The devil in disguise?

Not every Republican in Florida spends their time stealing elections, it seems.  According to Mark Bittman in today’s New York Times, state senator Ronda Storms is attempting to introduce a bill that would prohibit food stamp recipients from purchasing foods containing sugar with taxpayer dollars, a courageous and unusual stand for a GOP member.

“It’s just bad public policy to allow unfettered access to all kinds of food,” Storms told Bittman.

Some might find this sort of intrusion into private lives another example of Big Government run amok, but Bittman points out that “the argument for limiting the use of food stamps to actual food is consistent with established policy. They’re already disallowed for tobacco, alcohol,vitamins, pet foods, household supplies and (with some exceptions) food meant to be eaten on premises.”  But — is sugar really in a category with alcohol and tobacco?

Well, according to Bittman, it’s worse:

Last year a brigade of parents stood watch outside a corner store in North Philadelphia in an attempt to prevent their kids from buying junk food.

They’ve been called foot soldiers, but you might call them vigilantes. Vigilantism occurs when people believe the government isn’t doing its job. We need the government on our side. It must acknowledge the dangers caused by the most unhealthy aspects of our diet and figure out how to help us cope with them, because this is the biggest public health challenge facing the developed world. [Emphasis ours].

And there you have it.  It’s not that our government is doing too much; in fact, it’s doing too little.  And for my money, Senator Storm isn’t doing enough, either.

It’s far too easy for a food stamp recipient to use their own cash to feed their sugar addiction.  Just banning the use of food stamps for purchase will do little to solve the problem. As Energy Secretary Steven Chu found to his dismay, we just can’t rely on peoples’ judgment to do the right thing.  Even something as obvious as purchasing environmentally superior energy-efficient fluorescent light bulbs seems beyond us, and, after the Obama administration’s cowardly retreat, even landmark legislation could not stand up against deeply-ingrained ignorance.

We would propose that all citizens be issued a “nutrition ID” smartcard that would be required for all purchases of fructose-bearing foodstuffs.  This card would also help enforce another very sensible idea Mr. Bittman puts forward, that “establishing a minimum age for purchase of sodas…would reduce consumption.”  The card would identify purchasers who are food stamp recipients, and bar them from purchasing prohibited items, including tobacco and alcohol.   This would serve the dual purpose of preventing taxpayer assistance from contributing to ill health and also serve as an incentive – perverse though it may be — for those on the dole to work harder to escape it.

Such a card could also be employed to establish a “calorie ceiling” for citizens, which, when reached, would forbid merchants from selling any further foodstuffs, except for items that were fat/carbohydrate/sugar-free, to anyone who had exceeding their permitted daily (or weekly) limit.  While enablers could make such purchases as proxies for those still determined to insult their bodies, making such acts punishable by stiff fines and/or imprisonment would certainly deter most of this action.

Those who would protest that such policies represent an unwarranted intrusion into private lives would do well to consider the intrusion made into into everyone’s life by the costs of treating nutrition-related afflictions –and to see the notion of state-assisted obesity for the nonsense that is is.  As Mr. Bittman, says, we need the government on our side on this, and we can’t wait for vigilantes to  do the government’s job for it.  For us.  And for the addicted, the afflicted, and the unfortunate ignorant.

Next:  Now, about those light bulbs….