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The Fresca Rebellion 776

Posted by Soulskill
from the comparing-soft-drinks-to-the-holocaust dept.
theodp writes "They can ban the Marlboros, tax the Cokes, and zone the Whoppers, says Slate's William Saletan on the subject of today's morality cops. But it's time to put the brakes on the paternalistic overreaching of the food police, Saletan argues, when they come after his editor's beloved Fresca ('there are concerns that diet beverages may increase calorie consumption by justifying consumption of other caloric foods'), which will have to be pried from his cold, dead hands. '40 states have enacted special taxes on soda or junk food. And the soda taxers are becoming ever bolder. Their latest manifesto is an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, co-authored by the health commissioner of New York City, the surgeon general of Arkansas, and several others. It declares soda fair game for government intervention (PDF) on the grounds that "market failures" in this area are causing "less-than-optimal production and consumption."' Where do we draw the line?"
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The Fresca Rebellion

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  • taxes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 27, 2009 @09:33AM (#29555551)

    As an avid soda drinker, I don't have any problem with a 'soda' tax. I have much more of a problem when the government outright bans something. Keep it legal and tax it, I say. I would much rather the government got income through 'sin' taxes than through the income tax.

    I'm not in favor of higher taxes in general, but I would like to shift taxes. Carbon taxes would be much more efficient than income tax, for example.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by KDR_11k (778916)

      Sin taxes are stupid. They allow rich people to "sin" more.

      • Re:taxes (Score:4, Insightful)

        by squiggleslash (241428) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @10:36AM (#29556113) Homepage Journal

        It's more of a "cost tax" than a "sin tax". The consumption of certain products (most obvious example: tobacco) has costs far beyond that of the production and selling of the item (consumer much more likely to die earlier and require expensive health treatment before he or she dies. Being coldly clinical for a moment: death has costs. People who die remove critical knowledge and skills from the economy that makes a society function. Meanwhile the health issues leading up to death are also a major problem, as we've seen discussed in the healthcare debate: people who contract expensive to treat diseases are more likely to have their paid-for insurance revoked on technicalities, and roughly 50% of bankruptcies in the US are due to insurance not covering critical healthcare treatments.

        How do you deal with it while maximizing liberties? Answer: you try to have people responsible for the costs of their actions. And that's where cost taxes come in.

        • Re:taxes (Score:5, Insightful)

          by El Torico (732160) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @11:41AM (#29556791)
          Although I agree with most of your post, this statement is wrong.
          "People who die remove critical knowledge and skills from the economy that makes a society function."
          Some (very few) people yes, but everyone? Of course not. The vast majority of the populace, myself included, have skills that are neither unique nor critical. Everyone is replaceable.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            While everyone can be replaced, their premature deaths are still going to be a net loss. All they could have done is lost to us and it will take time to get a replacement. Essentially, this is a human version of the broken window fallacy.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Torinir (870836)
          Sorry, but I have to disagree here.

          Americans already pay for the consequences of their actions.

          Medical bills, insurance premiums, prescriptions, etc. all add to the cost of a person's mistakes. I could see adding a tax if the government were the one forking over the majority of health care costs, but they are not. And bans/restrictions are not the way to go either when dealing with public health. It didn't work during Prohibition, so what makes them think it'll work now?

          Maybe the government should con
          • Re:taxes (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Stradivarius (7490) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @01:42PM (#29557867)

            You're correct that we are paying the consequences, but it's so indirectly that nobody feels the linkage and thus nobody's motivated to change their behavior.

            If I rack up reckless driving tickets, my insurance premium then skyrockets. I can easily see the cause and effect, and the prospect of not paying so much money is motivation not to drive like an idiot. If however I eat recklessly, my insurance premium doesn't change noticeably as a result.

            The health premiums do go up a lot each year, but that's (mostly) from *everyone else* eating recklessly too. Even if I become a health nut my insurance costs won't change. Now, if everyones' insurance companies gave discounts for safe eating, like car companies do for safe driving, maybe you'd start to see a change.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Just Some Guy (3352)

              Now, if everyones' insurance companies gave discounts for safe eating, like car companies do for safe driving, maybe you'd start to see a change.

              My company started a wellness program earlier this year that does exactly that. Our insurance premiums were going up, and my boss decided to offset them by rewarding healthy behavior. We get something like $20/month for not using tobacco, and they cover the costs of programs to quit smoking. We get another $20 for having an appropriate body mass index or body fat measurement; a consultant measures both values and you only have to meet at least one of those standards. The awesome part is that they also c

        • Re:taxes (Score:5, Insightful)

          by javelinco (652113) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @12:05PM (#29557035) Journal
          And that's where we start seeing the problems of the nanny state. If we are going to take care of the people, with our taxes and income, who have damaged themselves - those who consume too much food, resulting in extensive health care costs, etc. - then we have to manage those costs. Therefore, if we are providing health care for everyone, we need to make sure that people are taking care of themselves. We need mandatory exercise programs and diets - because that is the only known way to make sure people stay at a healthy weight. And we'll need to pay for oversight and enforcement of those programs. And while that'll be cheaper than paying for "obesity care" - the cost, in money and liberty, is going to get higher. Slippery slope arguments are usually ridiculous, but this one isn't so far fetched.
          • Re:taxes (Score:5, Insightful)

            by newhoggy (672061) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @08:43PM (#29561087)

            "We need mandatory exercise programs and diets - because that is the only known way to make sure people stay at a healthy weight. And we'll need to pay for oversight and enforcement of those programs"

            No we don't. You've changed the question from how do we make sure *most* people stay at a healthy weight to how do we make sure *everyone* stays at a healthy weight.

            The law of diminishing returns is a well known economic concept, and your example of mandatory activities is an example of diminished returns.

            It is where initial steps that are taken to address a problem give huge gains, but each additional step taken gives smaller and smaller gains until eventually it is no longer economically viable to go further.

            Your example is not a valid way of 'managing costs' as you put it. We are at the stage where taking small measures produces large gains. And your example is an invalid slippery slope argument because it assumes we need to and will take these measures to the extreme without explaining how each step of the slope is inevitable.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          How do you deal with it while maximizing liberties? Answer: you try to have people responsible for the costs of their actions. And that's where cost taxes come in.

          And where will we find these angels in DC to enact this plan? We've already had a cigarrette tax with the same stated goals. Did that money go to health care? Largely no, they spent it on whatever they pleased. This is how government has worked for centuries. Prey upon people's sense of morality or fairness, and spend that money on something that increases their power and / or their particular morale viewpoint. In any case, the people's morality and opinions are supplanted by the will of the legislato

        • Re:taxes (Score:5, Insightful)

          by exi1ed0ne (647852) * <exile@pess[ ]sts.net ['imi' in gap]> on Sunday September 27, 2009 @12:31PM (#29557265) Homepage

          And that's where cost taxes come in.

          I'd be inclined to agree with you, but unfortunately those taxes very rarely, if ever, go towards covering the costs society bears for that activity. Take smoking taxes. Here in Wisconsin there is a $1 per pack extra tax on the stuff. If your theory held true, that extra money the state collects on behalf of society should go to fund hospitals and prevention programs. Instead it is a bait and switch - tax something unpopular to make an attempt to close a very large budget hole. That is the real reason for all these new exotic taxing schemes, and the politicos know which buttons to hit to bring the useful idiots out in droves to support it.

          • Instead it is a bait and switch - tax something unpopular to make an attempt to close a very large budget hole.

            If only that was what the stupid legislators actually did, that wouldn't be too bad of a thing--instead they pass a "sin" tax on whatever supposedly immoral thing is popular to hate on this week in order to encourage people to stop the offensive behavior. So far so good* right? Except the dumb %&*# then guesstimate the new amounts of tax dollars coming in and instead of actually closing the budget hole they immediately pull out a long list of pork projects to spend that imputed income on. Only then w

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          It's more of a "cost tax" than a "sin tax". The consumption of certain products (most obvious example: tobacco) has costs far beyond that of the production and selling of the item (consumer much more likely to die earlier and require expensive health treatment before he or she dies. Being coldly clinical for a moment: death has costs.

          The problem with your logic is that several studies have shown that cigarette smokers actually cost society less in health care costs than non-smokers. Why? because they tend to die younger. Those who live longer tend to incur significantly more health care costs than those who die "young" (young is a relative term in this context).
          The reason for these taxes is because politicians intend for people to perceive them as applying to "someone else", and hoping that the group that clearly pays them is small en

        • People who die remove critical knowledge and skills from the economy that makes a society function.

          Please explain the critical knowledge and skills the average 74-year-old-going-to-die-tomorrow person uses to keep society functioning. Were you referring to... social security lobbying and walmart greeting? Although aging and retiring are costs to society, dying is not. Heck, when you die society gets a bunch of your stuff, and the funeral industry gets a sort of cash-for-clunkers.

      • Re:taxes (Score:5, Interesting)

        by KeithJM (1024071) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @10:39AM (#29556135) Homepage

        Sin taxes are stupid. They allow rich people to "sin" more.

        We're also talking about taxing the sins of the lower class instead of the upper class. It's fine to eat prime rib and tira misu with some cheese-coated appetizer, but a coke, fries and grilled chicken sandwich from McDonalds is a sin? Unless we're actually going to apply a "calorie density" tax (which would be a horrible idea, by the way), we're really taxing poor people sins and not rich people's sins. It's like if we had much harsher penalties for things like crack than for powdered cocaine, just because poor people tend to go with crack. Oh, wait, never mind.

        • Re:taxes (Score:4, Interesting)

          by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @11:28AM (#29556657) Journal
          What do you think about capping production of milk and legislating minimum pricing for it? If that practice were to stop, I doubt you would see children drinking sugar water purchased at a 10000% markup.
        • Re:taxes (Score:4, Insightful)

          by ceoyoyo (59147) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @11:36AM (#29556741)

          I've never really understood that - here poor people (and I should know, I was a grad student for six years) go to the grocery store, buy food and prepare it themselves because they can't afford the luxury of having someone, even a minimum wage sixteen year old, prepare it for them. I can grill some chicken and make a salad far more cheaply than I could buy anything close to that at McDonalds, and far more quickly than the trip to Mickey D's too.

          • Re:taxes (Score:4, Interesting)

            by apoc.famine (621563) <apoc,famine&gmail,com> on Sunday September 27, 2009 @02:05PM (#29558073) Homepage Journal

            Same here. I'm an oddball, and spent nine years in the "real world", making decent money, before I went back to grad school. I was used to buying nice liquor in moderate quantities, upgrading on a 2 year cycle, and eating out on a whim.
             
            The last two years before I went back to school, I realized that I'd be losing well over 50% of my income by doing so. I got my ass in gear, and started churning out cheap dinners which could turn into "lunch for two days", and collected a bunch of good and cheap ideas for eating in.
             
            So far, I'm +$400 on my first month of grad pay, despite spending in the area of $200 on beer, booze, and bar hopping. My food budget is in the same neighborhood, and I'm eating like a king. I found a bunch of frozen single-serving salmon fillets, on sale for $1 each. Pair those with some fresh vegis and some nice rice, and you've got a fantastic meal. On-sale boneless chicken breasts and thighs, some peppers and onions, and a cheap wrap -> spicy chicken fajitas. Cheap pork, a $2 box of rice pilaf, some fresh vegis, and a crock pot, and I've got 3-4 meals for all of $7-8, done in the time it takes me to drink a few beers while doing homework.
             
            I really think poverty around here is tied to a lack of education. If I didn't know how to cook delicious stuff, on the cheap, I'd go eat fast food all the time. And by doing so, I'd be poorer. I think this ties nicely into smoking as well. I'm educated enough to understand that spending $5 a day on cigs is the same as paying $150 a month, $1825 a year for cancer. I'd rather save that $5 for a few days, and spend it going out with friends. That's a luxury that addicts don't have.
             
            I idly wonder what would happen if you educated poor people on the basics of cooking. I've made some pretty good dinners with nothing but a cast-iron pot and a campfire. Cheap, easy, tasty meals are entirely possible. How much does education play into that?

            • Re:taxes (Score:4, Interesting)

              by ceoyoyo (59147) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @03:19PM (#29558677)

              Yes, perhaps it's a cycle - someone's parents don't teach them how to cook and it just cascades down the generations.

              I knew a guy who figured out that if he invited everyone over for a pot luck dinner on the weekend he'd have more than enough leftovers for lunches and suppers for the whole week. He basically got to eat (and drink, but he and his roommate made their own wine), for about $10-$15 a week. The rest of us didn't do quite as well but we got a good meal and socializing on the weekend plus as much $2 a bottle wine as we wanted (it was pretty good, even - his roommate was a chemical engineer).

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Omestes (471991)

          It's fine to eat prime rib and tira misu with some cheese-coated appetizer, but a coke, fries and grilled chicken sandwich from McDonalds is a sin?

          I'm not rich, but I manage to eat prime, tiramisu and such from time to time. The difference here is the "time to time", a lot of people eat fast food crap as a staple of their diet, instead of an indulgence. I eat fast food around once a month (or less if I can help it), but some people eat it daily. Same with snack foods and soda. I might go months without

      • Re:taxes (Score:5, Insightful)

        by nycguy (892403) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @10:41AM (#29556167)

        Sin taxes are stupid. They allow rich people to "sin" more.

        Pretty profound, except that having more money allows the rich to do many things moreso than others.

        "Sin taxes" should be used only when the consumption of a product has an indirect, substantial cost to society. For poor people in particular, there is a cost to society from their consumption of alcohol, cigarettes and high-calorie, low-quality food. That cost comes about when they expect society to pay for medical treatments to remedy the consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle. That expectation will only grow if plans for universal heathcare come to fruition.

        Of course, the rich take actions that have societal costs, too, such as driving large luxury vehicles and flying private jets, which damage the environment disproportionately relative to the transportation modes of their less-wealthy fellows. Those products and actions are also legitimate targets of sin taxes.

        And as far as the "magic of the market" folks who oppose something like sin taxes, there's only one thing to say: Grow up. The market does not magically give you what you want just because you have the money to buy it. Companies sell you whatever they see to be in their interests to sell you. If a company sees a new product (like a "healthy drink") being detrimental to its existing cash-cow product lines (perhaps because the new product is less profitable due to higher production costs relative to its viable price of sale), they simply won't offer that product or will limit its distribution to "upscale" markets where they don't see it cannibalizing their core profits. Of course, some "scrappy start-up" could try to offer the new product, but such a company may be too small in scale to produce and/or distribute it widely and profitably. And that's when you have a market failure: When the existing companies in a market do not see it in their interest to offer new products, and when new companies cannot viably compete or can do so only marginally, the market has failed. Of course, whether a sin tax will actually remedy that favor is another question entirely.

        N.B. As far as "market failures", they can also result when a new product has a very high R&D cost that an industry in unable or unwilling to bear. For example, the development of alternative fuel automobiles has largely stalled because automakers had no interest in producing them, even though consumers had an interest in buying them. An automaker had two alternatives: It could fund a development cycle in some new area (e.g., fuel cells). That might fail expensively and entirely. If it did produce a viable product, the cars would initially be very expensive and have a limited market due to high production costs, low yield (new assembly lines), etc. If the new cars found an enthusiastic consumer base, the costs could be brought down, production ramped up, until such vehicles could be real alternatives to current automobiles. Or, the manufacturers could just shrug, say its not worth the risk, and keep doing what they're doing. New car companies could try to produce the alternative fuel vehicles, of course, but they'd lack the budget to fund the R&D and the distribution network (dealers) for the products. This example becomes even more complicated when one considers that in order for such a vehicle to be viable, energy companies must actually distribute the fuel for it. They may have no interest in doing so for the same reasons I outline above. When you get such an interplay in established industries where each has enormous self-interests and little, perhaps conflicting incentives to innovate, the market is not going to "sort itself out."

        • Re:taxes (Score:5, Informative)

          by russotto (537200) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @10:47AM (#29556225) Journal

          For poor people in particular, there is a cost to society from their consumption of alcohol, cigarettes and high-calorie, low-quality food. That cost comes about when they expect society to pay for medical treatments to remedy the consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle. That expectation will only grow if plans for universal heathcare come to fruition.

          Or we could, you know, deny those expectations and preserve freedom. Sure, that means an obese two-pack-a-day smoker in need of medical treatment for liver failure and emphysema isn't going to get it, but we can't have personal freedom and socialized responsibility at the same time.

          • Re:taxes (Score:5, Insightful)

            by ceoyoyo (59147) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @11:40AM (#29556777)

            Sure you can. For example, smokers actually contribute a net amount of money to society, even in places with universal health care like Canada. The high taxes they pay more than make up for the increased costs of their medical treatment (at least they did in 1998 when I did the research). You simply have to make sure that the prices of things reflect their real cost.

        • Re:taxes (Score:5, Insightful)

          by chrb (1083577) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @11:17AM (#29556553)

          "Sin tax" is a politically loaded term that implies the consumer is doing something morally wrong and should therefore be punished through taxation. The term itself encourages people line up on one side or the other of an imaginary dividing line in politics and argue from those perspectives. The economics term for taxes that charge back the negative indirect costs of a transaction is externalities [wikipedia.org]. Economically speaking, it is a totally legitimate thing to associate the externality costs with the original transaction - people who argue against such taxes on the basis of economics are usually motivated by a political ideology rather than a sound understanding of economics. Another common claim from the economically illiterate is "taxes don't work to lower consumption, people will just spend more!". Right, so if the tax on a packet of cigarettes were $100, everyone would just pay that, rather than switching to some other vice?

    • Re:taxes (Score:5, Informative)

      by Jurily (900488) <jurily.gmail@com> on Sunday September 27, 2009 @10:09AM (#29555845)

      I would much rather the government got income through 'sin' taxes than through the income tax.

      Except they do both. You know, in the land of freedom, adults over 18, etc.

    • Re:taxes (Score:5, Funny)

      by Afforess (1310263) <afforess@gmail.com> on Sunday September 27, 2009 @10:48AM (#29556239) Journal
      "First they came for the Marlboros, and I did not speak out; because I was not a smoker; Then they came for the Trans-Fats, and I did not speak out; because I liked healthier foods; Then they came for the Coke's & Pepsi's, and I did not speak out; because I was not a fan; Then they came for the Whoppers, and I did not speak out; because I was not a fast-food person; Then they came for my Fresca's; and there was no one left to speak out for me."
    • Re:taxes (Score:4, Interesting)

      by DarkOx (621550) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @11:20AM (#29556571) Journal

      I still think the fairest thing is state sales tax with a very narrow classes of products and services exempt. The Federal government is to be forbidden to impose any taxes except on the states, and may only tax states based on population and or total revenue. The Federal government would be barred from taxing based on any other metrics so as to prevent the abuse of the tax code for social engineering.

      The federally required tax exempt classes should something along the lines, with states premited to add other classes at their own discression:

      Public transportation
      motor fuel for use in passenger vehicles only
      passenger vehicles up to %20 of the median income, any amount over that subject to tax
      foods that is less than 30% water and do not classify primarily under fats and sugars on the food pyramid
      Residential rent equal to the median rent payment, amounts over subject to tax
      Residential property up to two times the media income anything over that subject to tax
      Medial non cosmetic care by a licensed pysician

      If you do that the system is not regressive because the lower income population spends a disproportionate amount of their income on those things. It would be up to the states to set a tax rate, as well as add or subtract additional commercial classes so as to produce enough revenue to pay their obligations to the federal government, and run their own government.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ravenshrike (808508)
      Here's the REALLY interesting question. How much of the 'sin tax' revenue will go towards corn subsidies? This being the primary cause of soda in the US being so bad for you.
  • Great! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xmarkd400x (1120317) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @09:34AM (#29555563)

    Instead of people choosing their foods based on preference, we'll have politicians picking our foods based on how much money is contributed to their campaigns!

    I, for one, welcome our politician overlords.

    Wait...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pla (258480)
      Instead of people choosing their foods based on preference, we'll have politicians picking our foods based on how much money is contributed to their campaigns!

      Clearly, then, we need to ensure Food Neutrality to prevent exactly that problem!
  • makes sense (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Sunday September 27, 2009 @09:35AM (#29555565) Homepage Journal

    the more the government becomes responsible for taking care of us, the more motivated they are to regulate our behavior to keep the costs of said care down.

  • by SEWilco (27983) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @09:36AM (#29555579) Journal

    It declares soda fair game for government intervention (PDF) on the grounds that "market failures" in this area are causing "less-than-optimal production and consumption."

    So the government thinks that soda companies are too important to fail? And they think that government soda five-year plans will certainly cause optimal production and consumption. I don't really want the government to ensure that I am consuming soda optimally.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by slim (1652)

      The economist's big idea is that the "invisible hand" of market forces will lead us to an ideal world. In this case, someone's idea of an ideal world is one where you can drink soda in moderate amounts, but not to the extent that you ruin your health.

      When letting the market decide things doesn't result in the desired effect (who's desire?), instead of saying that this isn't something markets solve, economists call it a "market failure", and suggest ways that the state could intervene to make the market work

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by couchslug (175151)

        "The economist's big idea is that the "invisible hand" of market forces will lead us to an ideal world."

        The invisible hand of Wall Street just recently squeezed our collective invisible nuts quite smartly.

        Regulate The Hand.

  • when we hang the last burocrat with the intestines of the last congressman.

    sorry for the shocking opening statement, but the matter of fact is that as a whole, the western societies are slowly forgeting who actually wields the power and giving carreer politicians and burocrats on the government too much leeway. it's time to take it back and let those people know where the limits are.

    left unchecked, these government institutions won't stop untill we're back in the dark ages, withe high taxation, no represent

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by d3ac0n (715594)

      While I may disagree with you on the whole "anarchy" thing, I think we can find common ground in our healthy dislike of Big Government.

      About the only thing Big Government is good at is enslaving people and destroying wealth and value.

      I prefer Limited (as in limited powers) Representative government that does NOT try and take care of (and thus control) everyone.

      And yes Lefties, we can still have fire departments and police and roads and a military with a Limited Representative government. Those things are c

  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @09:47AM (#29555667) Homepage Journal
    dependence culture in the US. I've lived in both East Asia and Europe for the past 6 years of my life and every time I come back home I am just shocked at the utter disdain towards people who don't drive. In much of Europe(and a lesser extent in Japan), cyclists are treated with respect when they are on the road and there are a lot of facilities set up for cyclists to commute, futhermore in residential areas there are plenty of pedestrian areas. As a result kids(and adults) can work exercise into their daily routine safely and easily. Now compare that with most of the United States, where if there are any pedestrian signals at all, they last for a very short period of time(I was in Phoenix and I swear the walk signal only lasted for 15 seconds when crossing a 6 lane road), there are few special paths for pedestrians, and anyone that doesn't drive a car is treated as if they are worthless as a human being. I've heard tons of stories from cyclists in the US detailing how people in vehicles purposely drive as close as possible to them, cut them off, throw things at them etc.

    As a result most Americans never walk anywhere simply because it isn't safe to do so. We only walk from our front door to the car and from the parking lot to the office. Its no wonder why Americans are the fattest people in the world. We need a radical cultural shift away from this whole notion that people who don't drive are worthless human beings and away from this dependence on cars
    • by pla (258480) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @10:29AM (#29556037) Journal
      I've heard tons of stories from cyclists in the US detailing how people in vehicles purposely drive as close as possible to them, cut them off, throw things at them etc.

      First, I agree with you in spirit... I fully believe that the US having such poor pedestrian and cycling accommodations largely ties in with the current obesity epidemic (though I would point out that the latter doesn't exist solely as a US phenomenon).

      That said, you have to understand that American cyclists, for the most part, ride like complete assholes. Despite a legal obligation to obey the exact same rules of the road as cars, they completely ignore 99% of those rules. They don't feel a need to obey speed limits (in either direction - They'll blow through a 15mph zone as fast as their bike can go, and they'll crawl along in a 45mph zone as though on a leisurely ride in the park). They routinely ignore traffic signals, running red lights and stop signs whenever convenient. They make no strong distinction between "road", "median", and "sidewalk", using whichever will get them to their destination quickest (ie, they'll pass a half mile line of cars in the right shoulder, only to proceed to run the light at the intersection all those cars have waited for). I've actually had my mirror clipped by a cyclist trying to squeeze up to a light between two lanes of traffic (and the bastard had the nerve to try to accuse me of queuing up at the light too close to the other lane!).

      Now, as with any generalization, this doesn't hold true of all cyclists. But I've seen a hell of a lot more of them behaving as I describe above, than I have obeying traffic laws. When you wonder why Americans generally hold cyclists in low regard, you now have your answer.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by GeckoAddict (1154537)
        I really wish I had mod points, cause this post is exactly correct. This is why I don't respect most cyclists. If there's one that's not riding like a complete a-hole, he gets the respect and space he deserves on the road.

        And to the GP's point of the 15 second walk signal: the walk signal tells you it's OK to start crossing. Usually these will turn to the flashing don't walk, but they'll stay that way as long as it takes an average person to walk through the intersection. The lights don't actually ch
      • by chrb (1083577) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @11:50AM (#29556885)

        they'll crawl along in a 45mph zone as though on a leisurely ride in the park

        How on earth do you expect the average cyclist to travel at 45mph?! Even Lance Armstrong at his best is only averages 30mph. Have you ever considered that the fact you are being effortlessly propelled forward at 45mph by a motorised vehicle just might, possibly, impact your perception of speed in slower vehicles? It is perfectly legal for a cyclist to travel at 5mph, just as it's perfectly legal for a tractor to travel at 5mph. Not all vehicles you meet on the highways will be travelling at high speed, and if you can't cope with that situation calmly and safely, then you shouldn't be driving.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by darkmeridian (119044)

          Having vehicles on the road traveling much slower than the flow of traffic is a hazard. That's why it's actually illegal in some states to drive slower than 40 mph on the highway absent some emergency. If a bike can only travel 10 mph, they should not be going on a roadway where the flow of traffic is going at more than 40 mph. It's just dangerous.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mobby_6kl (668092)

        Cyclists are assholes everywhere. Why yes, Mr Fixed-gear bike riding douchebag, please go ahead and squeeze up to the light we're all waiting for, and then take off while the light is still red. This way, you'll be in the middle of the intersection when cars take off, making them unable to pass you. The only other thing about bikes that pisses me off about as much are the assholes slowly crawling up steep hills on narrow curvy country roads with lots of blind turns. Thanks for signaling for me to pass you,

      • There's no denying that many people on bikes break lots of rules (I keep "random schmuck on a bike" and "cyclist" distinct -- the former is the superset of the latter -- people who also ride bikes for recreation). As a cyclist who obeys most of them, it annoys me to no end, because they piss off drivers, making life harder for everyone.

        That said, it doesn't make sense to hold cyclists to a higher standard than motorists. How many people come to a complete stop at a stop sign if there's no cross traffic? Do

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by eulernet (1132389)

      Its no wonder why Americans are the fattest people in the world.

      That, and the fact that americans consume too much sugar, and especially high-fructose corn syrup:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-fructose_corn_syrup [wikipedia.org]

      In Europe, producing high-fructose corn syrup is more expensive than the other sugars.

  • We subsidize soda (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jonsmirl (114798) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @09:52AM (#29555707) Homepage

    Random Google search says US spent $4,920,813,719 subsidizing corn production in 2006. Corn gets turned into HFC (High Fructose Corn) Syrup. HFC is what makes most sodas and candies sweet. Fresh berries are $6.00 a pint in my grocery store. Make me president and I'll switch that $5B from corn to subsidizing the production of fresh produce.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by zippthorne (748122)

      You're thinking inside the box. Moving subsidy from here to there. Spend the money on this instead of that.

      The truly radical thing would be to just stop spending the money.

  • by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @10:02AM (#29555783)

    "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." - C.S. Lewis

  • Thoughts (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cluge (114877) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @10:05AM (#29555809) Homepage
    As the government pumps more money into the economy - it looks for more items/services to tax to try to make up for the insane amount of deficit spending. This cycle is a bit part of the reason the great depression lasted so long (ie until WWII). This tax is partly driven by "health" concerns and partly driven by a need for funds to cover the massive amount of deficit spending. A happy coincidence - win win for everyone (Notice the position of tongue and cheek)

    Here is the irony of this sort of taxation behavior. If you are successful and get people to stop buying soda - your tax revenue goes away. This creates another problem because the revenue starts being counted on (see cigarette and alcohol taxes for example) and the vicious cycle continues with the government looking for other things to tax (all in the name of your well being mind you) to make up for the loss of the revenue which should have been expected. When the taxation goes too far you start to create an underground economy in the taxed product and enforcement of taxation starts to take up a signifigant amount of the revenue. A quote from the DOJ budget

    "The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) requests $1,120,772,000 for FY 2010, including $1,114,772,000 in Direct Salaries and Expenses and 5,025 full time equivalents (FTE) and $6,000,000 for construction of explosives ranges at the ATF National Center for Explosives Training and Research (NCETR). Specifically, ATF requests $1,077,783,000 and 4,979 FTE for current services, $17,989,000 and 46 FTE for Southwest Border enforcement efforts, and $19,000,000 for operations and infrastructure costs associated with the NCETR."

    Can you imagine what the Bureau of healthy food enforcement budget will look like in 20 years? Considering all the hyperbole that we have to suffer through regarding foods (first it's good for you, then it's bad, then it steals your wife, then it's a miracle diet food, etc, etc, etc) who has any faith that the regulations dreamed up with the contradictory drivers of increasing tax revenue and eating healthy compounded by several special interest groups will produce anything but a mess?

    These are hard times and the government needs to SHRINK just like every other sector of the economy. Why should the government not feel the same pain and be forced to make hard decisions that every other entity is? It shouldn't. Here is a simple rule - does the law proposed increase or decrease liberty? If it decreases liberty it probably is a bad law and should not be passed.

    -cluge

  • by argStyopa (232550) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @06:12PM (#29560055) Journal

    F*ck you all who voted for this nanny state. You get what you deserve.

    I'm looking at you Democrats, who have never seen a government program you didn't want to throw MORE money at, or a single issue that you didn't think some bureaucrat in Washington couldn't resolve better than the people directly involved.

    I'm ALSO looking at you Republicans, who have invented your own version of the nanny state and labeled it "The War On Terror" where (for our own good, of COURSE) you've turned on its head the Founding Fathers' basic concept that power flows FROM the people and that the government SHOULD be afraid of its populace.

  • by CAIMLAS (41445) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @09:06PM (#29561225) Homepage

    ('there are concerns that diet beverages may increase calorie consumption by justifying consumption of other caloric foods')

    That's not how it works. "Diet" sodas usually contain aspartame, which, aside from being an artificial sweetener, is also a neurotoxin/suppressant and an appetite enhancer. In other words, people don't increase their calorie consumption in justification of drinking diet soda; they eat more because they are, indeed, hungrier due to drinking it. It's no coincidence that overweight people can usually be seen with a diet soda in their hands; it's a cyclical loop.

    I'm against regulation in general, but there's no reason that aspartame should be allowed to be put in foods. There are quite a few people - primarily, children - who have a very negative response to the stuff: everything from severe asthmatic response to waaaay over the top hyperactivity.

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