Friday, May 15, 2009

Hello Dr. Frieden, You Must Be Going

Dr. Tom Frieden is leaving to become the Obama administration's new head of the CDC and, as Shakespeare once said about an executed subject in Macbeth: "Nothing in his life became him like the leaving it." For the past seven or so years the good doctor has elevated Nanny Statism to a new level-and at the same time has reduced New Yorkers to childlike status in his pursuit of dubious health goals.

His last foray in ordering us to live healthier lives was the ill-fated green carts initiative-a move that would have placed-before we got involved-1500 fruit and veggie carts in so-called underserved neighborhoods. The experiment was needed, said Frieden, because these folks weren't eating well because they lacked access. So what happened?

As the NY Daily News reported last August, the concept "wilted" when demand for the produce never materialized (as we had predicted)-and only eight carts made it to the street: "Special veggie vendors who city officials hope will help tackle the growing obesity problem have quietly hit the streets. But all is not rosy with the so-called Green Carts. One of the eight approved vendors - who have the right to sell fruits and vegetables on the street in poor neighborhoods with specially designed carts - told the Daily News business is the pits."

Just another bad premise about how to get New Yorkers healthier-similar to the calorie posting concept that forced some fast food restaurants, with absolutely no scientific data to recommend the experiment, to post calorie counts so that we could all know what we are consuming; and we're still awaiting the vaunted study of this expensive and intrusive experiment. In all of this, Frieden has exhibited the most hostile attitude to local small business.

As he said at the time of the calorie posting controversy: "In a statement, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the city’s health commissioner, said, “McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts and the other big chains that haven’t yet listed calories as required by the Health Code have run out of stalling tactics. Some chains have worked hard to deny customers information they need to make healthy food choices — but this decision starts to clear the way for people to have ready access to calorie information when they order their food.”

In all of these issues, Frieden came across as an ill-informed scold-with little or no understanding of how local business worked; or of the importance of the health of these establishments to the city's economy. He eschewed education as too slow and ineffective, placing a premium on regulatory edicts that have contributed to the decline in the health of the local economy under this mayor.

Frieden's departure will be a breathe of fresh air for the city's reeling business community; and for New Yorkers who have been treated like children by Mother Tom. Let him now go forth and chase errant microbes. He will not be missed.