Aired March 16, 2013 on Dave’s Gone By. Youtube clip: http://youtu.be/NUaspXp3-Kw
Shalom Dammit! This is Rabbi Sol Solomon with a Rabbinical Reflection for the week of March 17th, 2013.
How big is too big? This is a question asked by real-estate agents, businesses and gay men since time immemorial. Now the same question is being put to soft drinks – at least in New York. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, or, as I like to call him, Big Brotherberg, wants to make it illegal for restaurants to sell sugary beverages in containers bigger than 16 ounces. Places like McDonald’s and 7/11 and even Starbucks, with their grande-vente-sabado-gigante-ultra-maxi-mocha-poppachinos – would be subject to fines unless they gave customers less goliath-sized portions.
To give Big Brotherberg his due, his motivations are truly admirable. Obesity is a huge problem in this country. Not just that fat people are unpleasant to look at, or sit next to on a bus, or listen to when they’re not being jolly; no, it’s that bad eating sends healthcare costs through the roof. Billions of dollars are funneled into treating heart disease and diabetes and tooth decay, and Ritalin for kids who are so hopped up on sugar, we confuse their natural exuberance for ADHD.
The rationale of a soft drink ban is that if you put less crap in front of people’s mouths, they will pour less garbage into their guts. Psychologically, this is absolutely sound. If we see six pieces of cheese on a plate, we’re probably gonna eat all six even if we stopped being after hungry after four. And have you been to a supermarket lately? Shopping carts are bigger than Buicks. Why? Because the cart looks empty and lonely with only half a dozen items in it. But with 15 items, we consummate our urge to consume.
So the logic is, if you give people 16 ounces of Dr. Pibb with their 8,000 calorie happy meal, they’ll get used to having a little less fructose with their fries. And right there, that’s 200 calories staying in the fountain and out of your colon. It’s a really great idea – if it were voluntary. If chain restaurants and family-style eateries said, “Hey, we’ll charge a little less, and we’ll serve a little less.” Maybe, eventually, people will go back to portion control the way it was before America supersized everything from street pretzels to porn stars’ boobs.
But wait a minute – Americans have already been downsized, and it hasn’t done a damn thing to shrink their waistlines. For years, snack companies have been slicing candy bars just a notch smaller for the same price, hoping we won’t notice. Potato chip makers have kept their bags the same while putting fewer spuds in it. They’re just being health conscious, right? And it’s really made such a difference to people’s buying and eating habits, right?
But more than that, if we’ve learned anything from the failure of prohibition or Nancy Reagan’s war on pot, it’s that banning vices does not work. It just drives the market underground and turns cravings into criminality. And I don’t care how well-meaning his motivations, New York’s mayor is overstepping his bounds. If a mother tells a ten year old, “I’m doing this for your own benefit,” well, sure; she’s a mom and he’s ten. If a government official tells you, “I’m doing this for your own good,” you know it’s only a matter of time before everyone visiting City Hall has to bring frankincense and a sacrificial goat.
I realize my opposition to the soda ban can be viewed as contradictory to my support of reasonable gun control. After all, how can I support 32 ounces in a big gulp if I’m against 32 bullets in a chamber? The answer is, which would you rather come across: a psychopath pointing a semi-automatic at a classroom, or a chubby guy with a Mountain Dew asking you the time because his wristwatch doesn’t fit anymore?
In striking down Mayor Brotherberg’s soda ban last week, Judge Milton Tingling – love that name! – Judge Tingling said the law was arbitrary and capricious and virtually unenforceable. It’s also insulting to grownups who wanna make their own choices. Even worse, it turns presumably smart people into retards. Restaurants are complaining, “Oh, no! We can only serve 16 ounces now, we have to get smaller cups.” News flash: 16 ounces fits even better in a 24-ounce cup than it does in a 16. You can actually walk past the counter without spilling Pepsi on your fingers.
Most aggravating is the unfairness. If you can go in a bodega and buy 20 cartons of cancer-causing cigarettes; if you can pop in a liquor store and buy beer by the keg; if you can visit your local topless bar and get twelve lap-dances (and by the way, I recommend Tina; she does this thing with her kegels), if you can saunter into a supermarket and buy a 2-liter 7-Up for one-fifty – if you can do all of this – why turn fast-food managers into cup cops?
Mayor Brotherberg, if you truly wanna cure obesity, stop this nanny nonsense and make real change. New York City is so crazy expensive, poor and middle-class families can’t afford fresh, organic produce. Try giving people real salaries and livable budgets, and they’ll eat in better restaurants. They’ll save Burger King for a once-in-awhile guilty pleasure instead of eating there three times a week because it’s the only thing a single mother has time, energy or money to manage.
As far as portion control, tell ya what Mayor. Next time you try to get some cash out of your bank account, I want the bank manager to tell you, “No, you don’t need $30,000 at one time. I’m cutting you off at 20; you can come back tomorrow for the rest. I realize it’s your money, but I don’t trust some of the business deals you might make, so . . . I’m doing this for your own good. Have a nice day.” That noise you’ll hear from Bloomberg’s throat will be a very big gulp, indeed.
This has been a Rabbinical Reflection from Rabbi Supersize Solomon, Temple Sons of Bitches in Great Neck, New York.
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