Comrade Ocasio-Cortez has big plans for your dinner plate

Listen up, worker ants: People's Commissar Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is, once again, more than a little interested in what's on your dinner plate.

She begins by lamenting what a classic food desert the Bronx is, discriminating against minorities because she couldn't find fresh basil at the local bodegas for a gazpacho recipe she was making at home.

As a Bronx resident, there have been many times, it's almost a way of life, where it can be very difficult to get access to fresh and healthy foods. I remember one of the earliest times, like, one of the worst stories I have about this, was that I was very excited, to make, I think I was making gazpacho, or something like that, I looked at this recipe, I needed basil, and um, I was going home, and I get off the subway station, and I go into the grocery store and there's no basil, no fresh basil in the grocery store. so then I walked to another grocery store, two blocks down. No fresh basil! I was very stubborn about making this recipe that evening, and I must have been, walked around for an hour, in the neighborhood, visitng four or five grocery stores, and there was no basil, no fresh basil in any of them! And it just goes to show, it's very illustrative of the difficulties that we have in our comunities in accessing fresh produce, and even when we do, or are able to access some of that fresh produce, a lot of times it's on a styrofoam tray wrapped in plastic, um, or if you are able to access it it may have been sprayed with tons of pesticides or what have you, and it's almost as if to access the good stuff, you have to travel to affluent neighborhoods to do that.

As if inner-city people in the Bronx will gladly pay six bucks a bunch for fully organic, un-plastic-wrapped, sustainably produced fresh basil, same as she would.  Yes, some do.  But unlike her, they plan their shopping ahead in Manhattan, and they shell out, same as the rich people do.

She seemed to suggest that it was her mission to have the government force the tiny businesses to stock fresh basil, and she'd command people to eat it, too.

Three problems with this, according to a conversation with Thomas Lifson.  He notes:

1. She assumes merchants don't know what their customers want.

2. She assumes people will buy and eat what they are presented with (like a commissar).

3. She assumes that it is OK for basil to rot on shelves, and (small) merchants should keep providing it at a loss.

These are all classic cases of where socialist central planning goes wrong.  The businesses in the Bronx operate by market demand and the kinds of costs they can bear, given their business conditions, as well as what their customers will pay for.  If stocking fresh basil on demand every day of the week is what she wants, then by golly, she's going to make it her cause to denounce the merchants for not stocking it to be available for the exact time she wants some.  Basil for the millions! 

One problem: Basil is highly season-sensitive, and not even the fanciest supermarkets downtown always have it, either.  She doesn't seem to know that vegetables have seasons any more than she would have guessed that tropical yuca, a Caribbean staple favored by the Bronx's Jamaican, Trinidadian, and Guyanese immigrants, does not grow — at all — well in the winter-and-summer Bronx.  I wrote about that here.  Oh, and the cauliflower she denounced as white-bread "colonial," probably because of its color, grown in local Bronx community gardens, is very much a staple in many Caribbean cuisines, but she wasn't happy about that, either.  She wanted them growing yuca.

There's a helluva a lot of stuff she doesn't know about crop growth, cooking, or the business climate, and cripes, she worked in the food service industry.

Having lived in the South Bronx off the Elder Avenue subway stop, I know it's tough to be dependent on food shopping at the local bodegas and occasional small Korean green markets.  The Korean markets, in fact, work extremely hard to provide this service, and they just can't match the larger grocery operations in all ways in Manhattan.  They are just too tiny and cannot get cost benefits of scale.  Bodegas, meanwhile, are nothing more than convenience stores.  They specialize in stocking dry foods because that's what's most economically sustainable, given their economic positioning and what their customers will pay for.  They also stock foods their customers want and can afford (there's a reason Ocasio-Cortez's called-for boycott of high-quality Goya canned and other shelf-stable foods found in bodegas flopped), and the people who want fresh basil aren't sufficient for wide-scale stocking of the highly perishable product.  Bronx residents who want fresh basil know they need to get to Manhattan to get some and plan ahead.  Ocasio-Cortez should have been cursing herself for not going back to Manhattan to get some; a real Bronx local familiar with cooking would have known that.  I'm astonished she didn't know that.  It must have been her first time cooking.  New York City is famous for its schlepping on the subway; you typically can haul only two grocery bags at a time, and one is better, so you make frequent small trips to the fancy groceries — Dean & DeLuca, Gristedes, etc. (some probably aren't there anymore), and plan your meal and cooking schedule ahead.

But the urge to central-plan among socialists is very, very strong.  That's what she really wants: to command stores to stock fresh basil or whatever else her food whim dictates.  The Obama administration tried it — first with Michelle Obama's state-dictated healthy foods program on schoolchildren, which ended up as "nasty, rotty" food when the local union workers couldn't prepare it properly and the food budgets ran out based on all the expensive ingredients required, leaving meager plates for the kids, and the kids rejected the food, throwing most of it in the trash, consoling themselves with their own black markets for "Flamin' Hot Cheeto Fries" instead.  The Obamatons, under Cass Sunstein, also tried it under their famous "nudge" program, dictating where food items would be placed on store shelves. 

But why stop at Obama? The urge to dictate what's on every citizen's plate is also what Hugo Chávez used to do: first commanding community rooftop gardens, which failed miserably, and then commanding the eating of rabbit.  They don't have much food at all now in that hellhole, and the average Venezuelan has lost 20 pounds based on all the food shortages the command-and-control economy created, dictated from above, all for their own good.  That's some diet imposed by socialism.  Most of us would rather do our diets with fresh food, obtainable the market way.

One can only hope these people never obtain power. 

Photo illustration by Monica Showalter with use of Twitter screen shot and image by Mike Mozart via FlickrCC BY-SA 2.0.  All images processed via FotoSketcher.

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