The Poky Little Pundit

Take candy from babies, dammit.

4 Comments

I can pinpoint the exact moment in my life when I actually cared about what was going on in local politics. (In national politics, that moment was Dubya, of course.) It was in the winter of 2010. Just a few days previously, I had filled in my bubbles, quite pleased with myself for performing my civic duties by voting on stuff. And then I heard on the radio that WA state had voted to repeal a tax on candy. I actually screamed at the DJ in my car, who thought it was just great that people could get cheaper candy while government-run programs suffered. The issue is long past now – thanks to voters, a Snickers bar is a whole 2 cents cheaper and my last class of seniors numbered 38.

Anyway, after a few days away this weekend with my son’s friends and their parents (yep, he’s three, and he has actual friends), I came home to my favorite little non-food-item treat wrapped in blue – the New York Times on Sunday. Inside was an op-ed by former Kraft Foods executive Michael Mudd called “How to Force Ethics on the Food Industry.” His first point of advice? Levy taxes on sugared beverages and other snack foods and candy. I screamed YES at the newspaper, but then I got to thinking: How do we change the thinking of people who will most likely not even pick up this newspaper?

TRK-CHD SUB PDP FULL

I ate this excuse for food more times than I care to admit as a child. Remember the bendy cheese, the salt you could lick off the cracker and the gumlike texture of the meat? Mmm.

I see the complexity, obviously – no one wants Uncle Sam peering over their meal, checking its contents. And everyone has eaten with that friend – the one who waits to see what you order (grilled cheese) and then chooses the quinoa-stuffed peppers with a small salad. Everyone wants autonomy over their choices – but what is the alternative? If our medical insurance rates are terrible because  people decide to literally eat and drink themselves into a hospital, shouldn’t we be able to limit the poison they dump into their bodies? When will we finally acknowledge that we are all on the same planet, and start acting accordingly? I keep thinking about the look on WA state Senator Karen Keiser’s face when we were speaking in Olympia – the unspeakable frustration of working with people day after day who disagree with you on such a fundamental level that it is impossible to even begin a conversation.

So many of us – myself included – feel truly despondent. Like there is no point in even trying to get in the game. We know the outcome. So how do we bridge the gap? How do we find a way to talk to each other? We are out there, reaching into the abyss of the Internet, looking for a way to connect, but ultimately finding ways to polarize.

This feeling of helplessness also makes me miss teaching. You see, teenagers haven’t quite decided about issues. They still really listen and, most importantly, they fight back. We are all so busy being polite that we have stopped talking. Can you remember the last time you discussed politics over dinner with friends? With co-workers? With your spouse? Sometimes, I feel like I have to check the political affiliations of those around me before speaking, lest I offend. It is the same with religion (which I think should just be called Philosophy).  I still can’t figure out why we don’t really talk about this – the one thing that means anything. Our purpose. Why we are here.

Politics is ultimately about how we want our world to work. It is inextricably tied to the fates of our children. Surely, we should all be very interested in this. Perhaps this is why I blog as well. I don’t like being impolite. I don’t like making people feel uncomfortable to their faces. But I guess I don’t mind doing it on a screen. I think taxing candy, soda and any other food that is processed all to shit to make schools or other worthwhile programs better is the greatest idea ever. Why don’t other people?

And where do we go from here?

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4 thoughts on “Take candy from babies, dammit.

  1. So totally agree – brilliant!!!

  2. So true! I loved how he compared the junk food industry to the NRA — blaming everything but themselves for the problem. I also love that you hang out with “George’s friends’ parents.”

  3. I totally agree with your contention that people should eat better, but what if people don’t want to? Don’t they have a right to eat what they want? Do we force-feed them the good stuff with feeding tubes or IVs? Where do we draw the line? Do we force everyone to run a 5K after they have worked every day? Who decides what is good for us and what is not, and which expert’s advice should they follow to make that decision? What gives government the right to decide what we eat?

    Where I disagree with that article is when they try to tax me into compliance or when they ban what I like to eat or try to force me to eat something I dislike.

    First of all, I never asked anyone to pay for my healthcare and have done an admirable job of paying my own medical bills for years. Just like most responsible adults who worked for a living, I made sure I had insurance and went to work at jobs that would provide me with insurance.

    What gives those who feel they must pay for my healthcare the right to tell me how to eat or how to exercise, and so forth? Do they have a right to do that to me because they are now paying for something I never asked them to pay for to begin with? I don’t want them to pay for it or tell me how I must eat. I’m a stubborn old lady.

    When the conservatives were contending that government would try to even control what we would eat, should Obamacare become law, I thought they were pushing it a bit. Now, you are not the only one saying this. I just heard it on the radio in my car from some pundit on a call-in talk show.

    Don’t worry. The federal government will eventually tax all the sweet stuff. They will tax alcohol, gasoline, anything with a fat content that tastes delicious, and anything you every want to do that is fun to pay for Obamacare. Just ask Denmark. We will pay for it, and our children and grandchildren will pay for it, and it will never ever be enough. Of that I am sure. They will still give us the cheapest care possible – – not the best care, not the most technical care, and surely not the more expensive lifesaving treatments used today. They will underpay our doctors until no one wants to get an advanced degree and they will not be able to afford private practices.

    Here’s another thought. You know how often the nutritional gurus keep changing their minds? Just when we think something is good for us, it turns out to be harmful or vice versa? They can’t even make up their minds about what is good. First they said coffee was poison, but the next thing you knew drinking coffee was purported to help control diabetes, prevent prostate cancer, and I could go on and on with the new benefits of coffee. I’m sure you see where I’m going with this. Here’s the thing. What if the foods that the government demands we eat to be healthy actually turn out to be really bad for us? Can we then sue the government for making us less healthy? If government forces us to do something and later we find that was not good for us, isn’t government liable under the law?

    If I may play Devil’s Advocate, suppose all that sugar consumption actually helps kids to grow stronger and helps their brains to work better? Last year, a Rhode Island hospital researcher found that when she used a drug to turn off the test subjects’ insulin- producing brain cells (the ones that help the brain to use sugars for fuel), she thought she would see the characteristics for the disease she was researching. Instead, her test patients actually developed Alzheimer’s Disease. Our brains really need sugar that much in order to work properly. I think they will be finding out a lot more about sugar in the future. Maybe we crave sugary treats, because nature is driving us to eat more of them to give us needed nutrition?

    How much is too much? How much is too little? Who should decide that for us? I only know that it may be different for every person. Ask any diabetic whose diet is not regulated properly what happens to his or her thinking processes. Then, ask another diabetic. I bet you will hear a different answer.

    So, lets just say that some new research comes out claiming that by keeping sugary treats from kids, we are really causing something like Autism to occur more frequently?

    I’m not saying this causes Autism, but what if new research should show that? Would you then feel differently about taxing sugary treats? What if limiting sugars really hurts? Just some more food for thought here. We drank sugary sodas as kids, and we ate cookies non-stop. We drank no milk unless it was chocolate. Yet, I was so skinny kids teased me! I ran, played, skated, rode my bike all day. I needed those treats. Why are some people so healthy as adults and others are not? We all pretty much ate that way in the 1950s and 1960s, but yet there is a range of health both good and bad in our country. What if it all has more to do with exercise instead? Can we force people to do sit ups, squat thrusts, and run?

    When Mrs. Obama first started limiting the calories in our school lunches, forcing kids to eat less or replace the calories with salads, it sounded like a good idea. However, my friends were telling me that their kids were starving in afternoon classes or passing out at after school practices, or feeling too weak to perform sports well. They had to start hauling snacks in their school bags. I’m sure those snack bags were all healthy. Yeah. You can’t feed an active kid the same amount of calories as couch potato kids and expect that they will be able to perform well. We are all different. Who decides how much we get to eat and what will they base that on? It all scares me. I think I should decide what I feed my kids and how much. IMHO, our leaders are already in our lives too much.

    Where is our personal freedom going? If we are not careful, we will wake up some day and not be in control about anything in our lives that matters.

    As to how we can discuss the problems we need to settle, when our ideology is so far apart, I feel the answer is simple. It’s all about civility and respect. We can debate the merits, pros, and cons of legislation and ideals, without name-calling, without labeling one another, without belittling each others’ opinions, and by trying to be as nice as citizens of this country should be to each other as we do so.

    Even making statements such as, “I’ll never understand how any thinking person can see it this way,” is a problem and so is acting shocked at the opinions of others. It begets more of the same, or even worse, after people feel that their opinions are not being respected. They then want to lash back. People feel entitled, and no one wants to have any one else infer that they are stupid, illogical, or irrational.

    So, if you want civil discourse, the adults involved in said discussions must be civil and respectful. They must truly try to see the other’s point, really listen to one another and then be careful about how they challenge the thoughts put forth. Everyone’s thoughts are valuable if you want to get to good solutions.

    It’s really hard to do though, especially when a large part of our population has now been raised to believe they are so entitled that they don’t have to be nice to anyone or respect anyone else’s opinion. Even worse, most lack even the most rudimentary manners. If it is your desire to get people to talk openly here, grow a thick skin, listen, and be kind no matter what they say. Then, they will be more likely to open up. Maybe your site will need a code of conduct to keep things above board. Some other discussion sites use that and have moderators check the posts. Whatever you decide to do, good luck. I hope you succeed.

  4. Thanks for your comments! It is lovely to hear your point of view, so we can engage in open dialogue. I agree that it is hard sometimes to know what is and is not ‘good’ for the human body, but I think we can all agree that the empty calories and high sugars of soda are not good for anyone. Surely, no one is advocating that we don’t allow people to drink soda – rather, if we need a source of revenue to pay for schools and other necessary institutions, why not that? (I hope we can also agree that we want our government to keep funding schools…) Would you prefer more taxation on gas? I say we concentrate on taxing luxury items – and I would put soda in that category. I would rather high sugar foods than gas, because at least I can avoid buying high sugar foods if needed – I can’t always avoid buying gas (though I do try to bike places when I can). In the UK, that’s a different scenario, because public transportation is actually a viable option to get where you need to go. In Seattle, for me to get to work via public transportation, it would take upwards of two hours, versus 20 minutes by car (or an hour by bike, which I do sometimes). That’s a whole separate conversation, of course – I would be happy to pay more taxes if that meant building a decent public transportation infrastructure, but I am guessing you would not?
    Regarding starting a conversation here, so far, no one has gone ‘below board’ and everyone has been respectful – long may that continue. 🙂

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