, offers free snacks to its employees.  Included amongst those free snacks are sodas, far as the eye can see.  Why did his initiative not begin there?

The only reason this proposal will quite likely fail, is because of the effect that it will have on larger business owners, such as Coke and Pepsi.  Of course, this forces the question, if we are penalizing the consumer, WHY are we not obligating these soda companies to start their own health initiatives?  Why isn’t it being demanded of Coke to build free or low-cost fitness facilities?  Or even further, why are supermarkets and distributors not being taken to task for the price-gouging that makes healthy eating so much more expensive?*  And if they start on soda, what will cause them to stop there?  Agendas such as this start in on those without voices, but there is quite often a distasteful ripple effect in bigger picture.

A larger scale proposal, impacting sellers and consumers would indicate sincerity in tackling this countries obesity problem.  Until then, the message will read, “You’re poor, you don’t deserve this, so I will make this unaffordable to you simply because I can.”

*I would absolutely LOVE to hear why a thigh and a breast can come from the same chicken, yet the less healthy thigh is $0.99 a pound, whereas the breast is upwards of $6.00.  Is there a rare all-breasted chicken of which I am unaware?