Ready for a shocker?
American taxpayers subsidize the purchase of approximately $4 billion worth of soda products annually through SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps.
Federal, state, and local governments have all tried to prohibit the purchase of sodas and other "junk food" items with food stamps, but they have met resistance -- strong resistance -- directly from the true king of pop: the Coca-Cola Company.
In January of last year, Coke lobbied in Florida to make sure that public assistance recipients could continue purchasing soda with food stamps. The bill that Coke was lobbying against, spearheaded by Republican Sen. Ronda Storms, was intended to prohibit the use of food stamps to purchase soda and other unhealthful items. Storms told Fox News: "The biggest opponents I have right now are Coca-Cola, the soda companies, the chip companies, and the convenience store operators."
The beverage behemoth has also fought off one of my favorite punching bags, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
National Center for Public Policy Research Executive Director David Almasi is mad as hell and isn't going to take it anymore. He's planning to address the issue at Coca-Cola's annual shareholders meeting today in Atlanta. Almasi will be taking on Coke's CEO, Muhtar Kent, in an effort to prevent the company from lobbying against soda-prohibitive bills.
Is Almasi some liberal, hemp-wearing buffoon out to stop capitalism? Hell, no. The man is also a Coca-Cola shareholder, as is the National Center for Public Policy Research he helms, which is also a conservative think tank.
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So what's there to think about? This isn't a matter of free choice per se. In a free society, you purchase what you want -- with your own money. Food stamps do not fall under that category, as explained by Justin Danhof, executive director of the National Center's Free Enterprise Project. "SNAP money does not operate in a free market. It is taken from folks' paychecks. It is reasonable to limit how those benefits are administered and for what items."
I agree that food stamps should be used to purchase healthful and nutritious food, but I think a limit rather than a ban should be put in place. Everyone deserves an occasional treat.