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Opinion: Soda 'Ban' Puts Bloomberg to the Left of Obama on Regulations

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The New York City Board of Health yesterday passed a prohibition on the sale of overly large sugary drinks by certain classes of vendor - or, as it's better known, the "soda ban."

In the short term, this will make New York City an easy punchline, as well as the defendant in a lawsuit likely brought by the soda industry, and a target of conservatives and libertarians who decry over-regulation and "nanny-state" policies. In the longer term, though, it may make New York a leader in public health and a role model for municipal, state and even federal government lawmakers as the City has been in its initiatives to target smoking and trans-fats.

And along the way it reveals that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has no home in today's Republican Party.

One of President Obama's biggest Convention laugh lines - "Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations and call me in the morning" -lampooned the Republican anti-regulatory hysteria. One talking point that conservatives repeat is that the regulatory culture is stifling our economy. More extreme right-wingers attack any government oversight as a totalitarian overreach by that socialist president.

President Obama even joins the rhetoric, boasting of the regulations that his administration has done away with. Even while his joke, which has recurred on the campaign trail, distances him from the Republican position, he hasn't regulated as much as some of us wish he would. He refused to accept his own EPA's recommendations on cleaner air. His administration has not taken as strong a position on regulating banks - or prosecuting those who have broken financial laws - as advocates hoped. And on the right-wing bogeyman of gun control, President Obama has been gun-shy… to the dismay of the more aggressive gun control activist Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

In some ways, conservatives might be happier with a President Obama than a President Bloomberg.

Bloomberg is not uniformly pro-regulation. He has argued the government shouldn't go too far in trying to regulate Wall Street. And then there are the areas where his zeal for government control irks liberals - such as his crackdown on Occupy Wall Street, the anniversary of which will be marked with events through the weekend and into next week.

And many New Yorkers - liberals included - are divided as to whether the soda ban will be good policy, whether it's the right focus of the government's efforts, and whether prohibition can really have the desired effect.

But what we can agree upon is that something this bold, unapologetically regulatory and somewhat nannyish would not be instigated on the federal level by Obama or any president. You need municipal governments trying ideas out for the rest of us to learn from.

We can also agree that such an initiative would never have a chance in the Tea Party-controlled GOP. Mayor Mike might be keeping mum as to who he'll vote for, but his actions speak louder than words.