Tag Archives: bloomberg

CEI Podcast for May 5, 2011: Salt

Have a listen here.

A new study says that high-salt diets may not be as harmful as once thought. Research Associate Daniel Compton takes a look. He also points out that, even if salt is a health hazard, regulating salt intake probably won’t work as planned.

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Regulation of the Day 125: Salt

Having eliminated all crime from New York’s streets, ended homelessness, rebuilt Ground Zero, and fixed the state’s ailing public schools, New York’s state legislature has set its sights on how much salt you eat.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg already has a plan to reduce NYC residents’ salt intake by 25 percent over five years. But State Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D-Brooklyn) thinks that doesn’t go nearly far enough. It only covers New York City, for starters. The rest of the state’s salt intake would remain perilously unregulated under the Bloomberg plan.

That’s why Mr. Ortiz has introduced statewide legislation that would “make it illegal for restaurants to use salt in the preparation of food. Period.

A $1,000 fine would accompany each violation.

Tom Colicchio, who owns a restaurant and has appeared on the television show Top Chef, is livid. He told the New York Daily News that “New York City is considered the restaurant capital of the world. If they banned salt, nobody would come here anymore… Anybody who wants to taste food with no salt, go to a hospital and taste that.”

He’s right; the salt ban does offend culinary decency. But there’s another angle that’s at least as important: personal responsibility.
If I want to pile on the salt, as Mayor Bloomberg famously does, that’s my right. But I also need to be liable for the consequences. If chronic salt over-consumption gives me high blood pressure and heart trouble, that’s my fault. I should pay the cost.

But that’s not how the current health care system works. We suffer from the 12-cent problem: on average, people only pay 12 cents for every dollar of health care they consume. Roughly 50 cents are picked up by the government, and insurers cover the rest.
That means people have less incentive to watch what they eat than under a more honest system. Why not rack up huge health care bills? Everyone else is paying for me. Health care on sale! 88 percent off!

Freedom cannot exist without responsibility. Decades of government encroachments in health care have taken away a lot of our responsibility for health care decisions. So it makes some sense that Mr. Ortiz would finish the job by taking away peoples’ freedom to eat what they want.

A better solution would be to have both freedom and responsibility, instead of neither. Ban the salt ban. Give people more control over their health care dollars. Let us be free. Let us be responsible. We’re all adults here. Treat us as such, Mr. Ortiz.

Regulation of the Day 119: Bake Sales

New York City’s public schools spent $18,365 per student in the 2007-2008 school year. That spending has been growing at more than double the rate of inflation over the last decade. That’s a lot of money. But since it isn’t spent very wisely, nowhere near that amount actually reaches the classroom.

Instead of firing teachers for incompetence (and sometimes worse), the district re-assigns bad teachers to “rubber rooms,” where they do nothing except receive their full salary. Maybe play Scrabble or surf the Internet. But mainly sit around and get paid.

Average teacher pay in New York City is approaching $70,000. There are about 700 teachers in rubber rooms. Assuming the rubber room teachers draw roughly average salaries, we’re talking about as much as $50 million that never makes it to the classroom from rubber rooms alone. That’s nearly $50 per student right there.

To make up for some of the money that gets lost in rubber rooms and central offices, schools often have fundraising events like bake sales.

Well, not anymore. At least not bake sales. Those are basically banned in New York City. Mayor Bloomberg and the city’s Department of Education worry that bake sales contribute to child obesity.

Bake sales are technically still legal. But only approved foods can be sold. And only at approved times. And never before the end of lunch hour. And you have to keep detailed records. And so on.

Complying with all the rules is just too difficult for a school basketball team raising money for a new scoreboard, or to cover the cost of traveling to a tournament.

Anything goes after 6:00 pm, food-wise. But hardly anybody stays in school that late. PTAs are given a longer leash. But even they cannot hold more than one bake sale per month.

(Hat tip: Fran Smith)

Regulation of the Day 99: Salty New Yorkers

New York City is seeking to regulate how much salt is in peoples’ food.

Enforcement will prove difficult; most food that New Yorkers eat comes from outside the city’s jurisdiction. But the goal is to cut average salt intake by 25 percent.

Mayor Bloomberg can probably put a sizable dent in the city’s per capita salt intake all by himself. According to The New York Times, “He dumps salt on almost everything, even saltine crackers. He devours burnt bacon and peanut butter sandwiches. He has a weakness for hot dogs, cheeseburgers, and fried chicken, washing them down with a glass of merlot.”

The mayor also “likes his popcorn so salty that it burns others’ lips.”

There is a lesson to be learned here. People like salt. That’s why they eat so much of it. Suppose some of that salt is cut out of pre-packaged or processed foods. Anyone who wants to can just dump some on from a salt shaker to make up for it. This regulation is completely unenforceable.

There is also something to be said for practicing what one preaches.