Jun 06

People sometimes say that by electing a super-rich person to public office, that office-holder is less likely to be beholden to equally rich special interest groups.   In the case of New York City’s Michael Bloomberg, we may just be seeing how a super-rich, non-reelection seeking mayor might not need to care what any of his constituents think.    Bloomberg certainly deserves kudos for determination and sticking to principle.   Too bad for all of us that they are the principles of a statist.

English: New York Mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg.

I’m of course referring to Bloomberg’s latest governmental crusade: “educating” our increasingly obese society on proper portion sizes, via a proposed (and likely to be implemented) ban on “sugary drinks” of more than 16 ounces.  Thankfully, numerous commentaries are noting that determined consumers can just buy a second drink, or more importantly, that government has no role in intervening in people’s eating habits.

It’s not hard to see Bloomberg’s good intentions, however.  A look at some of the costs of obesity on society says that for all of his damn-the-torpedos/democracy behavior, perhaps it’s a good thing that we’re at least attempting to have a conversation about this:

  • Fully one-third of America’s population is considered obese, with 6 percent being considered “morbidly” so.
  • Nearly 21% of America’s annual health care expenditures, or about $190 billion a year, are related to obesity.
  • Besides an additional $4 billion in fuel costs to move this extra weight in our transportation system, there are these anecdotes about the infrastructure itself:

“The built environment generally is changing to accommodate larger Americans. New York’s commuter trains are considering new cars with seats able to hold 400 pounds. Blue Bird is widening the front doors on its school buses so wider kids can fit. And at both the new Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, seats are wider than their predecessors by 1 to 2 inches.

The new performance testing proposed by transit officials for buses, assuming an average passenger weight of 175 instead of 150 pounds, arise from concerns that heavier passengers might pose a safety threat. If too much weight is behind the rear axle, a bus can lose steering. And every additional pound increases a moving vehicle’s momentum, requiring more force to stop and thereby putting greater demands on brakes. Manufacturers have told the FTA the proposal will require them to upgrade several components.”

– Sharon Begley, “As America’s Waistline Expands, Costs Soar”, Reuters  April 30 2012

Worth talking about, indeed.   But from what I’ve seen so far, I think we’re asking the wrong questions.

Continue reading at Forbes Opinions…

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What do you think?

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