The big news in the Big Apple this week is that the courts have ruled against Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to ban the sale of sugared drinks over 16 ounces. If you are not a New Yorker, you might not understand that our mayor, whatever his other qualities (both good and bad) is also a yenta. In this case, in his desire to improve the health of New Yorkers, he over-reached and treated us like stupid little children.
Which is too bad, because in this case his narcissistic sense of entitlement to manage our lives was motivated by pretty good science. There is lots of evidence that sugar is a truly dangerous substance. I’m not talking about moderate amounts, such as one might have found in our diets a few hundred years ago. I’m talking about now, when there is sugar in almost every processed thing we eat. The link cites an study that uses a reliably large sample (which is adjusted for all sorts of variables in the population). Key quote:
“But as (study co-author) Lustig says, “This study is proof enough that sugar is toxic. Now it’s time to do something about it.””
Unfortunately, what we’re doing about it is this. Despite all the arguments (and stalemates and filibusters) in Congress over the deficit, we are somehow able to afford mammoth subsidies to the sugar industry. I don’t know if this is a liberal or conservative position, but I know that it isn’t good for public health.
If you read about these debates over the budget, you can’t help but notice that many conservatives want to raise the age of retirement, especially as it relates to Social Security and Medicare. The logic they cite notes that, when these programs were started, the average life expectancy was much lower than it is now. A person who was 65 years old in 1930 could expect to live maybe a year or so. A person whois 65 today can expect to live another 15 or 20 years, on average. The argument suggests that these paid-benefit programs are being asked to do so much more now than when they started that, perhaps, the eligibility age should be raised.
And maybe it should. That is a discussion worth having. However, part of that discussion must include facts (I know, radical concept), including this one, that people with more money live longer than people with less. This is due in part (not in total) to their improved access to health care, and quality food, as well as adequate leisure time for exercise. They have the time and the educational opportunities to learn what’s in their food and what the long-term effects might be. Raising the retirement age cuts benefits to the poor and extends them to the wealthy.
Ignorance isn’t healthy. Mike Bloomberg was trying to legislate to people he thought were ignorant. That isn’t right. And now, because, I guess, he’s a New Yorker and a Jew, which ignorant people must think is the same as being liberal (it’s not – ask any New Yorker), Mississippi is trying to do the reverse. This is just as wrong, for the same reasons.
Look, I’m not a food fascist. I don’t lecture people about their diets, nor do I achieve any kind of vegan or macrobiotic perfection. I like Double-Stuff Oreos and fried onion rings. I like pleasure.
In fact, I believe that pleasure is a major reason to be alive. I think that any joy you can have (without hurting another person) is a joy you should have. I think that most of the social problems we have in this country can be traced to our Puritan heritage and the resulting attempts to tamp down on fun.
At the same time, if the only joy in your life is processed food with lots of sugar and fat (and chemicals and genetic mutations), than you are being deprived. You deserve more and better. You should have blueberries and sugarsnap peas and wild salmon (or, if you have different taste than I do, the finest examples of the foods you like).
You should have a body that feels good to live in, with healthy skin and teeth, soft clothes, and sun on your face. You should have access to good books, good music, good movies and theaters. You should dance.
And if you want a super-size soda once in a while, you should have that, too. It’s really none of Mike Bloomberg’s business.
Martha Thomases, Media Goddess, thinks Salina Sias sings the best song about sugar.