Friday, July 17, 2009

Unhealthy Supermarket Plan

By now we all know that NYC is hemorrhaging supermarkets-having lost around 300 stores over the past eight years; and the Bloomberg administration, in office during the period of this mass exodus, is now looking for ways to attract news stores. But, as we have said over and over, the administration lacks any policy ideas that will stem the loss of the existing markets.

Why is this loss so important? Well, it speaks to the "food desert" concept that sees the dearth of supermarkets as a public health crisis because of the lack of access to fresh produce that people have in neighborhoods where supermarkets and green grocers are few and far between. The linkage here, of course, is between the city's obesity epidemic and this lack of access.

And in this context, along comes ObamaCare-a plan to enable, we suppose, Americans to have greater access to health care; an access to care that looks to insure healthier outcomes for all, but does so by taxing the life out of small businesses. But the road to Hell, well, you know the rest; because if the effort to insure greater access also accelerates the loss of small supermarkets and other neighborhood food stores, than we'll have what looks like great health coverage but, at the same time, even more expansive food deserts-along with a concomitant loss of neighborhood jobs. Salud!

Much of this analysis can be seen highlighted in this morning's NY Post, as the paper focuses in on the impact that the ObamaCare plan would have on the supermarkets of our good friend Paul Fernandez: "For grocer Paul Fernandez, a congressional plan to pay for health care by raising taxes will cost him so much bread he's not sure he'd be able to stay in business. "As it is, we're struggling to keep up with the cost of doing business, especially in the city of New York. This just simply adds to the cost, especially with rising rents and the commercial rent tax," said Fernandez."

Fernadez hits the nail on the head here, because it is the already high cost of doing business in NYC that lies directly behind the supermarket exodus in the first place-and why we have called the Bloomberg supermarket promotion plan, at best, a good answer to the wrong question. But the federal plan here-really an additional taxing of small business-will exacerbate our local problem of supermarket loss: "If they get their legislation through, Fernandez said lawmakers will create a new problem by forcing small firms to shut down or lay off workers. "The reality is that they are looking for a way to finance this, which I think is needed," Fernandez said of the push for health-care reform. "But to do something that will put a lot of businesses out of business is a very dangerous way to do it."

Which is why Mike Bloomberg needs to come out from under his desk on this health plan scheme. After all, he is so quick to proclaim the attributes of Judge Sotomayor. But will he have the menschlicheit to oppose ObamaCare? We'd be surprised since-post election 2008-the mayor has been acting as if he was the president's most enthusiastic supporter. But if he has any integrity, he needs to tell Charlie Rangel that his soak the small business health scheme is a disaster for New York.

And Bloomberg needs to state loud and clear that, if legislators like Rangel think a mandatory public health plan is the way to go, than the plan must also make it mandatory for all the members of Congress to enroll-something that Representative Fleming suggests in this morning's Post. Otherwise, Rangel and his band of merry bandits needs to go back to the drawing board and come up with a health care proposal that leaves the city's small businesses alone and by doing so, follows the Hippocratic Oath: "Above all, do no harm"