“The Broccoli Question”

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Jun 15, 2012    •    505 Views

In 1990 President George H.W. Bush banned broccoli from Air Force One.

”I do not like broccoli, and I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I’m President of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli!”

Now again, as we await a Supreme Court health care decision, broccoli is in the news. Called “The Broccoli Question, ” whether we can be forced to buy broccoli has been linked to the Court’s decision. Or, as stated by Justice Scalia, “So you define the market as food, therefore, everybody’s in the market; therefore you could make people buy broccoli?”

When the Court heard the case last March, broccoli was mentioned 8 times–maybe because it brings simplicity to complex issues. Those who oppose a health insurance individual mandate are delighted with the implications it clearly conveys about the potential power of government. Meanwhile, those who support the Affordable Care Act say the market for buying health insurance has no connection to a healthy food mandate. Everyone agrees, though, that the broccoli question was memorable.

You might enjoy this 1990 article about banning broccoli while its “legal” history is here in a recent New York Times article. During March, when the Court heard the oral arguments, APM’s Marketplace looked more closely at how broccoli connected to health care. And finally, here, econ life looked at the case and the Commerce Clause.




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