Thoughts on: Mayor Bloomberg and the goings on up in New York town…

How often have we have heard a politician described as a guy you’d like to have a beer with. This means that the politician in question is a working-mans’ kind of guy – you know, humble, down-to-earth, honest, and concerned with the welfare of the humble, down-to-earth, honest , voters. It ignores the fact that there are just as many obnoxious, lying, cheating, wife beating, dog-kicking, dirt-bags out there drinking beer as there are wine drinkers, martini drinkers, or Mountain Dew drinkers (maybe not Mountain Dew drinkers – they are in a category by themselves).

In spite of being an extremely sexist remark (I have never heard a female politician referred to as a gal you’d like to have a beer with), almost every politician on the market today wants you to believe that he is the kind of guy you’d like to drink Miller Lite with.

Me, I am not anxious to drink anything with any politician – even the ones I have voted for, and especially not those who are currently serving in office. And that goes for you too Obama. I saw those shots of you and Biden guzzling suds in the Rose Garden back before the election, so there you go, right on message – they’re guys you want to have a beer with.

Well, there is one politician I wouldn’t mind having a 10 ounce decaffeinated iced tea with, and that’s Mayor Bloomberg of New York. This is because I believe that he is probably one of the very few billionaires who really cares about us (not just New Yorkers who he represents, but humankind). With an estimated wealth of 22 billion dollars, Mayor Bloomberg could be cooling his heels in the Hamptons, Palm Springs, or the Swiss Alps, but he’s not. He is right there in New York City, concerned about the citizenry’s exposure to second hand smoke, trans-fat in their French fries, and oversized Big Gulps.

By now, news of the Mayor’s failed attempt to limit beverage sizes within the environs of New York City has undoubtedly reached, and raised the hackles of every nanny-state fearing American in even the furthest flung burg’ in the U.S. From some of the blog posts and other news sources I have read, you’d think the good mayor had broken out a dog-eared copy of the Communist Manifesto at a City Council meeting and tried to collectivize the city restaurant industry. “Freedom rings in New York City,” cried one online source. Right I say, don’t mess with my God given right to knock back a three gallon pail of diet Pepsi if I want.

So if you weren’t following along, the ban was scheduled to go into effect on March 4th. The day before, it was struck down by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling, who went on to take Mayor Bloomberg to the woodshed for having the audacity to suggest such a ban. From what I hear, the mayoral beat-down was warranted, as it unfairly targeted some businesses while allowing others to slide. From everything I have read, it seems like a good thing that the ban was overturned. I mean, what business is it of Mayor Bloomberg’s if I pop out of my size 46 jeans. They sell some great looking roomy sweats at Target, Let Freedom Ring.

Not to be deterred, the Mayor is back in the news today with a proposed display ban on cigarettes and other tobacco products. Under this proposed ban, NYC business owners would not be able to display tobacco products in their store. Prominent advertising and display of countless brands of cigarettes on the wall behind cash registers is, of course, a staple of every convenience store in the U.S. (and in most other countries). Under the Mayor’s proposed ban, in New York City, such products would have to be hidden under a counter, or behind a curtain, or somewhere else out of sight of the purchasing public. The intent is to prevent impulse buying.

This ban reminds me of the way in which hard liquor was sold in the mid-western state where I grew up. In that state, way, way, way back when, liquor was sold in ‘State Stores’ (now there’s a commie term if I ever heard one). There were no aisles of liquor in the State Store. Instead, there was a large board on the wall of a sparse ante room that listed every type of liquor in the store, along with its price. Patrons wrote their order on a pad and handed it to a State Worker’ behind a window, who disappeared into a back room where the order was filled. The order was returned to the customer in a plain paper bag. Whether or not exposure to display cases of hard liquor prevented so called impulse buying, it is hard to say. Perhaps one is more likely to pick up another half gallon of Captain Morgan if one is wheeling a shopping cart down a supermarket sized aisle at ‘Liquor City’, than you would in the fairly antiseptic State Store, but there is unlikely to be much impact on over-consumption, or abuse.

The same goes for the proposed ban on tobacco displays. I suspect most tobacco purchases are addiction driven rather than impulse driven, but who knows. Smokers are in more disfavor these days than are soda drinkers. So the tobacco display ban falls into the dust bin of somewhere between ‘who really cares’, and ‘what harm can it do’, and I sort of agree. No one is saying how many packs of cigarettes you can buy…you just have to remember to buy them.

In the mean time, I applaud Mayor Bloomberg’s attempt to make us all a little healthier. It makes me feel better about billionaires in general, just knowing that they aren’t all arrogant, bombastic, self-promoters whose idea of  fun is to host a reality show in which they get to fire people. As my grandmother might have said, were she here today, “that Mayor Bloomberg, bless his heart, he means well.”