Friday, October 8, 2010

Quit Yer Bitchin'

So, in recent weeks I've frequently seen the commercials, and, this morning, a news story came on about how NYC is asking that Food Stamps impose nutritional restrictions on their use.

Now, to start, I am not a fan of the government telling me how I should or am to live my life. So, I can understand people being against nutritional value-based taxation to encourage good eating habits. At the same time, the government of this country has been imposing "sin taxes" on things like alcohol, tobacco and other deleterious items pretty much since the founding of the country (hell, Kentucky bourbon might not have come into existence had it not been for such policies).

I get that people love their sodas, snack cakes, etc. However, much like cigarettes and other industrial consumables, these products have been optimized by their makers to make you crave more of them. So, of course if you eat or drink them you want to be able to continue to eat or drink them. But, whatever. More power to you if you want to eat or drink yourself into the grave.

At the same time, with what NYC is asking, it's not quite the same as seeking to tax bad nutrition out of existence. All it is is saying, "not on my dime". You, as a Food Stamp user are free to buy what you want ...with your own money.

People that have been on WIC have been faced with these restrictions throughout their participation period. It's part and parcel of the program's goals (to promote good nutrition).

People that are receiving Food Stamps are also almost exclusively receiving their medical care through government subsidized/paid medical programs. As such, nutritional choices they make that negatively impact their health directly increases their need for using that assistance. So, by allowing Food Stamps to pay for bad nutrition, tax-payers end up paying twice: first for the foods bought and again for the medical care used to treat food-related health problems (e.g., diabetes). And, if you want to be REALLY honest, tax-payers are getting hit three times when you factor in the farm subsidies allocated to the food industry to produce cheap, calorie-dense things like HFCS. But, I digress...

At any rate, it just "makes sense" to put conditions on "help". If my goals are to help you survive and/or thrive, I'm not going to want my help to be self-sabotaging. I don't want one helpful act I've undertaken to create a requirement for another helpful act. WIC is basically an example of how it can be (philosophically) "done right". Perhaps the Feds should just be consistent and put the same/similar restrictions on Food Stamps that they do on WIC.

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