Bloomberg’s Blooper

By Christopher McKnight


“Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” are some of the most famous words from the Declaration of Independence. These are the three basic rights given to the American people and what the citizens of our country have been chasing ever since. If your definition of happiness is 16 ounces of soda, you’re in luck. But if you want one 17-ounce soda, you better find your happiness from somewhere else.

On Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012, Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg’s “Soda Bill” was passed by an eight-person board. This “ban” is going to forbid the sale of any drinks containing sugar over the size of 16 ounces. Movie theaters, restaurants and concession stands are all going to have to change the size of their products. But why?

I don’t know about you, but when I first learned about the Constitution, I do not remember the part where it states that the government gets to decide what we drink and how much of it.

As the Wall Street Journal reported, “any beverage sweetened with sugar or another caloric sweetener that contains more than 25 calories per 8 fluid ounces and contains less than 51% milk or substitute by volume as an ingredient” is not going to be allowed to be served to the citizens of the largest city in the United States. When March 12, 2013, hits, these types of drinks are gone. However, like any rule, there are exceptions. Supermarkets and even some convenience stores will be above the law.

Bloomberg’s “reasoning” is that the obesity rate is too high. So he wants to try to help the American people slim down by telling us what we can and cannot drink. The bill was passed by a unanimous vote by the eight Board of Health members that Bloomberg just happened to appoint to their positions. To make it even worse, right before the final vote, the voting members were given a 20-minute presentation denouncing rebuttals from the critics of this bill.

Obviously, the people of New York are unhappy with the bill. The government stepping in to the private sector is ridiculous and un-American. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that the government gets to decide what I drink and how much of it I consume. There have been over 6,000 complaints sent to the mayor’s office. There is even a new coalition of people called “New Yorkers for Beverage Choices,” containing a petition over 250,000 citizens signed to eliminate the bill.

As we have seen with the banning of alcohol in the 1920s, banning something that Americans want is just a bad idea. Obviously, this is not as severe as the banning of alcohol, but it can essentially have the same effect. People learned to get around the laws, and alcohol was purchased through the underground economy. In times like these, when our economy is in the dumps, that is the last thing we want. We want to promote business and keep the money in our economy. The United States eventually realized this, and legalized alcohol in 1933.

This bill can potentially hurt small and even medium sized businesses. For example, take smaller market soda or iced tea companies, like Honest Tea. A standard bottled drink produced by Honest Tea is 16.9 fluid ounces. Since these exceed the now legal amount of sugar, they will not be allowed to be sold in the city of New York. But since New York is a huge market, Honest Tea can’t afford not to have their product on the shelves, the losses would be catastrophic. So now Honest Tea must pose the question, should we change the size of our bottles to meet the regulations of this bill? Although New York is a large market, it is only one market. And who knows if in a few years New York will decide that a 16-ounce sugared beverage is still too large and they lower the amount. Honest Tea would have to change their bottle again. A company this size simply cannot afford this. And this isn’t the only company facing these difficulties.  We must focus on this idea.  This election season, small businesses are a main focus of the economic debate to fix this economy.  Imposing unnecessary and harmful regulations such as this have historically never worked as well.

Overall, I personally don’t think this ban will last in the city of New York. With the amount of people opposing and acting against it, I think the government will realize that it hurts more than it helps, and will repeal it, just like prohibition. Even Bloomberg has contradicted himself in this bill. As he said himself, “But, generally, it’s government’s job to tell you the facts of what is bad for you and let you make your own decision.”

Chris McKnight is the head of public relations for the UMass Republican Club. He can be reached at [email protected]