The Fat Nanny State


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It’s easy to dismiss New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s latest nanny state hiccup as the control-freak antics of a powerful man –but that would be missing the point. Bloomberg did not come up with the idea of banning sodas during a spa session on his private island. His implementation of it may be more overtly obnoxious, but the idea that there is a national health crisis that can only be solved by getting people to stop eating sugary foods, is ubiquitous among national experts on telling people what to do.

In 2007, a conference on obesity was held at George Washington University, sponsored by the Stop Obesity Alliance and the Obesity Association. The Stop Obesity Alliance may sound like a silly afterthought of a group, but its steering committee members include AHIP, the trade group for the health insurance industry; AMGA, the trade association for health care groups; SEIU, one of the largest unions in the country; and NBGH, a business health group representing major companies like Apple, FedEx, Kellogg, Unilever and Walmart.

It was no wonder then that nearly every Democratic and Republican candidate running for office either showed up in person, or sent a proxy to explain how their administration was going to fight obesity.

“The next president must commit to fighting America’s obesity problem and possess the experience to win the fight,” Governor Bill Richardson said, and vowed to make fighting obesity one of his top priorities.

You might be laughing, but don’t. The obesity epidemic buzzword has penetrated every major company, as well as every level of government and academia. That translates into a policy bulldozer with private-public partnerships that will control every aspect of your life.

When think-tanks convince corporations that they’re losing money because of obesity, the trade associations of the corporations invite politicians down to explain what they’re going to do about it. Health insurance companies have crunched the numbers and decided that they can save billions if the government manages to make people lose weight. Corporations that employ a lot of people and pay for their health insurance think that they can save a fortune on health insurance if employee obesity is cut. They have their own employee incentives, but mostly they want the government to do something about it.

To understand the genesis of Bloomberg’s lunacy, you have to go back to groups like the Stop Obesity Alliance. And it’s not the only such group. There’s the Campaign to End Obesity, whose board includes executives from major health companies and non-profits, including Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Humana. Every time you hear another talking head going on about the dangers of obesity to America, he’s repeating talking points lifted from “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future”, a report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the country’s largest health care foundation, which doles out 400 million dollars a year in grants. Its primary focus these days is obesity.

“F as in Fat” includes extensive material on government legislation, everything from soda taxes to menu labeling to “complete streets programs”, which New Yorkers will recognize as the mess of bike lanes that squeeze out cars; what they don’t know is that it is used to fight obesity. HR 1780: The Safe and Complete Streets Act is a congressional bill that would turn every city into the same nightmare of snarled traffic and no parking. But even without it, grants will be doled out to cities to implement bike lanes to fight obesity.

Around the same time that policy advisers for presidential candidates were telling the Stop Obesity Alliance what they would do about fat people, there were warnings in the U.K. that obesity would bankrupt the NHS, and Australia’s Labor Party vowed to tackle the “national obesity crisis” as a study claimed that 95 percent of Australians were “unfit”. The hysteria had gone worldwide.

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  • koran kid

    What happens when all those thin people charged with saving the fat ones using other people's money get lazy and fat as well? I suppose that at the other end of the spectrum from survival of the fittest, is survival of the fattest. Better get off down the nearest Dunkin' Doughnut, and stock up, or that fat bitch nanny state will tax me!

  • WilliamJamesWard

    The idea that more is better has been played out and the results are on the scale and it reads
    'get off me fatso'…………There is one answer that has many side benefits, 'Keep your mouth shut'.
    William

  • http://blog.cutthemalarkey.com Vic Kelley

    Thank you for a thoughtful article and honest assessment of America's government problem (not obesity problem.) If Mr. Bloomberg had instead targeted large, high-calorie coffee drinks he'd be the target of a city-wide recall vote by now. Eventually people will take him seriously and get rid of him. Hope that the rest of the country realizes people who think and act like Mr. Bloomberg are a threat to us all.

    • scum

      It's not a thoughtful article. It's vindictive crap.

  • Alex

    what a naive oaf Mr. Gloomberg – a person may buy a large (to the limit) drink,
    then buy another one – smaller.
    ……………………………………………..Why liberals are so stupid?
    …………………………………………………………………………………..Because liberalism is a mental disease.

    • scum

      That's right, people will figure out how to get fat any way they can. And Bloomberg isn't a liberal.

      • Alex

        RINO is a liberal…

        • scum

          He's a Republican. Just because he's not a right-wing extremist, doesn't mean he's a liberal. There are more than two colors in the universe.

  • Alex

    e.g. – Starbucks will keep the price of (smaller now) Venti, then offer a free "addition" drink —– it is so easy to go around

  • scum

    "You might be laughing, but don't" ? ? ? I'm not laughing, and nor is anyone who actually gives a flying f, rather than trying to score cheap political points. There's an acute health care crisis in our country. An epidemic of obesity and Type 2 diabetes in children, to start. Whether outlawing ridiculously large, factory produced sugary garbage will either be legal or effective is a fair question, but to pooh-pooh the problem suggests that you've aligned yourself with the factory-food sector that's destroying the American diet. At least pretend that you care about America and the people who live here. What we can do, at the least, is keep that crap out of our schools, and teach kids to eat fresh vegetables.

    • Alex

      you will not get fat from a coffee….. Every stick has two ends –> the reverse of your statement: "you've aligned yourself with the factory-food" is:
      - you ("scum") align yourself with food police".
      Both Obamas are woofing fat foods/desserts when the other one is not watching.
      YOU CANNOT stop people from getting fat…..
      BTW – main problem with welfare? Obesity. People sitting in front of TV and filling up; looking for a job is not on their agenda. That's one of the main problems with many sub-problems. And you and I pay for that.

    • tagalog

      And the solution is one involving government intrusion. You know, when they first started trying to get the government to step in on the cigarette front, the Surgeon-General's warning was controversial. Now they can just outlaw a given size of Big Gulp. We've come a long way down a darkening road, baby…

    • http://www.themadjewess.wordpress.com MAD JEWESS

      'There's an acute health care crisis in our country.'

      Well, YOU are 100% PROOF that we have a severe mental health issue

  • tagalog

    Obesity and getting people to exercise, along with unemployment and finding renewable energy sources, can all be fixed with one easy solution: bring back manual labor a la Red China: "All right, everyone, time to get on the community treadmill and start producing electricity!" Hey, better than wind and solar power, eh? Just keep steppin', rain, clouds, no wind, whatever…

    "Hey, Mr. Overseer, I'm getting cold/wet!"

    "Step faster! You'll notice it less!"

    From there, we could easily move to the labor camp, where free productive labor can be exploited for very little expenditure. People around the camps would probably provide "free" food for the zeks, so that the government wouldn't have to pay taxpayer funds for that.

    It could be a shot in the arm for the economy, too. More barbed wire, searchlights, and whips to be manufactured.

    Also, it'll help get rid of the old, the unfit, and the unhealthy.

    I'm surprised President Obama hasn't thought of it by now. Well, maybe after re-election…

    • scum

      Sure bro, great post. Paranoid claptrap.

  • BS77

    Next, outlaw any foods containing high fructose corn syrup, then cheese, then anything with artificial sweeteners, anything with dyes, preservatives, ten syllable chemical ingredients….let's outlaw all deserts, donuts, candy, margarine, sodas….then all the "Franken foods", the genetically modified corporate boloney …..then anything that has even one molecule of fat, sugar or salt in it. All you can have is oatmeal, broccoli and tofu. Bon appetit!!! Isn't it great having the Nanny State there to make sure you are safe from yourself????

    • scum

      I don't agree with the NYC law, actually. But it would be nice to have the option not to consume Frankenfoods. Of course, the evil Monsanto is monopolizing the industry with catastrophic results. That's not freedom. You should read up on it.

  • BS77

    The greatest cause of obesity and other related health disorders is the sedentary couch potato "lifestyle" of many Americans…..Our pioneer forbears ate fatty meat, salt and sugar…but worked all day logging, farming, ranching and mining etc etc……..Now people sit on their duffs playing with their phones, driving, sitting, watching idiotic TV shows and commercials that tell them to eat more fast food and junk food…….still, it is YOUR responsibility to take care of your diet, healthy, nutrition, not a bureaucrat.

    • scum

      Couch Potato disease is part of it. Factory foods without nutritional value contribute. Sugar that's found in almost all processed food is partly to blame. All of the above.

  • Ann

    The food was changed in the USA, UK and Australia 30 years ago when dangerous food chemicals from the USA was allowed into European. The food today causes stubborn insulin If you have stubborn insulin you hold fat and have a hard time losing weight. You can eat very little and the weight still does not come off. Stubborn insulin will hold fat and diets won’t work. When researchers used a specialized diabetes diet on overweight people all lost weight even those who did not have diabetes.

    Just google SPIRIT HAPPY DIET

  • RFYoung

    I can tell you without a doubt that the attack on sugar/obesity is not about health or obesity. If you want to cure obesity the simple formula is as follows:

    Eliminate food stamps
    Eliminate agriculture subsidies.
    Eliminate school lunches
    Establish Physical Education in the schools again.
    Drop sugar industry subsidies and place a punitive tax on sugar similar to the tobacco tax.
    Place a punitive tariff on food imports
    Place a 10% excise tax on food at the point of sale.
    Place a heavy excise tax on food shipments within the US and promote local agriculture only.
    Establish a nationwide federal body mass index limit as was accomplished with the federal speed limit on highways.
    Make exceeding the BMI a misdemeanor offense.
    Increase government subsidies of ethanol production and mandate a higher percentage of ethalol in gasoline.
    In the same vein as "stop and frisk" in New York City, establish "stop and weigh" checkpoints.
    Allow EPA PM2.5 standards to be universally applied to the smallest agriculture operation.
    Allow the EPA to regulate methane emissions from cattle feed lots.
    Radically reduce the number of SKU's allowed on an individual store shelf
    Obesity will become a thing of the past.

    • Rifleman

      You started out pretty good but went straight back into nanny state. I've got a better idea, ship people like you to north korea or zimbabwe where you can enjoy heaven on earth without bothering us Americans.

      • RFYoung

        Like I said, it isn't about obesity. It is about control. When all of the existing possibilities of control are even suggested, people et rebellious and want to send you to North Korea. Better to apply the prod more subtly and just ban large beverages. If he populous caries that bit, more constraints can be applied later. It is not about obesity!

  • al22

    Thoughtful people are beginning to realize if government hacks like a New York Mayor who thinks he's an emperor can control how many ounces of soda one drinks, it's just another progressive milestone along the way to controlling how many calories one can legally ingest, or how many push-ups one will be required to do–all to satisfy our wannabe social utopian masters. And mind you, nothing has to have the weight of hard evidence behind it. Only an idiot would focus laser-like on soft drinks, when public schools across the nation have severely curtailed phys ed courses, and when recreation fields remain largely unused by a couple of generations addicted to video games, texting, and perhaps the most sedentary lifestyles in history.

    Should we limit the number of hours one can sit in front of a computer as well?

    Freedom, among others things, implies the ability to make choices–including bad choices. The dirty little secret of progressivism is that their five decade love affair with moral relativity has largely eliminated the inevitable consequences that accompany bad choices. Why are millions of kids growing up without fathers? Because millions of sperm donors know government will take care of their kids, and maybe more importantly, virtually no one in the community will shame or ostracize them for their rotten behavior. Eliminate shame and personal integrity becomes the next casualty. A lack of personal integrity leads directly to many things, one of which is a sloven lifestyle accompanied by endless rationalization that allows many Americans to walk around morbidly obese. How do progressives fix the plethora of bad choices absent consequences their ideological worldview engendered?

    Eliminate choices.

  • SoCalMike

    Parasites NEVER rest.
    Notice how the parasites claiming to lead the fight are themselves obese and it isn't even a question in their minds that they exempt themselves from any hair brain schemes they cram down our throats like Social Security and Obamacare.
    Parasites left unattended just keep growing.

  • mlcblog

    The author is right. It boils down to eugenics.

    • scum

      No. The statistics of a ballooning population absolutely belie that. Read the article in Yahoo today.

  • Reason_For_Life

    There are no savings in getting people to lose weight. Fatties, like smokers, die from expensive diseases just like other people. The difference is that they die sooner. Since medical costs are continually increasing faster than other costs dying young saves the government a great deal of money. In fact, because of Social Security and Medicare the best course of action for the government would be to provide free banana splits and cigarettes to teenagers in the hope that they will die long before they get to collect their benefits.

    The issue has nothing to do with health costs, it has to do with controlling the populace.

    • scum

      Wrong. While I don't agree with the law (it DOESN'T outlaw soda, contrary to posts here, however), Bloomberg isn't trying to 'control the population.' That's just more right-wing paranoia, which is yet another problem.

  • Flowerknife_us

    The Fat laws are comming. Sponsored by Bloomburg who is no Slim Jim himself..

  • g_jochnowitz

    Parents frequently teach their children to finish what's on their plates. By doing so, they inflict a curse on their children that will follow them the rest of their lives. Even when they are not hungry and know they are overweight, they will finish what's in front of them. http://www.jochnowitz.net/Essays/EatMisc.html