William Saletan has written a very odd article for Slate, responding to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to make soda ineligable for purchase with food stamps. I think he intends to argue against the plan, but all his piece does is list the arguments in favour of it.
He points out the severity of America’s problem with obesity, as well as the argument that it is more justifiable to restrict how consumers can use food stamps than it is to restrict what they can do with their own money. He cites Robert Doar’s argument that “[g]overnment should not be in the business of subsidizing poor health habits that end up costing taxpayers through higher Medicaid and Medicare costs” and makes reference to how soda is “nutritionally empty.”
Saletan seems to be personally offended by these arguments – especially the notion that soda is a ‘product’ rather than a ‘food’ and that it is in any way like alcohol or tobacco – but he never really articulates why, beyond vague suggestions of libertarian displeasure. He argues that excluding soda from the set of foods that can be purchased with food stamps would “help… to push soda out of the food category and into a category with alcohol and tobacco, where it can be taxed and restricted more easily.”
What’s the problem with that?