This week in San Francisco a new executive order from Mayor Gavin Newsom takes effect, banning soft drinks from all vending machines on city property and replacing them with juice and soy milk. I think we are all familiar with this sort of micro-regulation of individual behavior in the name of uber-nannyism, so there is nothing about this story that is particularly novel.
What is new, however, is a powerful emerging incentive for politicians to engage in much more of this kind of regulation in the future. As one aid to Mayor Newsom put it: “There’s a direct link between what people eat and drink and the obesity and health care crises in this country. It’s entirely appropriate and not at all intrusive for city government to take steps to discourage the sale of sugary sodas on city property.”
What suddenly makes government control of our diets “appropriate” and “not intrusive”? The answer is ObamaCare, and the growing share of health care expenditures that will become part of the federal budget. If the government pays for your health care, every decision you make that affects your health also affects the federal budget. As health care deficits start to balloon, it is far more likely that Congress will blame your lifestyle choices rather than their legislative choices for over-spending.