Bloomberg Shaking up Soda Pop with Politics

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is asking the USDA to approve a pilot program that would prevent his city’s residents from buying sugar-sweetened soda with food stamps. Some have called the proposal paternalistic. However, at In These Times, Terry J. Allen argues that Bloomberg’s proposal makes sense.

Allen notes that New Yorkers may spend up to $135 million in food stamp benefits on sodas. Nationwide, the food stamp program funnels about $4 billion into the pockets of soda manufacturers. Sugary carbonated drinks are artificially profitable for Big Pop because they are sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, a heavily subsidized by-product of our broken agricultural system.

There are already restrictions on what you can buy with food stamps. Nobody thinks it’s patronizing that alcohol is off-limits, even though alcoholic beverages are a potential source of calories. A little discussed benefit of ending the soda subsidy within the food stamp program would be the incentive it gives to small storekeepers in poor neighborhoods to devote less floor and refrigerator space to carbonated drinks and more room to real food. Many low income New Yorkers struggle to buy healthy food in their neighborhoods. Soda subsidies only make the “food desert” problem worse.

Impatient to die

Prisoners on Death Row in Texas spend 23 hours a day in solitary confinement. The death house in Texas is one of the most restrictive in the nation. Conditions are so bad that many inmates are actively looking forward to their execution day to put an end to the crushing isolation, Dave Mann reports in the Texas Observer. There is a growing consensus among psychiatrists that solitary confinement is a form of torture. Some experts, and many inmates, believe that solitary confinement is literally driving Texas death row inmates insane.

Daniel Lopez is in a hurry to die: “I don’t see no point in waiting 20 years for them to finally decide to execute me.” That’s the first thing he tells me when I sit down to interview him. We are seated in the Polunsky Unit’s visiting room. Lopez is encased in a small booth. We are separated by thick, soundproof glass and talk through phones. [...] [Lopez] says he has no desire to remain on death row. He says he’s looking forward to execution day. He doesn’t want to live much longer in his small cell. “I don’t think that’s a life for somebody,” he says.

Health reform and the courts

Suzy Khimm of Mother Jones takes a closer look a the legal challenges to health care reform. Republicans in Virginia have been given the green light to challenge the constitutionality of the individual mandate in court. In October, a U.S. District judge in Detroit refused to issue a preliminary injunction to stop the implementation of health care reform in Michigan. On Monday, a U.S. District judge in Lynchburg, VA, dismissed Liberty University’s anti-health reform lawsuit. Another Virginia judge says he will rule on a similar suit by the State Attorney General by the end of the year.

The current crop of politically motivated lawsuits challenging the individual mandate are legally tenuous at best. Aziz Huq wrote in The Nation: “Among constitutional scholars, the puzzle is not how the federal government can defend the new law, but why anyone thinks a constitutional challenge is even worth making.”

As Columbia law professor Gillian Metzger explained to Chris Hayes of The Nation earlier this year, the constitutionality of the individual mandate is basically a “no-brainer.” The way the Affordable Care Act is written, everyone who doesn’t have health insurance from some provider has two options: Buy subsidized health insurance or pay a tax. The federal government obviously has the right to collect taxes. The case is expected to go all the way to the Supreme Court, but it seems unlikely to prevail. The real fear is that a lower court will paralyze the implementation of health care reform while the decision is pending.

Crisis pregnancy center bill

Shakthi Jothianandan of Ms. Magazine has the latest on proposed legislation that would force so-called crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) in New York City to disclose that they are not real reproductive health clinics. The New York City Council held a hearing on the proposed legislation in mid-November, which brought together officials from the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene, Planned Parenthood, Concerned Clergy for Choice and staff from CPCs around the city. The representatives for the CPCs claimed that the bill violates their free speech rights, but the head of the New York Civil Liberties Union testified that requiring organizations to disclose that they are not real health care facilities and don’t provide a full range of services does not infringe on any First Amendment right.

CeCe Heil, senior counsel with the Christian anti-abortion group American Center for Law and Justice, claimed the legislation was unnecessary because women are already smart enough to know that “abortion alternatives” means “alternatives to abortion.” Many of the CPCs have “life” in their name, which should signal to potential clients that they do not provide abortion or abortion referrals. But if it’s really so obvious that CPCs are just anti-choice ministries posing as reproductive health clinics, why oppose a law that simply requires all facilities to disclose the obvious?

Boehner meets with anti-choice extremist

Future Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) met with anti-abortion extremist Randall Terry, as Miriam Perez of Feministing reports. Terry is the founder of the radical anti-choice group Operation Rescue, which has a long record of advocating violence against abortion providers. After Dr. George Tiller, one of the country’s last high-profile late-term abortion providers, was assassinated, Terry called Tiller a “mass murderer” who “horrifically, reaped what he sowed.”

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint.

Photo credit: poolie
by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger


Natasha Salgado
Past Member 5 years ago

For the good,the bad and the ugly.....we ourselves should decide what,where and when!!! Thanks.

Dorlinda Chong
Dorlinda Chong5 years ago

When I was in high school, back in the 70's, my social studies teacher, Homer Smith, said: beware of sin taxes. Today they tax smokers and drinkers, but there will come a day when they will tax anything they can get away with on the grounds that it is bad for us.
Smart man, Mr. Smith. That day has come, and just like any pusher, first they get you hooked on it, then they raise the rates once you can't live without it. I don't drink a lot of soda. I prefer non-carbonated drinks. Have since McDonald's hamburgers were .25 cents apiece, and I got the orangeade instead of soda. But I don't approve of sin taxes, not for cigarettes, not for alcohol, and not for sodas and fattening foods. Not since I took that class with Mr. Smith.

Nikolas Karman
Nikolas K5 years ago

The responsibility of welfare is to provide healthy food not supply junk to make you a greater burden on others.

Lynda Markowski
Lynda Markowski5 years ago

ok so we can buy unsweet diet shit that even worse for us! I f bloomberg had his way we would be on rations of bread and water. I work and pay taxes but when and if I ever need food stamps I should not have to change my diet. you are allowed less than $70 a week for a family of 2 if I can budget that to include a 2 liter bottle of soda why not.

Aaron N.
Aaron J. Norton7 years ago

All that money is going straight to these gigantor corporations, making them wealthier and the poor not only poorer, but sicker. Most people aren't informed, aware or intelligent enough to look out for themselves (especially when they find themselves in perpetual economic despair) in certain regards. It's nice to see someone who is, doing so.
And don't worry...they are already telling us what we can and can't CONSUME...a little more each day!!!

.7 years ago

This is really no different than regulating and taxing tobacco or alcohol sales. Stop whining and do what's right for our kids.

Rose O.
Rose Olszewski7 years ago

The last I knew eating junk food was not a right guaranteed anywhere in the constitution for the very simple fact that this was not a problem back in the 18th century. New laws for different times, this is not going to be very effective. I would rather see better laws controlling corporations involved in the food industry, because this is where the problem lies. We also need better laws defining what a corporation is and how it should be chartered to curtail a lot of problems that have arisen from the American brand of capitalism.

Lynn U.
Lynn U7 years ago

So the poor should be told what to eat, what not to eat/drink? Ok then. How about we tell the wealthy the same thing? How far do you think that will get? For crying out loud? When will this kind of hypocrisy stop?!

Luvenia V.
Luvenia V.7 years ago

Thomas N. says
Dec 2, 2010 11:24 AM
I think we should push to ban all unhealthy food. It's just not good for us and not everyone has the control to keep themselves away from the bad stuff

Thomas N, I would ask you MOVE to a country that already has total control rather than trying to remove our right to chose. There are those of us that do not need or want someone telling us how to live our lives. Does your mommy tell you want to eat NOW????

Luvenia V.
Luvenia V.7 years ago

These people just can't push for 1984 fast enough. One right, one freedom, lost for any reason is one to many.