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Thomas Bjorkman defends broccoli

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Thomas Bjorkman

Thomas Bjorkman

Broccoli has gotten a bad rap (again) in this week’s Supreme Court debate of the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. But in this Marketplace radio report from American Public Media, Thomas Bjorkman stands up for the much-maligned vegetable.

Broccoli was mentioned eight times in oral arguments and Justice Scalia framed what’s become known as The Broccoli Question: If the government can make everyone enter this health insurance market, why not the food market? Can the government also make you buy broccoli?

Kermit Roosevelt: If the government tried to make you buy broccoli and eat it, I think there would be a constitutional problem with that.

But that’s not what the individual mandate does, he says. Making people buy a policy isn’t saying they have to go to the doctor. And grocers don’t write off the cost of giving away billions of dollars of free broccoli and then jack up food prices for the rest of us.

Roosevelt: We don’t have the broccoli emergency rooms where people say they don’t want broccoli and then they go and get it and make taxpayers foot the bill.

But don’t mention any broccoli emergencies to this guy.

Thomas Bjorkman: I feel protective of it!

Thomas Bjorkman is director of the Eastern Broccoli Project at Cornell University and has devoted the last 20 years — most of his career — to studying this particular vegetable.

Bjorkman: I’ve gotten used to watching it grow, its like you’re used to watching your pet behave in certain ways, I’m used to seeing the broccoli behave in certain ways!!

If he’s learned one thing about broccoli its this: Most kids love it. It’s the best-selling green vegetable. When Bush said he hated it, broccoli sales shot up the next year.

Which makes you realize, whatever the Supreme Court decides about health care? Could be a great year for broccoli.

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