Monday, May 17, 2010

Government's Eating Disorder

Kyle Smith has an incisive look at the growing government intrusion into how we live and eat in yesterday's NY Post-and it seems that the epidemic of gorging on our tax money is gonna continue unabated: "Not a single expert that we’ve consulted has said that having the federal government tell people what to do is the way to solve" the obesity problem, Michelle Obama told reporters on Tuesday — the same day she thinkingly delivered a 124-page White House Task Force report which gloats that "Twelve Federal agencies participated actively," cites "recommendations . . for federal action" and promises that "leaders in the public and private sectors. . . are ready and waiting to put this plan into action." The catchall is this: "The Federal government . . . should provide clear, actionable guidance to states, providers and families on how to increase physical activity, improve nutrition, and reduce screen time." How is that not telling people what to do?

Can't we just get these busybodies out of our lives-and our wallets? All of these efforts to improve our health end up expanding the government's waist line instead: "Obesity generates big fat headlines, which the state, the city and Washington love. It’s a crisis, and it won’t go to waste. The political class is hungrily loading its plates with more government employees, whose salaries and pensions you’ll be paying forever, engorging itself on your taxes and nibbling away at business and its ability to sell legal products. What the Fatty Poppins crew isn’t doing is much of anything that is likely to trim America’s waistline."

And given the way these government programs are designed to work, the road to serfdom is paved with discarded Big Mac wrappers: "Plans to beef up the Nanny Squad — more professional hectoring. Breast-feeding your child, for instance, seems to give him a better shot at not being obese. So let’s have more federal spending on breast-feeding peer-counseling groups and on home visits to encourage mothers to breast-feed. This after a 20-year nationwide push to get more women to breast-feed has simply been ignored by lots of women, either because they can’t or they find it incredibly irritating."

What happened to the feminist call for liberation in, "Our Bodies, Ourselves?" Next we'll have the federal government unbuttoning women's blouses to insure compliance with bureaucratic health directives-and are we the only ones who feel that monitoring the BMI of all the nation's school kids is kind of creepy?-not to mention nosing around the scales of expectant mothers: "We know obesity is a problem, but just to be sure we need to spend more resources to study it. We must "prioritize routine surveillance" of, for example, the weight of mothers before and just after they give birth. (How the government, or any other force on earth, is going to talk such women into letting them look over their shoulders as they step on the scale is not revealed.) Right on cue, a Wisconsin congressman introduced a bill requiring states to report to Washington the body-mass index of all children aged two to 18."

It is abundantly clear to us, that the progressive impulse to guide those deemed of inferior abilities and outlook, is a slippery slope indeed-one that leads to an expanded system of command and control over the most intimate aspects of our everyday lives. And, as a commonplace corollary of this mindset, more taxes designed to supposedly enforce healthier choices: "Of course, the paper all but promises a fat tax: "A tax strategy to discourage consumption of foods and beverages that have minimal nutritional value . . . could generate considerable revenue to fund obesity-fighting programs." That’s true. Such a tax could indeed generate considerable cash to hire more functionaries tasked with telling us we’re too fat, to weigh us, to text us and to publish more press releases about the effects of exercise, TV and fast food. But would such taxes make us thinner?"

Hardly: "A 2005 study led by Hayley Chouinard of Washington State University concluded, "A fat tax may be an effective means to raise revenue, but will not result in a significant reduction in fat consumption . . . These fat taxes are regressive in nature, as the elderly and poor suffer greater welfare losses."

But there is one thing that is will make you thinner. It is without question that there is an absolute correlation between income and weight: "Even better: since people tend to eat less fat as they climb the socioeconomic ladder, the study says, "perhaps a more effective strategy for reducing the consumption of fat from meat would be to pursue policies that increased income." (One proven way to increase income: cut taxes instead of raising them.)"

That is why Harlemites tend to be fatter than their East Side neighbors-but the expansion of  a government, dependent for its weight gain on thinning your bank account, is a retardant of strong economic growth and income boosting. The more folks are made to be wards of the state, the more they will tend to be slackers who are less concerned with their bulging waists (unless forced to exercise because of a string tied to a government check; something sure to be forthcoming with more government controlled health care).

So, on any number of levels, the expanded government concern with our health is an unhealthy development-one that will intrude on our freedom to make choices while, concomitantly, expanding the size and scope of government intrusion that will lead to mandates that override individual decision making. It is the kind of world that Obama expert Cass Sunstein, head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, longs to see.

It's a world that values the expert over the individual-and reminds us of Marx's admonition against Plato: "Who will educate the educator?" But the Sunsteins of the world, smugly situated in their theoretical bubble, want to "nudge" us for our own good. But Professor Rizzo of NYU has an admonition of his own against this mindset: "Rizzo told me about an academic study of gift-giving that found that most people would value cash more highly than the gifts they get for holidays; if even your friends and family can’t figure out what you want, he asked, how can a distant bureaucrat? “Sunstein is very taken with the need for experts,” Rizzo says. “But it turns out experts are subject to these cognitive quirks, too.”

In or view, we need to tells these folks to take their quirks and shove it! The idea that politicians and unelected experts have a better understanding than we do of what's good for us, is a recipe for tyranny. And the progressive impulse to impose healthier living is a  smokescreen for their ultimate objective of controlling our lives at the expense of liberty.