It’s okay. The Soda Ban will not go forward.
Stop relabeling the menus. Stop taking in the seams of your pants. Stop planning your movie theater Sprite-bootlegging operation. Stop planning whatever it was you were going to do after you turned 80 in good health. Stop, in a word, panicking about your loss of liberty.
The Bloomberg soda ban will not be completed on schedule. You and your 16-plus oz. soda will not be severed so easily. You have earned a reprieve. Go swimming with dolphins. Go sky diving. Do something else dangerous that you do to feel alive. Drink a big soda.
The news came in Tuesday when Judge Tingling (Judge No Sensation Whatsoever was out that day) ruled that the ban was arbitrary and inconsistent. He noted in his ruling that “The portion cap rule, if upheld, would create an administrative Leviathan and violate the separation of powers doctrine.” In a strange irony, the effort to shrink one thing would allow another one to mushroom. We love big soda almost as much as we fear and shun Administrative Leviathans.
In fact, this has been a good week overall for Big Soda. In Mississippi, perhaps in an effort to shore up its position as the state with the highest obesity rate, lawmakers passed a bill banning any Bloomberg-esque limitations on portion size. Don’t lay a finger on our Slurpees! You will have to wrest our Big Gulps from our cold, dead, hammy hands.
That’s right! This is America, where we have the inalienable rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. And in America, happiness is synonymous with size. Bigger is, after all, better. This is America, where we make things big: Big Obesity! Big Debt! Big Student Debt! Big – well, you get the gist. We are going to cling to our guts. Limit portion size? We won’t take our liberty in smaller portions, we won’t take our happiness in smaller portions — we might have to deal with a smaller portion of life than people in, say, Switzerland, but we would never pull a dirty trick like putting holes in our cheese. What would we have done with those years, anyway, if we were prevented from holding that giant blue-raspberry Icee in our hands and murmuring, “I’m going to drink this entire thing, and I’m going to kind of enjoy it.”
There are few things we hold dearer than the right to bottomless portions of mediocre food. This is why the Olive Garden exists. Don’t make it good. Make it big.
So now we can relax. So much for the creeping dread of having to get up for refills if we wanted to consume our accustomed 32 oz. of soda in the Big Apple. Now we can get our usual number of liters with no hindrance whatsoever.
The only thing that’s getting smaller is the percentage of Americans who are at what is considered their optimal weight.
One-third of Americans are overweight or obese.
In the war on obesity, obesity seems to be prevailing. In fact, it might be less accurate to call it a “war on obesity” than a “hideous and embarrassing rout of Americans by obesity, since we keep pausing the fight to fill our fists with bacon.” A study last year suggested that we’d managed to bring down childhood obesity by a small fraction of a percent in certain groups, and we actually got excited about that.
“I am large,” Walt Whitman said. “I contain multitudes.” So are we! There’s a reason he’s our national bard. Walt Whitman never said anything about stopping at 16 oz. The only thing we want to keep trim is government restrictions on what we can eat. Consider Mississippi. How did this conversation go? “We cannot possibly think of restricting portion size,” someone says. “We might lose our Most Obese State title to Kentucky. They’ve already crept past us in the child obesity rankings!” “No one is going to tell us how much to eat,” someone else chimes in. “Except fast-food commercials.”
It reminds me of the Second Amendment fight. “Next, government agents will be coming into our homes and confiscating our turduckens,” people murmur. “First they came for the Big Sodas, and I said nothing, because I liked to sneak my own drinks into the theater anyway. Then they came for the Big Popcorns, and I said nothing, because I preferred Sour Patch Kids. Then–” Well, you get the idea. We’re inches away from an ill-advised comparison to Hitler.
“But it wasn’t even a restriction!” someone says, feebly. “Yes, Bloomberg’s ban placed an undue burden on certain types of businesses, but it didn’t actually limit the amount of soda you could consume, it just forced you to actually get up and seek a refill if you wanted more than 16 ounces.” “Shhhh,” everyone said. Bloomberg is appealing it — and he might find support. Sixty percent of New Yorkers oppose the soda ban, but Americans tend to like the idea of some government involvement in public health. Just as long as it’s not too big.
Life, liberty, portion size. Pick two.