Blogs Oct 7, 2010 at 8:54 am


I know somebody who's killing themselves with pop. It is poison.
I, too, am OUTRAGED that a trade association is opposing a measure that would increase the prices of its members' products.
it is "poison", not actual poison. like the girl in the bell biv devoe song.
Of course soda is food - it has calories, therefore it qualifies. But so does booze. I agree that the government shouldn't be paying for either one of them.
Can they buy coffee with food stamps? What about people who buy soda for the caffeine because they don't like tea or coffee? Is that not ok?
I love how the outrage against the state deciding what you can buy fades away as soon as it's a choice you don't agree with, or one that somehow make "the poor" into better people.
It's hard enough being so broke that you need FS to eat. If soda makes you life easier to cope with, you should be able to have some.
As a working person who is still on FS, I pay the taxes that help me and millions of others eat. Sometimes I get really good cheese from Whole Paycheck, because it's so tasty and cheering to eat good food. Sometimes I get generic cereal and beans and rice.The whole idea that if we stigmatize being poor then the poor will suddenly get jobs and become good people is gross. It's not like we don't know we're broke.
@6: i think there is a legitimate concern when americans see our poor folks having higher than average rates of obesity, and especially poor children. so the general public rightly sees nutrition as an issue - but the government really lacks the power to do much about it - banning shit never works, this tax-the-crap idea is wildly unpopular due to business propaganda, and encouraging good behavior is futile. it goes against our genetic nature - which is to store up fat any way possible for the 'lean times'. which no longer exist.

you can lead a horse to water...
This is only a problem because we are paying for their health care as well.
The Stranger also believes innocent bar patrons have been sickened and killed by dog cooties they caught at Norm's, so naturally in their world soda becomes poison.

Next up: Ritz Crackers are Zyklon B.
Soda isn't poison! Over-consumption is.
@6, you make it sound like you'd shrivel up and die without your precious soda. Trust me, you won't. You ought to try it sometime.
@6: When uncompensated care tips so heavily toward dental and obesity-related matters, it's kinda hard to see soda as some kind of comfort item.
I'm voting against the repeal, but I'm stocking up on Twix bars. Also, my Diet Coke/Diet Pepsi addiction will continue unabated, tax or no.
I'm shocked, frankly. I never even knew that you could buy soda with food stamps. I have, however seen folks buying entire shopping carts of coffee with food stamps, which I've always assumed were going to end up on the shelves of some bodega as barter goods for ciggies and beer, or maybe cash.

I notice the supermarkets are capable of imposing quantity limits for their sale items. I wonder why the food stamp people don't figure out something similar?

Because of the interesting place I live, I get to shop in very disparate micro-environments. Standard vanilla supermarkets, Hispanic supermarkets, and Chinese markets/supermarkets, amongst others. I haven't made anything like a serious study out of it, but I have amused myself comparing apparent purchasing patterns.

The foodstamp users in the Chinese markets usually have baskets full of fruits, vegetables, raw meat and fresh fish, and maybe a giant bag of rice. Not so much packaged foods, although I have seen a few cases of ramen.

The younger Americanized shoppers in the Hispanic market might have about half kid-oriented television-advertised junk food, if they have kids, the rest of their purchase being a mix of prepared foods and stuff you have to cook.

The poorer Americans in the vanilla supermarket buy almost all name-brand prepared packaged food, and lots of packaged pastry. Luncheon meats, hot dogs, etc. These are the people who end up going hungry at the end of the month because their grocery money ran out. Prepared meat products are at least twice the cost per unit protein than raw meat, never mind the massive sodium jolt.

Of the three, the Chinese foodstamp recipients definitely look like they get the most bang for the buck, and probably eat highest on the hog, so to speak. They're also (again, in my limited, subjective observation) the least likely to be obese.

By whatever measure, make no mistake, the food stamp program is a good thing. Of all the direct-aid and economic stimulus things, it's probably the most individually beneficial, economically stimulative, and overall good for society. But, damn... soda?
What about Diet Soda? No calories there.

Look, I understand your argument, Mr. Holden. Taxpayers shouldn't subsidize things with limited nutritional value. Soda, of course, qualifies.

That being said, I think this is a very slippery slope. You ban soda, you're opening up a bigger can of worms then you know. Candy and Frozen Foods could be next. What about processed foods? Or foods with additives?

Pretty soon, the only thing people on stamps will be allowed to buy are organic Tomatoes at $7 a pound.

I think of non-diet sodas as the equivelent of a Candy bar (they have about the same calories). One or two a week won't kill you.
That's a good analogy, @15. The problem is, I don't think the government should be paying for people to stuff their faces with candy bars either.
why don't we just put shock collars on everyone who is on food stamps and give them a few hundred volts when they consume over 2000 calories per day? it would be only a tiny bit more dehumanizing than treating them like they are incapable of making simple decisions for themselves, but it would be a gajillion times more effective at improving their health than telling them they can't buy soda with food stamps.
A government program to poison the poor comes as no surprise to me.
I read somewhere that here in Canada, 2/3 of our health care dollars go toward treating medical conditions brought on by smoking. That's a pretty frustrating statistic when you're a non-smoker. When people make appalling food choices, that becomes everyone's problem, too. And as far as taxes not working, what about availability? I noticed when we were in Norway that it's really hard to find junk/processed food at the grocery. In fact, I heard one expat wife complaining that she had to "make" everything herself (horrors!), because there were so few convenience foods. Just observing that in places where there isn't much junk food available, people tend not to eat it (and become tall and blonde, too;)

You're missing my point. Where's the line here?

Okay, so let's go with your idea. No more Candy bars.

What about Energy/Clif Bars? They're sweet. Jury's still out on whether they're any good for you.

What about Ice Cream? It's sweet. High in calories.

And yogurt? Again, some are healthy, some are pumped with sugar.

I could go on and on. Removing beer from the program makes obvious sense - it's a drug and all. But once you start deciding what constitutes appropriate food for the program, you're making value choices that others may not agree with.
@15 I don't think the slope is as slippery as you imply.

There are already items available at grocery stores that the food stamp program won't cover. Food stamp recipients that buy them, simply pay for them with other funds. Remember, the program is generally used to support the working poor. In short, not paying for these items is not the same as forbidding them.

Also, I am not sure your reduction to absurdity is as unacceptable as you imply. While I don't think anyone would really push any food aid to only cover organic tomatoes, there is no reason we couldn't issue multiple forms of food stamps, including a set only redeemable for unprocessed (fresh or frozen) fruits and vegetables. Yes, I imagine we'd see some increase in the bartering food stamps for products outside the program, but only draconian measures that I doubt are widely supported would stamp that out.
Beer is food. So is wine. So is spirits. Properly used it's all food. Improperly used it's a toy, a party accessory. Just like sodapop.
@20, no, I didn't miss your point. And yes, I agree that it's making value judgments. Which we already do. what I don't understand is why your fucking soda pop is so Goddamned indispensible that the government ought to pay for it.
It would be easier to say what could be bought than a list of what would be inappropriate. FS stamps for basics and that's it. (Go ahead and make your list while I do some errands -- I'm kinda busy.)

And soda pop is shit.
Time to drop food stamps and open government run food banks with only whole foods and bread. See how many of these lazy, fat fuckers walk away. It'd only be filled with poorer Asians.
How about we not play social engineering with poor people just because they're poor?

Oh right, that would require compassion.
Interesting how many feel comfortable micro managing the lives of people poor enough to need help buying food. I wonder why we never heard a cry to impose similar restrictions on, say, the TARP beneficiaries. Wouldn't it be more fun to follow the executives of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, etc. around and moralize about how they spend their government hand-out?
Let's just make all foodstamp people buy Nutraloaf. That way they can either make decisions for themselves, or be poor. Really, that's the only acceptable binary.

Fucking Causeheads.
I don't mind the idea of a soda tax, but we're kidding ourselves if we think that poor people will magically become thin if we add a few cents to the cost of a 2-liter. The problem is systemic. Processed, sugar-laden foods like candy bars and soda will still be the cheapest calories out there, and they will still taste good, and people will still buy them, tax or no tax. Maybe because of the comfort aspect (having no money is miserable, people will look for comfort where they can), probably for the cost aspect (once again, cheapest calories out there). We need to make good, nutritious food the cheapest calories in the grocery store. That's the only way to induce real change, and it's a systemic issue.

I sometimes wonder if the wannabe social engineers on this blog actually know any working poor people. You know, folks who go to the grocery store with $20 and the change from their car ashtray who need to feed a family of four for a week. When you're preoccupied with basic survival and avoiding homelessness, detailed nutritional analysis goes on the backburner. Show some sympathy.
@29 But, they're trying to improve the world by making the right decisions FOR the poor people. You just don't understand!
Hernandez, this has nothing to do with a tax on soda. You may want to re-read the post.
@5: Caffeine is an addictive stimulant, much like alcohol or tobacco. By that logic, the government shouldn't be subsidizing caffeinated products simply because they're caffeinated.
@31 Dammit. I got this one confused with the bottled water tax post.

My point about sympathy for the working poor still stands. I have close friends who are struggling right now. They're not stupid and incapable of making good decisions, as some people here seem to think. They are hamstrung in their decision making by their financial situation.
I noticed when we were in Norway that it's really hard to find junk/processed food at the grocery.

I have relatives in Scandinavia, which means I've whiled away many summer days there. They have tons of junk food; they just don't eat as much of it as we do. The only real difference in prepared foods between here and there is that they don't have as much seasoning packets or Hamburger Helper-type products, and their prepared foods aren't nearly as sweet as ours.
@34 Canuck is just full of shit. Anybody who's walked through IKEA knows that. Maybe, he's being satirical...
Fuck Bloomberg. After spending all that money buying his third term, you'd think he'd find something more important to do than to raise prices on soda pop, like storming Albany and DC demanding more money for the incompetently managed subway system, to avoid a third fare hike in as many years.
Another person who can't read. Sigh.
@37 I dunno who's worse: A person who doesn't think, or a person who doesn't let anybody else think.
@7-personally I don't drink soda. I hate carbonated caramel colored sugar water with extra chemicals. But I really really hate people thinking that a peek in my shopping cart at any one time is an indicator of how I shop on the whole. I can buy plenty of tasty vegetables at the farmer's market with my FS, so when I buy grocery store stuff at the grocery store, that's probably a month's worth of product. Does sharing 3# of bacon with 3 people every six weeks mean we have horrible diets? How about that fact that I make the bread we eat? That a pint of ice cream lasts me a month?
Depression is a serious companion to poverty, and making poor people feel even less a part of society, even more stigmatized will not encourage them to exercise or eat more vegetables. It will also not make them more likely to get a job.
@39 that's probably because this isn't so much about helping poor people as it is about helping non-poor people feel like they are supporting something beneficial that requires no sacrifice on their part, while also abdicating any sort of personal responsibility for a much larger, more complex problem. people on public assistance aren't the only ones who eat shitty foods, but they're the only ones we can all comfortably wag our finger under the guise of being a concerned taxpayer. add in a capital-Big Industry as a foil, and you've got yourself a concern that conservatives and liberals alike can hang their hats on. whatever way you slice it, everyone's outrage is righteous.
Public assistance is a gift -- with strings, but a gift nonetheless. No one is required to take it.

When someone earns enough money to buy crappy food on their own, they can.
today, the role of concered taxpayer will be played by hartiepie

do you have health insurance, hartiepie? if so, does it concern you in the least that there are other people in your insurance pool who smoke cigarettes and eat shitty food and waste your hard-earned contributions on treatments that are due entirely to their shitty decisions?

point being: nobody is off the hook here. people on public assistance are an easy scapegoat, but even if you're not, your bum luck and stupid lifestyle choices affect people who don't even know you.
@42 You know that's a total strawman blip... Insurance companies drop anyone who requires treatments.
@42 Dear Concerned Citizen Blip

None of what you wrote has anything to do with poor people taking money to buy food so they aren't starving.

Public assistance is not healthcare. If any connection is to be made with that, then definitely soda should be off the list.
every paycheck i receive, money is taken out in the form of contributions to a health care plan, even when i do not go to the doctor, although the doctor is there for me if i need to see him/her.

every pay check i receive, money is taken out in the form of taxes, and some of these taxes go to fund programs i do not benefit from at the moment, but conceivably could if i lost my job.

in both instances, one could argue that money being taken directly from my wallet is going to help someone who did not earn it. whether the government taking my money as a tax, or a private organization taking it in the form of a health care premium, it's all money out of my pocket, and it all goes into a big pot where the overwhelming percentage goes to help a bunch of people i do not know. and a bunch of those people either fell on bad luck or made some dumb decisions that put them in a position where they needed my hard earned money.

i consider this the price tag for living in a free society where we are allowed to do things we enjoy but are ultimately bad for us, so personally i don't give 2 shits whether somebody on PA buys soda. you obviously disagree with that, and that's cool. i'm just asking you to spread your outrage around, because we all deserve our fair share. except maybe the mormons.
Hey, moralizers: If you're going to publicly moralize, don't do it on the backs of poor people. Be an equal opportunity moralizer.

Don't want people to drink soda? Make a sin tax, or ban it outright. Don't block poor people's choices so you feel better.
@46 there already is a sin designed to rip off poor people, not make it prohibitably expensive.

It's funny. I was once shown the political spectrum as a wheel. The teacher said the diehard liberals can be as dictatorial and controlling as the diehard conservatives. Arguments like these make me agree.
So someone explain to me why I can buy Red Bull with Food Stamps but not Monster or Rockstar? I know why in theory. Red Bull has a Nutritional label but the other two have Supplement labels. But why? Why or how is Red Bull (and apparently Starbucks energy drink) any different from the other energy drinks? These are just amped versions of soda, aren't they?
If they ban us from buying soda and other junk foods then they should lower the prices of produce and meat and other basic staples. Because my roommate is getting like 100 in food benefits and he's on Social Security and getting 800 a month. This is just enough to pay his bills and mortgage (which is a low interest govt mortgage). He's a diabetic (among other terrible things). How is he supposed to buy food for that diet when he gets 100 a month?
I think the Mayor needs to take a bigger and better look at who gets them and how, not what foods they go to. Basically, Mayor Bloomberg, you should just leave what we can or can't buy alone and give poor people on disability MORE SNAP Benefits.
I find it hilarious that we allow people to buy corn sugar water with tax payer money. This is about 80 billion times more important than the possibility that some of them are using drugs.

I think people are also overestimating what this would REALLY do. This would stop FOOD STAMPS, as in the EBT/paper slips that say you have to buy food, from being used directly for corn sugar water. That's not the only program out there, there's one that gives poor people cash for shit too. So a crafty food stamp holder will still undoubtedly find soda, there's no question that if someone REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY wants to OD themseves daily on soda this bill will do NOTHING. However it will encourage those sucking on the government tit to find other sources of food, and send a strong signal to anyone attempting to buy the product under the system, a reminder that it's not your money you're using to live, so go buy a fucking apple.
@ 36:

Try living in another U.S. city and using public transport. NYC subway system is fantastic, you ingrate.
Aren't food stamps for buying um, food? If soda isn't food, then you shouldn't be able to buy it, just like you can't buy diapers or electricity or any of many other necessities of life. Whenever you try to draw a line between what is food and what isn't, of course there are going to be some difficult calls. Cigarettes, we can probably all agree are not food, right? Or wine? But what about COOKING wine? WHY DOES THE FOOD STAMP PROGRAM DISCRIMINATE AGAINST THE SWISS-BORN POOR, WHO ARE SIMPLY TRYING TO SCRAPE TOGETHER THE INGREDIENTS FOR A POT OF FONDUE FOR THEIR HUNGRY CHILDREN?

Of course, the entire food stamp program is premised on paternalism toward the poor. Well, that and subsidization of agribusiness (the food stamp program is, after all, administered by the Department of Agriculture, not the Department of Health and Human Services). OK, never mind--high fructose corn syrup for all!
@49- I spend all day trying to think of ways to waste your tax dollars. I spend all my EBT dollars on candy, soda and eat butter by the stick. The DSHS system is soooo easy to navigate that they NEVER need me to fill out any paperwork, or want my employer to fill out paperwork, or lose any paperwork, and I NEVER have to hold when I call them and get right in when I need to go see them. In fact, they shower me with money while I sit on my ass all day watching pay-per-view porn and rubbing corn syrup all over my body. Being poor is awesome!
@ 52:

Nobody is saying being poor is fun, or that poor people are sneakier. @ 49 is just pointing out that some people on food stamps are going to find a way to buy soda regardless of what gets decided here. I don't agree with their second point; that this message would still send a "strong signal" about nutrition and government programs, but the first point is legit. Haven't you ever had someone try to sell you $5 of food stamps for $4 cash so they could buy cigarettes? Where there's a will, there's a way.

Like the war on drugs, this measure is the product of minds fixated on "how we want the world to be" without regard to "how the world is." I don't like the idea of my tax dollars going to buy soda for the poor, but I recognize that trying to regulate this without taking the draconian measure of completely eliminating government subsidies is pointless.

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