June 3, 2012

You'll get my 40 oz. soda when you pry it from my cold, chubby fingers

So this last week, Bloomberg called for limiting soft drink sizes to 16 oz.  Not limiting people to 16 oz. of soda, by the way, but limiting the cup size.

You would have thought he called for the end of freedom.  I saw a lot of conservatives deriding this as the "nanny state" and an imposition on individual freedom.

Personally, I would advocate taxing soda and other foods that use high fructose corn syrup, but the Bloomberg model hopes that limiting cup size will serve as a subconscious trigger that the consumer has had enough.  I don't know.  High fructose corn syrup is different than other sugars, evidently, and may make people fatter than other sugars or fats.  The argument here is that these sugary drinks contribute to obesity, which costs our economy billions in healthcare costs, lost productivity, etc.   We all pay for those costs.

There are two real problems for me here.  First, is the assumption that this limit is somehow the first government intrusion into the fast food or junk food arena--or that it is completely unprecedented.  Yet corn is heavily subsidized (as is sugar) so this area is hardly some paragon of the free market.  Second, this is hardly new.  We have always made choices about things that we deem to be dangerous.  We are increasingly limiting areas where one can smoke, and charge taxes on alcohol and tobacco.  We force passengers now to wear seat belts (because the link between seat belts and saved lives is clear, btw), and impose all sorts of limits on various drugs.

But my first complaint with this is about the nature of conservative governing.  Their philosophy, as I am told, is that they believe in smaller government and more individual freedom.  Yet, the list of government intrusions they tolerate is rather stunning.  These same conservatives had no problem with the Patriot act allowing the government to invade their privacy without a warrant.  These same conservatives shrugged when their government tortured people.  These same conservatives seem to have little problem with a state that executes people even when we know that the death penalty is rife with class and racial bias.  These conservatives cheer a government that invades a woman's womb and reproductive system.  Or cheer a government that allows doctors to lie to women, or in this case, denies a rape victim access to emergency contraception.

Access to healthcare and reducing soda intake offends my conservative friends.  Torture and shaming a raped woman?  Not so much.

Is it too much to ask for some philosophical consistency?


Smitty said...

Cognitive dissonance, defined.

Here's the real kicker to your linked article:

But she would have had to go to two hospitals either way, since budget cuts have forced the state to resort to a system of rotating Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE nurses).

Not ONLY do rape victims have to hospital-shop to find a place that will comply with their wishes as a victim, but then they have to - in the face of tragedy - go hospital to hospital just to find the nurse to do the rape kit so they can get the cops involved.

What, I ask, the fuck?

The "unintended" consequences of no-tax, no-tolerance positions gives you this: a victim of a crime has to drive all over the city to find the services she needs. Where's the outrage?

There's none left. It's all being spent on immigrants, gays, and 2nd amendment gun rallies.

steves said...

I don't think it is cognitive dissonance as much as it is selective outrage. At the risk of sounding like "everyone is doing it", most people display some level of inconsistency when it comes to outrage.

Personally, I am tired of being told what has to make me mad.

That being said, budget cuts have forced a lot of needed programs to be cut.

Smitty said...

Agreed wholeheartedly: Budget cuts have indeed forced a lot of programs to be cut, but it is part of a plan. Here's how it works. Stop me if you've heard it.

There are services a political party in power hates. You can try to cut them outright, but you'll learn that that can get your ass kicked.

So instead, enact a bunch of tax cuts, then bitch about how there's no money in our budget because we overspent in the past and got too big. Then cut the programs you've hated all along, and when those affected by that cut bitch, all you have to do is shout "OH REALLY? WHAT ELSE SHALL I CUT THEN TO GIVE YOU BACK YOUR PRECIOUS PROGRAM? BABIES? OLD PEOPLE? WHO GETS CUT FOR YOU??"

It plays out every fucking day in Lansing. I bet OK too. Prolly DC. Maybe WI; I'd put money on it. Etc.

So sometimes, "budget cuts force a lot of needed programs to be cut" ignores the bigger problem: the people doing the cutting don't actually want to discuss the efficacy of the program they are cutting. It's all a big Means To An End. I'm not saying you don't see that point; I figure you were just replying hastily. But your last sentence is something that rings true and I wanted to vent about it.

steves said...

I never said it was a good thing, nor did I say I wasn't mad. My pet peeve had more to do with outrage and what I should be outraged by. IMO, unless you live under a rock, you are probably bombarded with things that are outrageous. At some point, it becomes numbing.

It also irritates me when I am told that if A makes me mad, how can I not be mad about B? I know you aren't accusing me of this, but I hear it other places. I know I am probably not entirely consistent, but I do think things through and try to be as well informed as possible.

You are right. If you cut revenue, then you will have to cut spending. You can't have it both ways. The problem is that it can be difficult to get people to agree on how to spend the revenue.

Years ago I attended a conference on mental health services for children. The keynote speaker was a guy that had done a lot in developing programs to help people with PTSD. His big complaint about how these programs were funded in the US (compared to many European countries) was that we tended to not look at the efficacy of programs that were funded by public money and kept spending on things that may not work instead of looking for other solutions.

I think this is true, but unfortunately most discussions on spending are so polarized and people seldom want to discuss the efficacy of the programs.

Streak said...

My big frustration in this area is that the discussion appears to normally be apples and oranges. When talking about taxation, the discussion is theoretical: "well how much should the rich pay" or "lower taxes are better for everyone."

When talking about programs for actual, real, live fucking people, the discussion that follows is "well, we can't afford everything. Something has to be cut."

The best example of this is my idiot friend who will defend a fertilized egg with someone else's life, but won't pay a cent more in taxes to help that egg as a person. The fertilized egg is theoretical life. The real person is real life. Real life actually costs money.

Not that either of you are saying anything different. But I am in a grim mood this morning.