Devin Nunes, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Square Off Over Straw Bans, Socialism

Are straw bans a sign of the lurking red menace?


Plastic straws are back in the public eye, after two of America's more ridiculous representatives squared off about the little suckers and the potentially Orwellian consequences of banning them.

On Saturday, Rep. Devin Nunes (R–Calif.) tweeted about a recent dining experience in which a fearful waitress asked his family if they wanted straws with their drinks.

Nunes' tweet references California's new straw-on-request law, passed in September 2018, and which went into effect in January 2019. The law requires servers to ask patrons at full-service restaurants if they want a straw before giving them one.

Calling straw bans socialism is hyperbolic—although they might be a good example of "late socialism"—but Nunes' server wasn't wrong that eating establishments have something to fear from this latest restriction on how they can serve their customers.

California's army of health inspectors are empowered to enforce this straw policy, making them Nunes' "straw police." Handing out unsolicited plastic straws will net a food service business a formal warning for the first two violations. A third violation could earn them a $25 fine.

The original version of California's straw-on-request policy would have allowed jail time for violating, although that was stripped out of the final bill. Local bans like San Francisco's are far more onerous, and come with fines as high as $500.

Here in Washington, D.C., which started enforcing a straw ban earlier this year, there is indeed a "straw cop" walking the pettiest beat in the country.

For Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.), Nunes' warnings of the perils of straw socialism weren't just over-the-top; they were fake news.

It's unclear if the Ocasio-Cortez's tweet was questioning the very existence of straw ban or just Nunes' attempt to tie it to socialism. The congresswoman herself, while silent on plastic straws, saw fit in a recent interview to bash plastic bags.

Regardless, her tweet suggests a rather dismissive attitude toward petty restrictions that most people rightly see as irksome government overreach, and that businesses and their employees have every right to be concerned about.