Mayor Michael Bloomberg's efforts to make New York City citizens healthier by restricting trans-fats and showing gross pictures of sugary beverages in advertisements aren't being digested well by some columnists. In fact, as Michael Barbaro
points out in a New York Times piece, the mayor's own diet can hardly be held up as a model of health--in addition to general fast food consumption, he is a salt fiend. Is the mayor hypocritical, projecting or just plain power hungry? Whatever it is, commentators have had enough.
- Part Hypocrite, Part Projectionist suggests Barbaro in his piece for the New York Times. He dissects the mayor's political and personal discord when it comes to food, granting that it must be difficult for "a billionaire in one of the dining capitals of the world" to have the kind of self-control his policy-making advises. Still, Barbaro notes that mayor often sacrifices healthful choices for political gain, dining out often to keep up appearances "The city’s eater-in-chief dines out nearly every night of the week, deliberately popping up at restaurants across the five boroughs. And with his campaign for a third term in full swing, he eats out up to three times a day, as he solicits endorsements and meets voters."
- Vanity Indeed, confirms Dan Pashman for the Huffington Post. Leaping on Barbaro's contention that Bloomberg is "obsessed" with maintaining his figure, he accuses the mayor of not only overreaching, but making a terrible political error in the process: "Most elected officials strive to epitomize their constituents. New England politicians play up their stoic independence, southerners their religious zeal, Midwesterners their early years on the farm, and so on. It's a wise strategy. People like to see themselves in their leaders. But Bloomberg has it backwards. He sees himself in the people. And we make his ass look HUGE."
- Full of It argues Reason's Jacob Sullum. Attacking the mayor specifically for forcing restaurants to display counts prominently on menu boards, Sullum thinks that the mayor's stance on public health is transparently totalitarian. "Since that information was already available on the McDonald's website and on posters and handouts in the chain's restaurants, Bloomberg's explanation does not ring true. The menu board mandate is not aimed at providing calorie counts to people who want them; it is aimed at changing the behavior of people who prefer to eat in blissful ignorance.
- Part of a Paternalistic Trend, argues Slate's Jacob Weisberg. Using the Bloomberg as merely the most overt example, he makes the case that American politicians of every political persuasion are increasingly eager to play the role of the over-protective parent: "To exhort, nag, nudge, tax, and regulate people for the sake of diminishing purely self-destructive behavior is defensible. But to take choices away on the grounds that people should know better is infantilizing—and likely to hurt those who bear the cross of favoring more intrusive government. Liberals should show restraint, lest the right to be stupid go up in smoke."
- Half-Baked The Atlantic covers two the story from two separate angles: On the business channel, Madeleine Kennedy analyzes the Bloomberg administration's recently approved plan to offer zoning and tax incentives to grocery stores in poorer areas where fresh produce is hard to come by. Her conclusion? The plan isn't altogether sound: "As a proponent of nutrition, I find it hard to criticize New York's ambition. But I worry that the plan will shoot for the moon and miss the mark entirely. The current plan provides zoning exceptions that allow for the construction of larger buildings in these neighborhoods. Why not first give tax incentives to existing Duane Reade and CVS pharmacies (already a daily destination for millions of city shoppers) to carry fresh produce?" Eleanor Barkhorn is careful to avoid denouncing or promoting the mayor's health policies on the food channel. However, she does raise the following interesting question: "Do Bloomberg's eating habits make him a hypocrite and therefore weaken his campaign for healthy food? If so, could this affect the national debate over the government's role in what we eat? Or do his struggles with eating well humanize his cause and therefore strengthen his crusade?"
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