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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Mayor Bloomberg: Big Gulps OK For Women

Epidemics provide fodder for the news media, especially on slow news days. They give politicians a good cause to promote and villains to blame.  We move from one fad epidemic to the next, abandoning old ones to the dustbin of history.  Fear of epidemics that never were can be costly, such as the mad cow epidemic, whose incidence proved no more than the normal background disease level. There are still enough tuna to grace our tables, and the polar bear population seems to be doing just fine.

Obesity is the new fad epidemic. It gives the First Lady a cause to divert attention from the economy, and the Mayor of New York can gain accolades by banning Big Gulps and other offending beverages. Super-thin anchor women can condescendingly narrate stock footage of the same obese woman walking her toy terrier, her beltline jiggling. What is America coming to? American women have let themselves go.

The January 2012 release of the  Prevalence of Obesity in the United States by the Center for Disease Control confirmed suspicions of an obesity epidemic. A closer reading of the report, however, provides a more nuanced picture. The CDC statistics show that from 1999-2000 to the present, obesity rates among women and girls have not increased.  The obesity rates of men have risen. In 1999 men were less obese than women. Now men have caught up. In 1999 boys and girls had the same obesity rates. Now boys are higher.

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  1. Mayor Bloomberg: Banning Big Gulps
    Pure Economic Logic: quantitative restriction may increase the total number of items (ounces of liquid) purchased. Should we be worried about the unintended consequences? Among other things, one should think about the possible increased in the number of (smaller) plastic cups and their environmental impact.

    Senator Harry Reid: "Women deserve equal pay for equal work."
    Pure Economic Logic:
    a) All else equal -> Absolutely. This is a question of fairness, and it may even be a welfare enhancing initiative (if employers are inefficient or are avoiding economics in their decision making process).
    b) If all else is not equal: Higher wages leads to higher unemployment (among women). So, would this serve women while both uncertainty about the future & unemployment rate are unusually high?

  2. President Carter's Era: Facing voluntarily restriction on the export of cars to the US, Japanese manufacturers packed every car with more standard (which used to be option) features that they use to; thus, Japanese cars became synonymous with quality, etc.
    So, one wonders if the Mayor's idea may lead to a higher sugar content in each drink.

  3. Correction: The suggestion for the voluntarily restrain on exporting Japanese autos to the US was that of Vice President George H. W. Bush during President Ronald Reagan's first term. Source: An American Life, Ronald Reagan, 1991.