April 27, 2013

"Before he became the anti-junk-food mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg was a pioneer in the corporate provision of junk food."

"For decades, Bloomberg has made available to employees—at no charge—the entire contents of a convenience store. What started as coffee, chips, and cookies (snacks, not meals), quickly expanded to things that were like meals (fresh fruit, cereal and oatmeal for breakfast, cans of tuna fish, soup, and noodle packets for lunch)."

Writes Daniel Gross, in part of an argument that the IRS shouldn't add the value of food provided to employees to their taxable income. This food is "an instrument of social control."
Companies use people’s basic needs and desire to consume calories as a way of channeling their efforts toward the greater corporate good.
Does that really make food different from money, which is also used to energize and appease workers? One difference is that people eat different amounts of food and some — such as vegetarians — eat less expensive items. How would you calculate the value of the free food?

Notice that this issue heated up because of the high quality of the food in Silicon Valley workplaces:
A Gourmet magazine article last year raved about the "mouthwatering free food" at Google's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. The article cited dishes such as porcini-encrusted grass-fed beef and noted that nearly half the produce was organic....

Facebook's headquarters in nearby Menlo Park, Calif., has two main cafes, plus a barbecue shack, a pizza shop, a burrito bar, and a 50s-style burger joint. Recent menu options at Facebook's Café Epic, which dishes up free food from morning until night, included spicy she-crab soup and grilled steak with chimichurri sauce.
By the way, how did "mouth-watering" ever come to be a standard way to describe something appetizing? It's an internally inconsistent word. It's not "mouth-watering" to picture a mouth watering. It's stomach-turning. Looking at the (unlinkable) OED, I see the word originally described the person who was slavering:
1779   H. Downman Lucius Junius Brutus v. iv. 124   Conscientious, babbling, sniveling, Mouth-watering knaves, who envy every man The dainty morsel they can't eat themselves.
1845   R. Ford Hand-bk. Travellers in Spain I. i. 67   The mouth-watering bystanders sigh, as they see and smell the rich freight steaming away from them.
In the early use as a description of the object of the drooler's desire, there is a connotation of disgust and disapproval: "1900   Speakers 3 Jan. 338/2   The White Star shareholders have made a most mouth-watering bargain."

I've changed the topic, and I'd like to go on in this vein (duct?). Bodily fluids are a bit of a theme on the blog today, and the language of saliva is truly interesting. Drool and slaver. Did you know that drool is derived from drivel? And slaver and slobber are basically the same word. Drool and slobber — the words with the letter o — convey a childishness or mental incompetence, while the o-less drivel and slaver seem better for criticizing a competent adult who's wasting our time or is dangerously greedy.

So if you don't like the direction this post has taken, call it drool, slobber, slaver, drivel.
1852   J. S. Blackie On Stud. Lang. 2   As it begins with dreams, so it must end in drivel.
Ah, that reminds me. We were talking about the government. The mouth-watering government.

69 comments:

Chip S. said...

Make it a nondeductible business expense for the firm. If it's really such an effective motivator, free pizza will still be ordered when people are asked to work late.

mccullough said...

Slam the employees with back taxes and Google with back payroll taxes and a penalty. These people are Obama supporters. They need to pay their taxes.

edutcher said...

At one point, one of the companies for which I worked stuck the programmers in an airless, windowless concrete block for a couple of years.

One of the ways they tried to make it bearable was (free) Friday doughnuts. (every day was also super casual day)

On one occasion, the doughnuts did not materialize and one of the secretaries (in one of the real buildings) thought to brighten our spirits by emailing some pictures of doughnuts with the sentiment, "Here are some virtual doughnuts. Enjoy these truly empty calories".

Which gained the sharp response, "Any more virtual doughnuts and there will be virtual programmers".

Before he went mad with power, Bloomie clearly understood the value of treating the peons well.

Ann Althouse said...

I used to work in a law firm that served a very nice lunch and a decent dinner in on-premises dining rooms. It was obviously a convenience that benefited the firm by keeping us on the premises and facilitating interaction over lunch.

Lance said...

some — such as vegetarians — eat less expensive items.

Nope.

"Calorie for calorie, junk foods not only cost less than fruits and vegetables, but junk food prices also are less likely to rise as a result of inflation."

From the NYT in 2007.

caplight45 said...

How about the Obamas eating in the White House, on Air Force One etc. If he doesn't pay for the gourmet food he eats then let's tax him.

bagoh20 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bagoh20 said...

For a while now, I've been getting up early on Fridays and buying gallons of coffee and dozens of donuts, packing it on a push cart and personally delivering it to everyone working in my company first thing in the morning. It takes a couple hours, but it's a great way to make close contact and talk to every single employee once a week at least. For the night shift it's pizza. It's all very cheap, but I'm sure I'm required to count it as income for them. Screw that.

Anyway, I was recently shut down from this activity by the head of the safety committee. No food allowed in the work areas. Of course that makes sense, but I hate damned bureaucrats, even my own. They ruin everything, and it's always for your own good.

Synova said...

How do vegetarians eat less expensive items?

After all... to be vegetarian you've got to go with the organic, fair-trade, etc., items.

Sam L. said...

Calculate? Silly you! Estimate way on the high end, and that's the # for all. Cake, piece of, one (1) each.

bagoh20 said...

I'm having a bunch of people in my company trained in CPR next month. Do I have to count that as income for them?

Also, is it income if the employee get's something valuable, from the employer, but the company gets it for free?

For example, we get free tickets to ball games from vendors, and I wrote a little program that runs on our timekeeping computer that randomly picks an employee to get stuff like that.

I suppose we are expected to claim it as company income, where it gets taxed, and then identify it as income for the lucky employee, so it can be taxed again. So with the overhead of doing all that, I would estimate that the free tickets cost more than they are worth.

I love my IRS. They think of everything in order to bring us all together to accomplish greatness like Solyndra, Pigford, Cash for Clunkers, and Welfare for terrorists.

I wonder; if I eat my boogers, does that medical procedure count as income, or a deductible expense? What if I eat someone else's who give me them for free? What if I pay them for the boogers? It's all covered somewhere in the thousands of pages, I'm sure.

ricpic said...

Is a worker ipso facto exploited? That's the assumption behind the phrase "appease the workers."

cubanbob said...

Shorter Bloomberg: I got mine so screw you. I'm da mayor now and I'm filthy rich so power over you is now my game.

AprilApple said...

I love my IRS. They think of everything in order to bring us all together to accomplish greatness like Solyndra, Pigford, Cash for Clunkers, and Welfare for terrorists.

Greatness. Together we can do it.

Biff said...

As telecommuting becomes more common, perhaps someone in the IRS will start thinking of taxing people who work in a traditional office. After all, if people can work from home, then an aggressive bureaucrat might see traditional offices as optional benefits, provided by an employer for the convenience of the employee, who then doesn't have to maintain a home office. Plus, by making regular commuting less attractive, an office tax would be Good For The Environment(TM).

I'm being facetious, of course, but I am a little troubled by the difficulty I'm having trying to make my scenario different from current practices in character, rather than by degree.

Synova said...

The government would prefer that everything be in taxable form. The fear that someone might get away with something is so great that who cares what little-guy gets screwed, right?

Honest, most of this stuff is a law because someone was afraid that some big-wig was going to get his company car and access to the company jet and not pay taxes on the "perks".

But the big-wig is fine. The big-wig gets paid more instead of getting that company car, buys a Lexus, the government gets their cut and everyone is happy... all except for the little guy working the line in the factory that finds out that if the company throws him a bone it's counted as income at the highest possible value, even if it's not what she'd have chosen to buy.

But screw the little guy. Stick it to the 1%.

cubanbob said...

Biff don't give them ideas. They might decide to do just that when when travel related tax revenues start diminishing. No joke with more economical cars on the market thus lowering fuel tax revenues some bright bulbs now propose taxing cars on the miles travelled.

bagoh20 said...

"Is a worker ipso facto exploited?"

Oh yes, 24/7. They are exploited by their fellow workers, the managers, and the stockholders; as well as the vendors selling them lunch, health insurance, gas for their car, the car manufacturer, their union leaders if they have one, their landlord, or the bank carrying their mortgage, and even the little rug rats waiting at home for supper. Most egregious are the adult offspring in college, drinking kegs of beer, and getting years of parent subsidized living from Mom and Dad worker. All along the way, a huge chunk of what little is left is taken to pay public employees who are generally paid to help everyone but the worker, and lets not forget the domestic terrorists who need money for nice shoes.

A worker is like that caterpillar within which that wasp plants it's eggs, which then eat it alive from the inside out. But, it's a living.


SGT Ted said...

If you eat some chops, I'll tax the pork.

If you use a spoon I'll tax your fork.

TAXMAAAAAAN...


Really, this endlessly seeking shit to tax by the Ruling Class is getting tiresome.

They had better remember that the American Revolution was over TAXES.

SGT Ted said...

bagoh, sounds like its time to disband the safety committee until it comes to its senses.

Really, the SAFETY committee rules on whether or not there's food in the work area? I'd replace the safety committee folks every year with other people that haven't gotten the Control Freak Bug and lose their minds.

You own the fuggin company, you make the rules. They can have Safety Dweeb controls all during the rest of the work day.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

Well, G. Jones provided (future Justice) C. Thomas with free items that stirred souls, purr NPR.

This is a link a wise Latina would link if wise is the operative word.

bagoh20 said...

"bagoh, sounds like its time to disband the safety committee until it comes to its senses."

In all honesty, I doth protest too much. I was glad they stopped me. It gave me an excuse to not have to get up at 5am and spend a couple hours serving coffee and donuts.

I'll think up something less demanding on me, but equally appreciated. The managers used to all do Tequila shots at quitting time in my office on Fridays. Back bfore that, when I was a middle manager, I would take my people to lunch and we would down a few pitchers of beer, before returning to work.

And way back before that, when I was an a supervisor, we would go to a strip bar for beers and de-stressing at lunch.

Times have changed, and we gradually outgrew both the ability to do these things and the desire. All that time, there was never a single accident or anything negative that ever happened from it, but today if something did, the company would get destroyed in court. Damned lawyers. So now I fire people for doing the exact same thing, but not until strongly warning them about the change in policy.

I have an overwhelming and gnawing sense of lost joy and liberty due to insatiable concerns about safety in our culture. It's ubiquitous, growing, and seemingly irreversible.

I feel we have lost something great, and I'm part of the problem now.

Nomennovum said...

Working in the finance industry in NYC has few rewards, other than money, prestige, beautiful single women ... and free breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Why would anyone begrudge us tax free eats?

AprilApple said...

Free the wage slave. Buy him a facebook or a google.

bagoh20 said...

In an industrial environment of manual labor, powerful machines, and sharp metal, the work is dangerous, and we have had our share of industrial accidents, of which I remember every single one - nothing more serious than losing the tip of a finger, or smashing a hand or needing stitches. We have had many cases of drinking or drugs on the job, and now it's a big No-No, but not a single accident over 30 years has ever involved reduced capacity from drinking or drugs. Every one was a person who was known to not imbibe. I don't know if that's just dumb luck or what.

Chip Ahoy said...

I'll think up something less demanding on me, but equally appreciated.

Free lunch, less demanding. For actual lunch time away from work area, invite an immigrant burrito vendor, the type that sells his wife's homemade burritos by cooler and buy the whole lot, or else prearrange the number and type of burritos to be passed out for free lunch on assigned employee appreciation day.

Tom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom said...

Don't forget to include an estimate for the taxable value of toilet paper, soap, and water for washing used at the office. After all, these are also benefits that the employee would otherwise have to pay for but which are being subsidized by the company as well. Tax them too! (Sarcasm)

Tim said...

Just wait until Obama taxes interntet access at work and internet purchases.

The Althouse business plan will take a serious hit.

But, for those of us who saw through the charade in '08, this seems a reasonable accountability measure.

David Davenport said...

I love my IRS. They think of everything in order to bring us all together to accomplish greatness like Solyndra, Pigford, Cash for Clunkers, and Welfare for terrorists.

Your man King Obugger did that.

Imperial decrees flow downhill to the Infernal Revenue Service.

Ms. Althouse, I suggest that you do an Althouse column re the Constitutionality and legal precedent history of the proposed nationwide Internet sales tax.

kentuckyliz said...

"Salad days" used to refer to when you were young and poor.

Now produce is only something the Richie Riches can buy.

Lem said...

Yeap.

In Spanish, boca-aguada (mouth-watered) reflects poorly on the person who's mouth is watered.

For example.

Lem said...

To make sense of what Bloomberg does, I see HIM mouth-watering the citizens of New York city as a product in the inventory of New York City... not the other way around.

He loves New Yorkers on his terms... those are the only terms anybody ever knows.. he's own.

David Davenport said...

Maybe our goobermnet will tax this:

From Wikipedia: Scouring

In Roman times, fulling was conducted by slaves working the cloth while ankle deep in tubs of human urine. Urine was so important to the fulling business that it was taxed. Stale urine, known as wash, was a source of ammonium salts and assisted in cleansing and whitening the cloth.

caplight45 said...

Worked in a fabricating shop to get through college. Had some real nasty machines so we only drank after work and that was before OSHA was in everybody's biddness. One of the managers who was our interface with the office was a pain in the morning but after his daily two high ball lunch was as nice as could be. Always waited till 1:00 to ask questions and make changes in orders.

traditionalguy said...

Whoa there. The Ever loving Federal Government has the generous employer as tax a evading criminal and serious law breaker

No gifts are allowed. The food is pay and therefore FICA and unemployment Tax and Medicare Tax and income tax withholding deposits are all due late with mega penalties.

Businesses starting up in the USA are targets of opportunity.

wyo sis said...

When we all don't have a pot to piss in what will they tax?

jr565 said...

Before he went mad with power, Bloomie clearly understood the value of treating the peons well.

Did he treat his employees well though? NOt if we go by the current Bloomberg standard. Current Bloomberg would have fined his ass for getting his employees fat.

jr565 said...

Current Bloomberg is a dick.

jr565 said...

Speaking of people who became dicks. Hot air, or one of those right wing sights unearthed Morning Joe back when he was in Congress and was ardently pro gun rights. What happened to him? He turned into Michael Bloomberg.

Just being in MSNBC caused his balls to shrivel and his brain to pop.

Current Morning Joe is a dick.

Lem said...

SNL has been tame.

bagoh20 said...

"When we all don't have a pot to piss in what will they tax?"

Now that Justice Roberts has found it cool for the Congress to taxalty us for not buying a product (health insurance), it's a small step to charge us for NOT having a pot to piss in, and for the exact same justification.

The regulations are currently being written to specify the minimum requirements for a legal piss pot. They already specified that it must have a seat, but now we can expect a tough political fight over it defaulting to an up or a down position. This is guaranteed to bring accusations of a Republican war on women.

bagoh20 said...

That SNL opening is just awful. It made me nod off.

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halojones-fan said...

Food reviewers use infantile terms like "mouthwatering scrumptious nosh" because they know that eating good food is a sensual pleasure, and they also know that the average American is unable to separate sensuality from sex. So they try to do an end run around the sex by using baby talk, to put people into "kid" mindset instead of "adult".

ed said...

So. Truly a "let them eat cake" moment.

tim maguire said...

Sure, the food is like wages. Whether I eat it or not. How about my ergonomically correct chair? The elevator? The secretary who screens my calls? Well, screens our calls, so she's screening whether a call goes to me or not.

What is the difference between these things and food? The food I may or may not eat. Doesn't the same rationale make all the office equipment taxable income to me?

tim maguire said...

I was shopping yesterday and got a buy one get one free roll of paper towels. Shouldn't sales tax have been applied to the retail value of that free roll?

tim maguire said...


I have an overwhelming and gnawing sense of lost joy and liberty due to insatiable concerns about safety in our culture. It's ubiquitous, growing, and seemingly irreversible.


+1

Deb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fernandinande said...

They should "tax" people for not eating anything, just as they plan to "tax" people for not buying over-priced health insurance.

Cedarford said...

All part of a trend to create new taxes that will effectively "take more" from producers in society to fund programs for those that are the prime beneficiaries of tax dollars or the IOU money fueling Government spending through debt. All our wars, "free" prescription drugs, Obamaphones, "free tuition & healthcare" for illegal immigrants and Chechen refugees. Etc, etc.

And for all the rhetoric about "taxing the rich" - much of what the Obamites want and have already passed are regressive taxes that target the middle class and working poor - not the "richest".

The Internet sales tax, more and more "vice" taxes, now this looking at any private business to see what worker perks can be hit with being taxable.

Dare we think that huge loopholes will soon be found for the Hero Government Employees exempting them from most of what revenue streams the Obamites see coming from new taxes on workers and businesses in the private sector?



AprilApple said...

It is hilarious to think that the democrat party wanted to exempt itself from ObamaCare last week.

They still do. Perhaps the dems can do it in secret, under cover of darkness, with an executive order from on high?

Pogo said...

#DemocratsAreEvil

pst314 said...

bagoh20 "A worker is like that caterpillar within which that wasp plants it's eggs, which then eat it alive from the inside out. But, it's a living."

Except that no Ichneumon wasp ever expected the caterpillar to be thankful. Our bureaucratic parasites do so incessantly.

Pogo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pogo said...

I cannot for the life of me figure out Peggy Noonan, Megan McCardle, or any of the Obama cheerleaders who are now shocked shocked shocked at the way things have turned out.

Fuck them. I will never read a single thing they write.

New Yorkers voted for a third term for Bloomberg and a second term for Obama even though both men have materially worsened their lives.

Noonan and McCardle now deign to tell me what's going wrong in America? WTF?

"Stupid stupid rat creatures!

Pogo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pogo said...

I wonder what'll happen if I touch this hot stove?

betamax3000 said...

Re: "One difference is that people eat different amounts of food and some — such as vegetarians — eat less expensive items. How would you calculate the value of the free food?"


Bi-Sexual Tax Lawyer says:

"I can't decide."

Aridog said...

Biff said ....

... perhaps someone in the IRS will start thinking of taxing people ...

The IRS doesn't think up taxes, Congress does, frequently on instigation by the White House. It is [part of the budgeting process....which we have not had now for 4 years, so our tax increases have been solely individually White House sponsored and legislated in Congress.

Vague wording and illogical reasoning in legislation leads bureaucrats, in IRS and elsewhere [since we now equate penalty = tax], to write regulations to enact taxes in weird ways. Nothing proves this simple fact better than the implementation of Pelosi/Obamacare.

Just do NOT forget where all taxes start ... in the legislative body, Congress, with input from the White House. When there is no budget, all spending is almost purely ad hoc with the rules for Continuing Resolutions, with a limit of 95% of prior year expenditure by agency with no real restriction of inter-agency transfer due to no budget...all individual spot appropriations being off budget by definition because a budget does not exist.

And you thought the FAA's furlough of ATC's was necessary under the law? Bwahahahaha.

betamax3000 said...

RE: bagoh20

Replace the donuts with a Friday Lesbian Hot Dog Stand.

AprilApple said...

The democrats want to shelter their staffers from ObamaCare.

They say..

A source close to the talks says: “Everyone has to hold hands on this and jump, or nothing is going to get done.”

Got that? Hold hands and jump! All that's missing is the "shoulder to shoulder" cliché.
The rulers of the playground have spoken. Shouldn't ObamaCare be good enough for the democrat staffers? Come on democrats - lead the way - rule by example! oh wait...

The problem stems from whether members and aides set to enter the exchanges would have their health insurance premiums subsidized by their employer — in this case, the federal government. If not, aides and lawmakers in both parties fear that staffers — especially low-paid junior aides — could be hit with thousands of dollars in new health care costs, prompting them to seek jobs elsewhere.

ObamaCare is too much of a burden for the poor staffers. ObamaCare's suckage is good enough for the rest of you poor saps, but the poor staffers.. think of the staffer. boo hoo.

(Poor? most staffer make 6-figures. How else do they afford to live in tax payer funded make believe land of OZ.. er DC?)

Staggering Ridiculousness.

betamax3000 said...

What about replacing food items with sexual favors from some "temporary hires"?

Free Friday Blow Jobs, and the women get Double Free Blow Jobs!

Vegetarians can avoid meat and have a nice back rub.

Hard to say "my job sucks" after those benefits. Or easier to say. I have confused myself.

AprilApple said...

Republican senators reject idea of lawmaker exemption from Obamacare

Good. Finally - some sanity.

betamax3000 said...

What is it with Hawaiian pizza in the Office? After Sales Meetings the leftover pizza is brought out to the employees. Inevitably it is one or two partial pepperonis and three Hawaiian pizzas that weren't touched. After awhile you would figure the order would change but no, here comes the pineapple.

Aridog said...

bagoh20 said...

Now that Justice Roberts has found it cool for the Congress to tax us for not buying a product (health insurance), it's a small step to charge us for NOT having a pot to piss in, and for the exact same justification.

Dead right....except that Roberts really didn't cite a justification, he mandated it by redefining a word...simple as that. He chose to ignore the prior discussions in Congress over the words before enacting the law. Normally a penalty is a fee applied for non-performance, while a tax is a fee applied for receipt of something. Now it is an either/or proposition thanks to Roberts and the SCOTUS.

He did this because he was afraid that if the Pelosi/Obama ACA was struck down the court would be ignored [who would enforce the ruling?] just as the lower federal courts are now.

You are dead right that the next step is to tax/penalize citizens for for virtually everything, using a rationalization derived from the Robert's semantic mandate.

If I'm wrong headed here, someone correct me. Please.

Stephan White said...

I'll think up something less demanding on me, but equally appreciated. The managers used to all do Tequila shots at quitting time in my office on Fridays.
Glyn Willmoth

Andy Freeman said...

> Slam the employees with back taxes and Google with back payroll taxes and a penalty.

I'm not a fan of Google, but they're getting a bum rap here.

Google treats the "free food" as taxable income. They add the "value" of said food to reported income and then do a salary gross-up to cover both food and the gross-up.

They don't account for the food per-person so there's no benefit to brown-bagging.